Remarks by Ambassador Lu Shaye at the Symposium of the Belt and Road Initiative Held by Canada-China Friendship Society

On April 17, Ambassador Lu Shaye attended the Symposium of the Belt and Road Initiative Held by Canada-China Friendship Society and delivered a keynote speech. Below is the full text:

Ms. Amelia Choi,Co-President of Canada-China Friendship Society,

Mr. Roy Atkinson, former Co-President of Canada-China Friendship Society,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

Good evening!

It is my great pleasure to be with you tonight at the invitation of the Canada-China Friendship Society, and exchange with you on China’s Belt and Road Initiative and other issues. Over the past 4 years or so since the Belt and Road Initiative was proposed, it has been transformed from concept to action, and from vision to reality, yielding fruitful construction outcomes and bringing substantial benefits to many countries.

However, the initiative is also misunderstood and even reproached at the same time. Some people say it is a tool that China employs for geographical and strategic expansion, and others say that it increases the debt burden of some countries. What is the truth on earth? I would like to share my views with you all.

First, what is the Belt and Road Initiative? It is the abbreviation for the “Silk Road Economic Belt” and the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road”, which were respectively put forward by President Xi Jinping during his visits to the countries in Central Asia and Southeast Asia in 2013.

The core content of the initiative is to strengthen complementarity of the national policies and development strategies between China and relevant countries, deepen their practical cooperation, promote coordinated and interconnected development, and achieve common prosperity. The priorities of cooperation are policy communication, infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds.

The initiative covers the countries and regions along the routes of the Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road in history, but is far beyond a “belt” or a “road” in terms of geography. It focuses on the Asian, European and African continents, but is also open to other countries across the globe. All countries, either from Asia, Europe, Africa or America, are partners in the international cooperation of the Belt and Road construction. It serves as a comprehensive cooperation platform with global significance, and it is an international public product provided by China to promote the development of global economy in the new era.

Since the initiative was put forward, more than 100 countries and international organizations worldwide have supported and participated in the Belt and Road construction actively, scoring remarkable early achievements. A number of major infrastructure projects including railways, ports and pipe networks are under construction. In May 2017, the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was held in Beijing. Through consultations, all parties at the Forum have further defined the direction of cooperation, charted the roadmap of building, decided the main cooperation areas in the near future, as well as laid out the major projects to be implemented for the Belt and Road construction.

Second, why does China propose the Belt and Road Initiative? History is the best teacher. Back in ancient time, our ancestors respectively pioneered the transcontinental passage connecting Asia, Europe and Africa, and the Maritime Silk Road linking the East and the West. The ancient silk routes opened the window for friendly exchanges among the countries, making tremendous contributions to the progress and development of human beings. The ancient silk routes, after thousands of years of accumulation, left us the spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit, which is the precious legacy of human civilization.

In this era, the in-depth development of multi-polarization, economic globalization, social informatization and cultural diversity has promoted closer ties among countries. At the same time, we are confronted with challenges of various kinds, such as insufficient growth drive for global economy, disparity of regional development, increasing regional hotspot issues, and raging terrorism. Therefore, the world needs a new platform to pool the strength of all countries to seek common development and safeguard world peace. It is against such background that China’s President, by learning from the spirit of ancient silk routes, set forth the Belt and Road Initiative .

Third, how is the Belt and Road construction carried out? In the first place, instead of being created out of nothing, the Belt and Road Initiative is based on existing development strategies of all countries. It promotes common development through policy coordination and advantage complementarities among relevant countries.

Secondly, it sticks to the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, which is to say that we consult together, work together, and enjoy the benefits together. Therefore, it is fair to say that Belt and Road construction is the great chorus joined by all countries rather than a solo show of China.

Thirdly, as for specific cooperation, Belt and Road adheres to the government-led, enterprise-operated and market-based pattern. All projects have been examined by feasibility study and market-based argumentation to ensure due economic and social benefits. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which provides important financing support for the Belt and Road construction, consists of 84 members, including Asian countries as well as western countries such as the UK, France and Germany. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is an international financial institution which adopts international standards of environment, society and energy. It is impossible that borrowing countries are overburdened with debt and manipulated by China.

Fourth, what role does China play in the Belt and Road construction? To put it simply, China is not only the initiator and impeller, but also an equal collaborator of the initiative. China will neither make use of the initiative to conduct the expansion of geographical strategies, nor think about taking full charge of the cooperation. Instead, China always provides assistance for the related cooperation within its capacity and at the same time encourages the corresponding support from other sides.

