Takungpao.Com May 10 (Correspondent Tan Xiao) The “Belt and Road” Forum for International Cooperation, which is about to be convened, attracts worldwide attention. Since being proposed by China, the “Belt and Road” initiative has received universal recognition from the international community, including the United Nations General Assembly. Vladimir Yakunin, founding President of WPF Dialogue of Civilizations, former President of Russian Railways, said in an exclusive interview with the newspaper that even confronted with the competition between big powers, the grand idea of the “Belt and Road” enables China to continuously expand its friends circle, so that China, as a free trade defender, takes the lead in resisting the current international trade barriers and will also lead the participating countries to achieve inclusive development.
“Belt and Road” initiative is seen by the outside world as an important measure for China to participate in global affairs and seek prioritized capacity cooperation. In Yakunin’s view, China is very tactful with the “Belt and Road” initiative, which fully integrates diverse motives of various countries to achieve a “unique and ambitious goal” – seek new stimulus for China’s economic growth, protect global free trade, increase China’s international discourse right while promoting the development of the world at the same time, break the global unipolar or “one super power multiple great powers” world pattern.
Economic Growth Enable China to Stand Up
“In fact, China is eager to play a bigger role in the world, which in itself is a natural result of the rapid and substantial growth of the economy with the accumulation by less than two generations,” said Yakunin.
In the world, China has replaced Japan as the second largest economy, and in its surrounding areas, China is the largest economy. Remarkable elevation of comprehensive national strength also let most people believe that in the future China will become the world’s largest economy. Yakunin believes that with the economic growth, China’s strong influence, which continues to amplify, will have significant impact on policy-setting in various countries, which encompasses measures taken by the US towards China in aspects of business and trade.
Yakunin pointed out that China’s economic “myth” is entirely dependent on the world’s free trade and open borders. “No wonder, when the United States was vigorously developing and formulating policies regarding tariffs and other trade barriers, President Xi Jinping steps forward as a free trade advocate.
However, in the grand strategy of “Belt and Road” initiative, even when being faced with big country competition between US and China, US and Russia, China’s friends circle is still expanding: Yakunin’s view is that the Eurasian continent, including Europe, Russia and Central Asia, will be joining China, this huge industrial machinery, in a steadfast manner, bearing the identities of suppliers and consumers.
Overseas Infrastructure Construction Make China busy
Yakunin believes that currently in respect of infrastructure construction, China has a huge labor force, and the local airports, highways, railways and other infrastructure have reached highly developed level and transforming the excessive productivity into GDP is one of China’s “Belt and Road” goals.
“The annual economic growth of 5% is necessary for China, but the current consumption growth in China is not as expected. The foreign infrastructure projects provide a perfect exit – designed by Chinese engineers, constructed by Chinese workers, definitely a great choice for China.”
China Does Not Do “Fake Good”
“History tells us that the need for combination of political ambitions and economic growth solicits violent reaction – at least in Europe in the imperial era, that is likely to be the fuse of war. But it is completely different in China’s case.
Yakunin maintains that China is a country with a long history of civilization. In history, China’s politics is largely “self-sufficient”. Unlike Christian Europe and Europe post Enlightenment Movement, China has never regarded itself as a “preacher”, who takes “the salvation of human race” as his own responsibility in a “false good” fashion.
“It can be said that ‘Belt and Road‘ unfolds a magnificent blueprint. In light of human history and the world’s development course, it can help all of those who are engaged in the implementation of this initiative to accomplish inclusive development, while averting the occurrence of more conflicts.” Yakunin said.
Tackling Geopolitics with Ease
In recent years, with the improvement of economic strength, China’s discourse right in the international community is also uplifting. The proposal of“Belt and Road” initiative also led the world to witness China’s determination to actively participate in international affairs. Yakunin argues that China is increasingly capable of dealing with intricate geopolitical issues, the experiences of which will help China to push forward the landing of the “Belt and Road” initiative in countries along the way and facilitate the formation of a new world pattern in the era of globalization through the implementation of this initiative.
“In different situations, China has always played different roles in different ways and styles, using different methods in its participation in global affairs.” Yakunin illustrated, taking the recent confrontation in the South China Sea region as an example, that China is currently addressing Sino-US relations, one of its biggest challenges, with apparently more mature control.
