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Experts hail religious inclusiveness of China’s Belt and Road

By Ma Danning (People's Daily Online)    15:24, July 03, 2017

Chinese experts urged parties participating in the Belt and Road Initiative to pay strong attention to religious factors, as more of the world's companies and institutes are jumping on the bandwagon for peace and prosperity.

On July 1, in Beijing, a panel of top academics in China called on actors in the geographically sprawling Belt and Road Initiative to uphold religion inclusiveness as a stimulus for friendship and affluence, and increase preparedness to avoid turning possible religious mishaps into crises.

The Belt and Road Initiative is a China-proposed development plan that aims to connect central Asia to Europe via land; and Southeast Asia to India, the Middle East, and Africa via sea. According to the panelists, the plan basically touches on all countries and regions that suffer from religious conflicts, religious politics, or the threat of extremism.

In Southeast Asia, a key maritime trade route for China, Buddhist extremists are on the rampage in Myanmar and ISIS is a growing threat in Singapore, the Philippines, and Indonesia.

In South Asia's Pakistan, China has invested $46 billion on the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor and on securing Gwadar Port as its first road link to the Indian Ocean, while Pakistan is under threat from ISIS, Taliban, and drug trafficking violence. In India, Hindu nationalists are shaping populist policies, stirring political upheavals from Christians, Sikhs, and other minorities.

In Central Asia,  China's crucial source of energy imports and future partner in agriculture and logistics industry, Islamic, Slavic, Chinese-Mongolian, Indian, and Buddhist civilizations have long mingled and arm-twisted; and ethnic separatists and religious extremists, especially in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, are gaining strength.

Panelists attending the counter-terrorism seminar in Beijing, July 1. 

Arab countries share enthusiasm for the Belt and Road Initiative too, with cooperation in infrastructure, nuclear energy, aerospace, and other high-tech sectors with China high on the agenda. China has invested heavily in a free trade zone in Egypt’s Gulf of Suez, in Qatar’s Doha New Port Project, and in an industrial park at Duqm Port in Oman. Kuwait has also proposed to build a skyscraper called Silk City by the year 2035. However, competition for religious authority has created a fragmented geopolitical landscape in the region and led to diplomatic turmoil, a potential disturbance to business operations, said Tan Xiuying, the editor-in-chief of the Journal of International Security Studies.

Wang Chuan, a retired Chinese army officer who heads a counter-terrorism studies center at the Knowfar Institute for Strategic & Defense Studies, called on security managers in Chinese SOEs to acquire professional training on how to deal with relations among different religious groups.

Previously, Huang Ping, a professor at the School of International and Public Affairs at Shanghai Jiaotong University, urged related parties to mobilize religious groups in cementing public opinion in local communities.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Ma Danning, Bianji)

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