As the largest developing country in the world, China understands well that happy life cannot be earned easily, and we sincerely hope that people in all countries can live a better life. To this end, we advocate integrating resources and forming synergy on a larger scale in the world to achieve common prosperity.

China invested and set up the Silk Road Fund in 2014, and by the end of 2017, 17 projects have been signed with the promise of investing 7 billion U.S. dollars. At present, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank set up in 2015 has approved over 20 investment projects with the total amount of more than 4 billion U.S. dollars. As of today, China has signed cooperation agreements on the Belt and Road construction with 86 countries and organizations, and established 75 overseas economic and trade cooperation zones in over 20 countries, creating large amounts of tax revenue and jobs for relevant countries.

As an important country in Asia-Pacific region, Canada boasts its own advantages in such aspects as transportation, communication, clean energy, financial services and personnel training. Therefore, it could enjoy benefits by playing an active role in the Belt and Road construction. Canada has joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which provides favourable conditions for the country to participate in the Belt and Road infrastructure construction.

In 2016, the British Columbia government signed cooperation documents on Belt and Road with People’s Government of Guangdong Province of China. This January the Chinese government published a White Paper: China’s Arctic Policy, stating that China hopes to work with all parties to build a “Polar Silk Road” through developing the Arctic shipping routes. China hopes that Canada will participate in the construction of Belt and Road in an active manner.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In the long run, It is believed that Canada shall rely on Asia-Pacific region to release its future development potential. We hope Canada to earnestly increase its investment in Asia-Pacific region. And China, no matter by size of its economy or by its prospects, should become Canada’s most ideal partner in the region. We hope that Canada can truly recognize the bright future of strengthening cooperation with China, and work with us to make the pie of cooperation bigger and better. Of course, the current China-Canada relations,even though smoothly developed, still face some challenges, among which the key question is Canada’s perception of China. I am going to make some points that I wish could draw the attention of the Canadian side.

First, the concept of national security should not be boundlessly expanded, and the label of “national security” cannot be arbitrarily attached to everything. Recently, the normal investment and acquisition between the Chinese and Canadian enterprises were regarded as posing threats to Canada’s national security. Canadian parliament members’ visits to China was regarded as posing threats to Canada’s national security. The so-called “penetration” of China into Canada, which was a total fabrication, was regarded as threats to Canada’s national security. Some people are in a state of extreme nervousness. China is not that formidable, and we never think about doing anything harmful to Canada. We hope Canada could adjust its mindset and do not always see China through tinted glasses, nor create barriers for two countries’ cooperation at the excuse of national security.

Second, do not demonize the state-owned enterprises of China. As an essential phenomenon of China’s socialist system, the state-owned enterprise constitutes the pillar of China’s national economy, and frankly speaking, it is what Chinese people’s livelihood relies on. However, some people in Canada regard Chinese state-owned enterprises as “monsters”. When it comes to the state-owned enterprises in China, words like “being submissive to the Chinese government”, “national subsidy”, “unfair competition”, or “corruption” are often mentioned. In fact, these people attempt to weaken the competitiveness of Chinese enterprises by defamation. These approaches are immoral and will be in vain. In fact, state-owned enterprises can be found in many western countries, including Canada. Their existence is demanded by a country’s need of development, while their numbers and sizes vary accordingly.

Third, break the stereotype of ideology and view China objectively and rationally. When mentioning China, some people in Canada would immediately regard it as a “non-democratic country”, whose development poses threats to global order. As far as I am concerned, differences between eastern and western social systems and ideologies are objective existences, and we should not treat each other as threats because of these differences.

Furthermore, what is the criterion to judge good or bad social systems and ideologies? Whose standard is to be used? If the western standard were employed, then things in the West are good while those in China are bad. But what if China's standard were used? Should we regard western countries as the threats to China? Actually, we do not. Every country's social systems and ideologies are legitimate and rational as long as they are tailored to their national conditions.

The existing political system in China fits well with China's national conditions, and the considerable development achievements gained by China is the most convincing evidence. Under different social systems, political democracy performs differently. People cannot say that only their own democracy is true and those different from theirs are not. Now it’s time for those Canadian people to replace stereotype with a realistic attitude and strategic vision, and take new steps for developing relations with China.

Today, we are here to discuss the Belt and Road construction, but more importantly, we need to understand the “Silk Road Spirit” characterized by openness and inclusiveness as well as mutual benefit and win-win results. As long as we continue upholding the"Silk Road Spirit”, we can work together to usher in a promising future where all roads are connected, every culture or values is cherished, and the China-Canada relations will embrace a better future in the new“golden era”.

Thank you!