Big Country Competition Intensified
Chinese Academy of Social Sciences recently issued “Assessment on Security Level in China’s Surrounding Areas (2017)” and pointed out that the current relationship between major powers indicates confrontation and competition between US and Russia, US and China aggravated, while strategic cooperation between China and Russia, US and Japan accelerated. Emerging big countries with China as their representative continues to rise up, while the old major powers with the US as their representative are keen on preserving their traditional hegemony. In political and economic arena, members of the two groups are unceasingly dividing up, forming and fortifying alliances.
Yakunin pointed out that in the past 20 to 30 years, China’s influence in the political field is both prudent and harmless. Nowadays, as the economy continues to expand and its discourse right grows, new conflicts of interest are emerging. At the same time, there exists an economic symbiotic relationship between China and the United States. If this relationship is destroyed, it will harm the interests of both sides. He believes that China’s real ultimate challenge will appear when the United States continues to decline and is unable to serve as the “world police”.
“Pax Americana” May Be Broken Up by “Belt and Road” Initiative
In Yakunin’s view, the combination of globalization and peace under American hegemony has benefited Chinese economy greatly. “But with the rising of China’s economy, from the dual scrutiny of globalization and ‘Pax Americana’, it is clear that the world will see a new model of global development that is different from the previous unipolar pattern – grasping the opportunities brought about by ‘Belt and Road’ initiative, China will become a leverage which balances the world pattern. ” Yakunin said.
With regard to the viewpoint that China may face the next “world’s hegemony trap”, Yakunin is optimistic that China’s attitude in dealing with international affairs has shown that Chinese leaders are equipped with sufficient wisdom and capability to refrain from becoming the next hegemonic state.
Respect for Individual Nation’s Needs And Improve Cross – Cultural Communication
“China has opened up, which is the central idea of ‘Belt and Road’ initiative. China warmly invites the countries along the way to join the common project for common interests.” Yakunin believes that the Chinese government’s positive attitude may be the most important political assets in the overall planning of “Belt and Road “. He expects China to lead the countries along the “Belt and Road” to respect one another and promote cross-cultural exchanges and cooperation.
“The mission of the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative is to create a community of common destiny, benefit and responsibility. Within the community, different countries will have political mutual trust, integrated economy and cultural tolerance. This requires participants to recognize collectivism values and promote cooperation.” Yakunin thinks that each and every country will weigh the pros and cons associated with the participation of the program, calculate and balance the opportunities and costs within. Thus the Chinese leaders ought to understand that each country is likely to have some reservations upon joining “Belt and Road”. But as long as the “sensitive issues” in these countries are respected by one another, the ” Belt and Road” will lead to prospects as originally planned.
Lead Other Countries to Benefit from the Initiative
In addition to geopolitical and cultural differences, Yakunin also pinpointed the risks that may be confronting China and countries along the “Belt and Road“- infrastructure projects that connect land and sea in an all-round fashion may take longer time to construct than estimated, and up to two to three trillions of dollars of investment will be a huge challenge. Nevertheless, he believes that all neighboring countries will be obtaining economic benefits in large-scale from this new infrastructure network directly and indirectly, which will also effectively facilitates social development and boost cross-cultural exchanges.
“China is sitting on the driver’s seat of the express train, and the other countries that ride in the train will shrug their shoulders and ask: who is the ultimate beneficiary? Obviously, everyone,” said Yakunin.
Russia Will take “Belt and Road” Initiative as Its Own Responsibility
曾担任俄罗斯铁路（Rossiyskie Zheleznye Dorogi即RZhD）前总裁的亚库宁曾见证了多个“一带一路”早期基建项目。他表示，“一带一路”倡议与俄罗斯的发展息息相关，作为连接欧亚大陆的大国，响应这一倡议也是俄罗斯的使命。
Yakunin, former president of Russian Railways JSC (Rossiyskie Zheleznye Dorogi or RZhD), has witnessed the initiation of a number of early “Belt and Road” infrastructure projects. He said that the “Belt and Road” initiative is closely related to the development of Russia. As a big country connecting Eurasia, responding to this initiative is also the mission of Russia.
Yakunin, as a Russian business representative and authoritative scholar, proposed to Russian President Vladimir Putin the conception of “Trans-Eurasia Belt Development Strategy“, with plans to build a trans-Russia highway system of up to nearly 20,000 kilometers of length to promote the development of Russian economy. And this idea was later regarded by the leaders of China and Russia as a complementary plan that is in line with “Belt and Road”.
