China Center for International Economic Exchanges

An Exclusive Interview with Cheng Wenling
Date:Aug 07,2017    Source:CCIEE

By NouvellesD’Europe (UK Edition)

Recently, a CCIEE research team led by Chen Wenling, Chief Economist and Deputy Director of the Executive Board of CCIEE, conducted a field trip to the United Kingdom (UK), Switzerland and Italy. During their time in the UK, the delegation paid a visit to the Chinese embassy, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, participated in the International Conference on the UK and the Belt and Road at the University of Cambridge and Chen Wenling, delivered a speech in the office of the Chancellor of the University of Cambridge.

Chen Wenling said that CCIEE started to plan this field trip shortly after the conclusion of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, with the aim of undertaking an in-depth study on the implementation of the belt and road initiative.

Not long after the belt and road initiative was proposed three years ago, the UK had the quickest response to the initiative and the most active interaction with China at different levels, compared with other western countries, said Chen Wenling. She expressed that China hopes to enlarge the connectivity partnership from the previous 64 nations and six economic corridors along the belt and road to include more western countries. Furthermore, China would like to promote the initiative as a public good which should be jointly discussed, built and shared by more countries and regions to make the best use of this “China proposal.”

“Just like President Xi said that the belt and road is an open platform and China will proactively respond the expectations of the international community and ensure that the initiative will benefit globalization and more people and countries. Therefore, we are planning to visit some of the best think tanks in the UK, have dialogues with some of the most influential economist, sociologist, historian and strategist, express China’s voice actively and explain China’s proposal and proposition,” said Chen Wenling.

                        

An important part of this trip is the speech delivered by Chen Wenling in the office of the Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, explaining three important issues. Firstly, what role can the UK play in the building of the belt and road? Secondly, how can the UK’s active participation play a positive role in strengthening the connection between the belt and road with western countries? Lastly, what opportunities can the initiative bring to the UK, Europe and the rest of the world and how exactly can other countries participate in the belt and road initiative?   

Chen Wenling hopes to learn more about the opinions and appeals of the British community and answer their questions in relation to how can the UK better connect itself with the belt and road initiative. During this exclusive interview, Chen Wenling also elaborated how the belt and road initiative will turn on the new globalization. Speaking of the Brexit and its impact on future China-UK cooperation and UK’s participation in the belt and road, Chen Wenling pointed out that China has always valued highly the economic and trade cooperation as well as cultural exchanges between these two countries. As long as they remain open-minded and continue to broaden their horizon, they will certainly find new opportunities for cooperation.

Below are the specific questions and answers from the exclusive interview with Chen Wenling.

Question: How will the Brexit affect the future development of the China-UK relations and UK’s participation in the building of the belt and road?

Chen Wenling: As China’s second largest trading partner in Europe, the UK is the first western country which responded to the initiative to create the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank) in 2015, it is also one of the 57 funding members of the AIIB. As a Chinese think tank, CCIEE attaches great importance to UK’s support to the belt and road initiative and the role the UK will play in this process.

How exactly will the Brexit take place and what kind of changes it will bring remain highly uncertain. Nonetheless, we value greatly the economic and trade relation and cultural and personnel exchanges between the two countries regardless of the result of the Brexit. We welcome the UK’s participation in the building of the belt and road, either as an EU member or an independent economy.

For China, the UK is just as important as the EU. Both China and the UK are two important countries in the Asian and European continent and have played significant role historically, China’s willingness to strengthen cooperation with the UK remain unchanged.

Investment and Trade will lead to more potential for development

Questions: What kind of suggestions do you have for the British companies and organizations who would like to participate in the belt and road initiative?

Chen Wenling: The first and foremost advice is investment. The core of the belt and road is policy coordination, facilities connectivity, trade facilitation, financial integration and people-to-people bond. British companies should focus on the area they are good at and invest in the projects relating to the belt and road, either independently or by a joint venture with Chinese companies.

Secondly, in terms of trade facilitation, British companies should seek for more development potential through E-international trade, the trend of future trade.

Thirdly, British companies should pay attention to the list of deliverables of the belt and road forum for international cooperation, which includes 76 items comprising more than 270 concrete results in five key areas, namely, policy, trade, financial, infrastructure and people to people connectivity, in particular, the areas which are closely related with the EU and the UK. The Chinese government attaches great importance to this list.

