by Xinhua writers Liu Chang, Deng Yushan
BEIJING, March 11 (Xinhua) -- Some 2,100 years ago, or 1,600 years before Italian explorer Christopher Columbus found the New World, ancient Chinese General Zhang Qian braved a world of uncertainties to open up a trade route now known as the Silk Road.
Along the Silk Road and other networks linking up remote corners of the world, nations sharing the planet have marched a long way in global interconnection and reached unprecedented levels of development, while having also become more closely intertwined and interdependent than Zhang Qian could ever have imagined.
To deal with the numerous problems and uncertainties troubling today's world, China has decided to give greater scope to the time-honored Silk Road spirit and launched, among others, a modern-day land and maritime Silk Road initiative to promote win-win and shared development across the globe.
Underpinning Beijing's endeavors for global development and integration is the vision of building a community of shared future for mankind, which is championed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and, in the eyes of many, represents the ultimate goal of human development.
China will not close its open door, and will keep on opening up on all fronts, Xi reaffirmed at a panel discussion with Chinese lawmakers at the ongoing annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC).
"THE ONLY FUTURE FOR HUMANITY"
More than two millenniums after Zhang Qian blazed the international trail, isolationist and confrontational elements are still haunting the world, despite the enormous benefits globalization has brought to human development.
A sluggish global growth and widening development gaps are exacerbated by armed conflicts, Cold War mentality and power politics, and mixed with such non-conventional security threats as terrorism, major communicable diseases and climate change.
To ride out those numerous challenges and increasing risks, "China's proposition is: build a community of shared future for mankind and achieve shared and win-win development," announced the Chinese president in a keynote speech at the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG) in January.
"To achieve this goal, the international community should promote partnership, security, growth, inter-civilization exchanges and the building of a sound ecosystem," added the president.
In the government work report Chinese Premier Li Keqiang delivered at an NPC plenary on Sunday, Beijing declared once again that it stands ready to work with the international community to foster a new type of international relations with win-win cooperation at the core and make new contributions to the building of a community of shared future for mankind.
Xi's vision "is the only future for humanity on this planet," said UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson in an interview with Xinhua.
Both Thomson and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have pledged that the United Nations will work with China to promote world peace and development, and realize the goal of building a community of shared future for mankind.
As a clear sign of the increasing global recognition of Xi's signature concept on human development, the 55th UN Commission for Social Development (CSocD) approved a resolution in February that calls for more support for Africa's economic and social development by embracing the spirit of building a human community of shared future.
Philipp Charwath, chair of the CSocD, told Xinhua that the concept "basically is an acknowledgment that we all depend on each other."
ADAPTER TO CURRENT WORLD ORDER
To those with a propensity for zero-sum thinking, China is strategizing to dethrone the United States and dictate a new world order as the world witnesses a power shift from the West to the East.
Beijing has addressed such suspicions with both words and deeds. In his visit to the UNOG and other international organizations in Switzerland, Xi reaffirmed China's commitment to peaceful development and pledge not to seek hegemony, expansion or sphere of influence.
The president's Switzerland trip "sent out a clear message of China's strong commitment to multilateralism and strong support for the UN-centered international system," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told a press conference Wednesday on the sidelines of the NPC session.
In a move clearly indicative of Beijing's commitment, China took the lead in establishing in 2015 the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is meant to supplement -- rather than supplant -- the international financial system and help fill the huge funding gaps for infrastructure construction.
Likening the international order to a building, Wang said: "What we should be doing is to renovate the building rather than constructing another structure."
That is what Joseph Nye, a Harvard professor and prominent U.S. foreign policy expert, has concluded through observation.
"If you look at the Chinese behavior, they have not rejected the world international system," he noted at a recent seminar at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, adding that China just seeks to adapt itself to the current world order, not to overthrow it.
Evan A. Feigenbaum, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a U.S. think tank, also pointed out that China is not "a revolutionary" power.
China's size, wealth and policy lead it "to demand significant changes to existing institutions, but it does not seek to overturn the current international order wholesale," he wrote in an article published in the January/February issue of U.S. magazine Foreign Affairs under the title of "China and the World."
A PATHWAY OF COOPERATION, WIN-WIN
Xi has backed his grand vision with concrete actions.
For example, China has been making great efforts to build a community of shared future with its neighbors. Among the initiatives is the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) mechanism, which has designated 45 "early harvest" programs.
"We hope LMC will become a flagship initiative in China's efforts to build a community of shared future with our neighbors and contribute more to the narrowing of disparity and the promotion of integration in our region," said Wang Yi, the foreign minister.
Substantial progress has also been made in the building of a China-Africa community of shared future. Since the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in late 2015, China has disbursed or arranged nearly half of the 60-billion-U.S.-dollar funding support it promised to Africa.
In addition, the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway, Africa's first modern electrified railway China helps build to link the Ethiopian capital with Djibouti's Red Sea port, has been up and running. So will the Mombasa-Nairobi railway in Kenya, a China-funded standard gauge railway (SGR) ranking as the biggest infrastructure project in the country since its independence.
The flagship of China's endeavors is the Belt and Road Initiative, which comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and is aimed at promoting common development along the ancient land and maritime Silk Road trade routes and beyond.
So far the initiative, which was proposed by Xi in 2013, has gained the support of over 100 countries and international organizations, and more than 40 of them have signed cooperation agreements with China.
"China's initiative to jointly build the Belt and Road, embracing the trend towards a multipolar world, economic globalization, cultural diversity and greater IT application, aims at being highly efficient in terms of the allocation of resources, and at achieving a deep integration of markets among the countries concerned," said Keith Bennett, vice chair of the London-based 48 Club Group.
"It will thereby jointly create an open, inclusive and balanced regional economic cooperation architecture that benefits all," the British business leader told Xinhua.
Gerrishon K. Ikiara, a senior lecturer at the University of Nairobi, noted that the Belt and Road Initiative will provide unprecedented opportunities for the economic and social development of China and all other countries involved.
"It is the way leading to the community of shared future for mankind," said Ikiara of the modern-day version of the trail General Zhang Qian blazed about 2,100 years ago.