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China's Belt and Road Initiatives to boost links : Russian expert

2015-01-23 09:46 Xinhua Web Editor: Gu Liping

China's "Belt and Road" initiatives will create more opportunities to boost connectivity in Asia and beyond, a Russian expert said in a recent interview with Xinhua.

"The proposal is a huge project. It could coordinate with other regional organizations to give full play to their advantages and further boost multilateral relationships," said Yakov Berger, a senior researcher with the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The Belt and Road Initiatives were put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his overseas visits in 2013, which includes the Silk Road Economic Belt -- from China via Central Asia and Russia to Europe, and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road -- through the Strait of Malacca to India, the Middle East and East Africa.

Both projects remind people of the ancient Silk Road that set a paradigm of interaction among nations.

The initiatives will not be a competitive replacement of other economic or political associations in the region, like the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Berger said, adding they will, on the contrary, help to strengthen multilateral relations.

His remarks were echoed by Dmitry Mezentsev, secretary-general of the SCO, who said in November in Beijing that China's initiatives respond to the common needs of mutually beneficial cooperation and development, and will help further enhance ties in the region.

"This project will add a new 'quality' of multilateral cooperation, including in the SCO area," said Mezentsev.

More than 50 countries along the ancient Silk Road have voiced willingness to participate in the initiatives to foster common development between China, Europe and Asia.

China has fulfilled its commitments with tangible efforts, including a 40 billion U.S. dollar Silk Road Fund to directly support the projects and the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to help supply the capital for infrastructure construction along the routes.

"The sum of 40 billion dollars looks quite adequate for the first stages of the project implementation," said Berger.

Speaking of Russia's role in the initiatives, the expert said Russia may take part in those projects through cooperation in such areas as energy supply and development of new technologies.

"In general, among all the countries which could be included in the initiatives, Russia possesses the biggest potential," he said. "For Russia, that implies cooperation not only with China but with other countries."

Berger refuted the claim that The Belt and Road Initiatives are a Chinese version of the Marshall Plan which Beijing would use to seek influence and even dominance in Asia and the rest of the world.

"This is absolutely incorrect to compare the U.S. Marshall Plan with China's Belt vision. The Marshall Plan was an unilateral and one-off economic assistance to rebuild Europe," he said.

"Unlike it, the Belt vision is a long-term and, what's more important, a multilateral cooperation plan. This is not just Chinese assistance for Asian countries; this is mutually beneficial cooperation," he noted.

Berger said the initiatives have profound implications for Asia and the world at large.

"It will not only bring economic benefits to countries involved, but also bolster social and cultural interactions among all the partners in the region through other channels, like educational projects and cultural programs."

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