China's two Silk Road proposals, unlike the postwar initiative of the US, are a way to share the fruits of regional development
China has declared it is establishing a special fund for the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, two initiatives proposed by China to promote regional integration, cooperation and trade. It is making action plans to start cooperation with the relevant countries to translate the blueprints into tangible achievements. Meanwhile, the founding of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is also picking up speed.
However, some in the West have misinterpreted, either willfully or shortsightedly, the two proposals and describe them as being China's equivalent to the Marshall Plan, which was the economic assistance provided by the United States to its allies in Western Europe to help them reconstruct their countries after World War II. This is easily sensationalized.
Yet comparing China's two Silk Road projects to the Marshall Plan only exposes the diehard Cold War mentality that still casts shadows in the West.
In fact, the two Silk Road plans, which will greatly improve the connectivity of the Eurasian continent and the coastal countries of the Pacific and Indian oceans, are completely different from the Marshall Plan.
First, the Silk Road projects and the Marshall Plan embody different purposes. The US was seeking to contain the rise of the Soviet Union. The Marshall Plan was an economic tool that started the Cold War, split the European market, and aggravated poverty and hunger worldwide for more than four decades.
China's Silk Road plans, on the other hand, advocate peace, development and win-win cooperation, which are the trends of the times. Promoting economic globalization and regional economic integration benefit China and all the parties participating in the plans.
The Silk Road proposals promote common development and create more opportunities for complementary cooperation, opening-up and growth.
Second, the Marshall Plan was a manifestation of an ideological war. All countries receiving assistance from the US had to support it in the confrontation with the former Soviet Union and its pursuit of hegemony. The US consolidated its status as a global superpower step by step by means of the plan.
In contrast, the purpose of China's Silk Road plans is to boost development and guarantee peace, inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutually beneficial cooperation. No political conditions are enforced upon those participating in the Silk Road frameworks, which are open to all countries pursuing development and growth.
China is by no means forming a camp or organizing alliances to confront any other country. Historically, the overland and maritime Silk Roads provided an open platform for international trade. Today, the international community is first of all a community of interests, and the two Silk Road plans serve to strengthen cooperation and promote the common development of the whole community.
Last but not least, there are differences in the implementation of the Chinese and the US plans. The US played a dominant role in executing the Marshall Plan. The Western European countries were passive receivers, and had little say in the implementation of the plan. In this way, the US found new destinations for its surplus capital and production capacity, and the recipient countries spent most of the funds provided by the US buying products and services from the US.
In contrast, the Silk Road plans emphasize negotiation, joint efforts and sharing the fruits of development. Each country can decide whether to participate in these modern Silk Roads, or not. And countries that do participate will be able to make good use of their own advantages for complementary cooperation resulting in mutual benefits.
China would like to share its development dividend accumulated over the past 30 years with the other countries to promote common development, and economic cooperation and human and cultural exchanges are the two main pillars of the Silk Road plans.
All countries benefit from increasing interconnectivity, closer communication, and easier trade and investment. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the Silk Road Fund are not intended to, and do not, conflict with the current cooperative mechanisms among these countries.
The misreading of China's Silk Road plans as a Marshall Plan does not stand the test of historical facts and the reality of the modern world. But there are still those trying to distort them and, most likely, smear China's efforts to shoulder its international responsibilities.
The two new Silk Roads belong to the world. Chinese people have traveled along the Silk Road for more than 2,000 years, but never colonized any other nations along the way, in sharp contrast to the infamous records of some civilized Western powers.
The core of the ancient Silk Road and the modern Silk Road plans today are the same: peace, friendship, opening-up and inclusiveness. These values and affiliated practices are the common wealth of human civilization.