In his keynote speech delivered at the belt and road forum, Chinese President Xi said that the belt and road should be a road of peace, a road of prosperity, a road of opening-up, a road of innovation and a road connecting different civilizations. China and the UK have great potential for cooperation at different levels. As a country of splendid history and culture, the UK will surely find new opportunities for cooperation so long as it remains open-minded and forward-looking.

The Belt and Road Initiative Leads New Globalization

Question: What are the differences between the new globalization, turned on by the initiative and the globalization we had in the past decades?

Chen Wenling: The UK invented the steam engine, the US invented electricity and more importantly, they shared these technologies with the rest of the world, which made a tremendous contribution to the progress of mankind. The belt and road initiative will serve the same purpose and the benefits resulting from the initiative will be shared by the entire world, in spite of the fact the China proposed the initiative.

In my opinion, the new globalization has the following five characteristics.

First of all, the new globalization will be fostered by both the real economy and virtual economy. The previous rounds of globalization are mainly based on the real economy and thus, the flow of commodities, capital and information are relatively slow. With the new globalization, the virtual economy develops rapidly and intangible assets, intellectual property and credit have all entered into the circulation and connected with the real economy. As a result, no country is able to operate well without engaging the world economy. Having considered the ever-increasing global connectivity, the belt and road initiative and the multidimensional channel formed by sea, road and air will be the best choice for the development of the real and virtual economy.

Secondly, the characteristics of the new globalization have changed a great deal and the most remarkable one is networking, namely, internet, the net of things, aviation network, port network, shop network and even the free trade zone network. The world economy will not be able to go back to the fragmented old times. The belt and road initiative has promoted the construction of network, a smoother connectivity, joint consultation and establishment of a bright future according to the principle of sharing.

Thirdly, the biggest change of the new globalization comes from the change in manufacturing relationship. Under the new condition, global supply chain, industrial chain, value chain, service chain, credit chain is everywhere. The virtual connection among industries is stronger than that of the real economy and hence formed a new pattern for the global industry.

According to the data of the WTO (World Trade Organization), two third of global trade is classified as trade of intermediate goods, which means repetitive import and export are needed during the manufacturing process. Economic globalization has not only changed the industrial chain of manufacturing but also the layout of manufacturing substantially. The belt and road will bring new opportunities to developing countries, emerging market and other countries with advantage in labor force, and achieve significant progress when re-arranging the global industrial chain, just like China seized the opportunities during the process of global industrial transformation in the past several decades. 

Fourthly, the belt and road will push forward the development of the E-international trade, a brand new trade model which will lead the development of future globalization. During this process, international trade will integrate the online and offline information, and general trade, processing trade, small border trade and procurement trade will move into the direction of E-international trade. The next generation of trade will be rather diversified and we have already started to conduct researches on relevant policy theoretical framework. China is one of the leaders in this field. So far, China has 12 cross-border e-commerce platforms receive national support and we are reforming and upgrading the information systems and platforms. For instance, the capacity of the E-trade platform in Zhengzhou has been improved from one transaction per second to 500 transactions per second. We hope that the “internet silk road” will allow more countries and people to share the achievement of the economic development.

Last but not least, the new globalization will formulate new rules for all the participants. The belt and road will accelerate the transformation from the old momentum to a new one and the application of new technologies and conditions will facilitate the development of economic globalization. For instance, the sharing bike has been introduced to the UK and was embraced by the local people. Economic globalization has become the major trend, those who submit will prosper and those who resist shall perish. The belt and road initiative proposed by China is an initiative that will benefit all mankind and will ensure the smooth development of new globalization.

Question: Which one is more important for promoting the development of the belt and road initiative, the real economy or the virtual economy?

Chen Wenling: Personally, I think that the current virtual economy is seriously over-expanded, imbalanced and has actually impeded the development of the real economy. The belt and road initiative cares more about the development of the real economy, including the industrial planning for road, bridge, port and others. By close communication with the common people about their livelihood, the initiative will find better policy direction and play a more important role in ensuring a sustainable development of economic globalization.

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