“Russia is an integral part of this ‘Belt and Road’ conception from the very beginning, because we are an Eurasian country, and the very nature of this fact makes us almost equivalent to ‘Belt and Road’.Why? The more closely Europe and Asia are connected, the more meaningful this ‘Eurasia’ concept will be – It’s our mission, “says Yakunin.
Cooperation in Infrastructure Construction is of Great Significance to Russia
Yakunin pointed out that Russia’s involvement in the infrastructure construction has obvious purposes. It can be said that in the interests of developing Russia-China business and trade ties, capacity expansion of the railway network in eastern part of Russia is of increasing urgency.
At present, all the roads in the north of Russia, the trans-northeast railway in the Far East, Russia’s new east-west railway corridor which is west of the Kazakh and Ural mountains, etc are of great significance to Russia. These transport facilities have replaced the expensive Caspian Sea – Black Sea ferry and the railway line linking Iran and the Anatolian Peninsula (ie the Asia Minor Peninsula).
“People are convinced that the Russia-China cooperation in the development of railway infrastructure between the two countries will proceed, which will also lay a solid foundation for expanding bilateral trade and the formulation of reasonable business planning, while the coordinated development of the Russia-China railway is the important condition for active development of foreign economic relations in other Asian and European countries. Therefore, the value of Russia-China cooperation towards the Tans-Eurasia Development Belt and ‘Belt and Road’ is quite self-evident. ” Yakunin said.
Appendix: summary on achievements from Sino-Russian cooperation in the implementation of Belt and Road initiative (Compiled by Tan Xiao)
Trade: China has become Russia’s largest trading partner for six consecutive years: Sino-Russian trade in imports and exports in 2016 amounts to USD 69.525 billion, up by 2.2% year-on-year.
Investment: in 2016, non-financial outward direct investment from Chinese enterprises equals to more than USD 14 billion. China maintains the position of Russia’s fourth largest source country of investment.
Energy: In 2016, China imported 52.48 million tons of crude oil from Russia, up by 23.7% year on year. Russia became China’s largest source country of crude oil.
Infrastructure: up until November 2016, the mapping and design work of Moscow – Kazan section, which is part of a high-speed railway project, have already been completed. This project is an important segment of the joint construction of “Russia (Moscow) – China (Beijing)” Eurasian high-speed transport corridor. In June 2015, the joint venture formed by Russian enterprise and China Railway No. 2 Bureau won the bid of Moscow – Kazan high-speed railway project, the total length of which is 770km. The project costs about 1 trillion rubles (roughly 108.4 billion yuan), and crosses seven regions in Russia. It is estimated that after completion, traveling from Moscow to Kazan will take only 3.5 hours. Project planning will be finished in 2018.
The future railway lines will continue to expand to the east, crossing Yekaterinburg, and Kazakhstan’s capital city, leading to China’s Urumqi, ultimately integrating into China’s “Eight Verticals and Eight Horizontals” high-speed railway network.
Vladimir Yakunin (Compiled by Tan Xiao)
Doctor of Political Sciences, Honorary Doctor of the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Member of the Russian Academy of Social Sciences, Founding President of WPF Dialogue of Civilizations, Head of the Department for State Governance, Moscow State University, Russian business leader and philanthropist.
Vladimir Yakunin graduated from the Leningrad Institute of Mechanics in 1972 and served as a department head at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Ioffe Physical-Technical Institute. In 1985-1991, Vladimir Yakunin was Second and then First Secretary of the USSR’s Permanent Representative Office at the United Nations.
Vladimir Yakunin served as Chairman of the Board at the International Centre for Business Cooperation, and was then nominated head of the North-Western Federal District Inspectorate of the Senior Control Department of the President of the Russian Federation. Yakunin was appointed Deputy Minister of Transport in October 2000 and first Deputy Minister of Railways in February 2002.
In October 2003 the Board of Russian Railways JSC appointed Vladimir Yakunin First Vice President. In June 2005 he was promoted to President of Russian Railways JSC, a position he held until August 2015.
In 2013 Vladimir Yakunin founded the Endowment for the World Public Forum Dialogue of Civilizations aimed at supporting research in the sphere of political and social sciences, religion and culture, developing communication between countries on political and economic matters, and seeking compromise in cases of social unrest and international disputes.