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Belt and Road: a well based idea and great project that western companies need to engage with

By Stephen Perry (People's Daily Online)    13:24, June 02, 2016

The construction of the Belt and Road will be the best thing for peace and security, and, most importantly, for spreading prosperity and opportunity. It is now up to the West to respond and seize the moment.

File photo of a desert in Tongliao, Inner Mongolia autonomous region.(Photo/Chinadaily)

There are various names given to the project, which reflect the varied interests and history of this great area of the world. Silk Roads, New Silk Roads, Eurasian Economic Union, to name but three. But "Belt and Road" is the most significant today, because that is the basis for a plan from China which is the result of their scientific approach to this major economic transformation.

Scientific approach is the basis of all China’s work and means that a well based idea is then subjected to normal scientific testing over a protracted period, which changes the idea and develops it into a tested plan before it is implemented.

I first saw the testing of this great idea in 1990 when Yunnan Government told me about the plans to build their border relations with several countries, their new transportation links and to work with other nations to protect and enhance the Mekong region.

That was a process replicated the entire length of China’s borders to test and develop ways to build prosperity and stability into these 14 border areas.

China has been planning the Belt and Road, by my guess, for over 30 years. It was a part of the original thinking displayed in 1978 and well back before that. It was President Xi who oversaw the completion of the Belt and Road Plan, summed up the experiences and finalised the whole complete project. He gave the world the first view of it in later 2013 when visiting Kazakhstan. It is a hallmark of the breadth, the depth and the far sightedness of his leadership of China.

This long testing and development should give us great confidence in the soundness of this plan. It will last from 20-50 years or longer and one of the key determinants will be the response of the West.

If the West gets invested in this project we will get large rewards and growth of our own. China wants Western involvement, as we have many of the key advanced technologies and we have funding and various capabilities in finance and technology and management that this project will require.

AIIB shows that China wants the Western involvement and participation. It is not a small or cosmetic approach. AIIB has sought out Western shareholders and support for its internal capabilities. It has sought out alliances with major Western institutions such as the World Bank and ADB. It is forging a united front with the West in funding the Belt and Road. We hope other key Belt and Road funds will consider and take this path. As new financial centres open along the Silk Roads so we shall see their success marked by Western investment and participation. There will be several such financial centres which will grow, like Pudong in Shanghai, from the vacant lots.

But beyond that China knows that sharing opportunities with Western firms is key to achieving the highest levels of technological success and shared returns and, thereby, shared commitment to build and protect this great project.

Now is the time for major western companies to engage with those who will contract for the huge number of projects along the rail, road and sea lines. Bidding for contracts will be a consortia based approach and involve companies from different nations and funding models that will become new and different. This is a new enterprise and the structures and approaches, and funding will be new.

Now is the time for all the countries along the routes to be visited by western companies, for them to be developing consortia and ideas for original approaches.

This needs to be done in an organised way and so the phasing of contract announcements and stages of development is a key requirement of this period of five years. This Forum can help manage the exchange of information and needs that is apparent by developing papers on how to address this.

Western companies and finance needs to engage with the Belt and Road now. Not in two or three years’ time. And the Forum can help them find the right pathways.

Then as the infrastructure is being contracted and worked on, the Forum can be addressing the ways to build the modern cities and towns and businesses and agriculture and service industries that will spread all along the vast regions from the Pacific to the Atlantic and across South and East Asia.

The construction of the Belt and Roads, Eurasia and the New Silk Roads will be the best thing for peace and security, and, most importantly, for spreading prosperity and opportunity.

It is now up to the West to respond and seize the moment.

Stephen Perry is Chairman of the 48 Group Club, an independent British business network committed to promoting links with China. The article is authorized to People's Daily Online by the author who will deliver this speech on a forum in Warsaw, capital of Poland on June 20.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Wu Chengliang,Bianji)

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