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CIRSD and DRC Co-host the Beijing Horizons Discussion

The Center of International Relations and Sustainable Development (CIRSD) and the Development Research Center (DRC) of the State Council of China co-organized a Horizons Discussion in Beijing on 8 September 2015.

 


Entitled “China and the World,” the Davos-style panel discussion was held in the prestigious Diaoyutai State Guesthouse complex. It began with a message from Yang Jiechi, State Councillor of China and a former Chinese Foreign Minister, affirming that the event “greatly promotes and deepens the mutual understanding and friendly cooperation between China and the world, and greatly contributes to advancing mutual benefits and win-win for China and the international community.”

In his opening remarks as moderator, CIRSD President Vuk Jeremic said that as the world moves towards greater multipolarity, the role of China is becoming increasingly central to a broad range of international endeavors—from climate change to peace and security challenges. He also stressed that the fate of grand international initiatives such as the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank will decisively bear upon the strategic trajectory of not only Asia, but well beyond, concluding that their “success could fundamentally transform the politics and economics of globalization in the 21st century.”

The Horizons Discussion in Beijing featured 6 speakers, including two members of the CIRSD Board of Advisors: DRC President Li Wei and former EU Commission Vice President and Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.

In his remarks, Li Wei emphasized the imperative of interdependence in the 21st century, saying that “neither can China develop without the world nor can the world develop without China.” He also noted the great opportunities on offer to create a peaceful and prosperous community of shared destiny through strategic initiatives such as the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative and the AIIB.

Franco Frattini spoke of the importance of China’s global role, stressing its historic attachment to the UN Charter as an indication that Beijing is a facilitator and promoter of “world order in a world of disorder.” China is thus greatly contributing to the mitigation of a number of international crises—Frattini singled out Korea, Iran, and South Sudan—through top-level political engagement, as well as helping to fight terrorism in areas such as Pakistan and Afghanistan. He concluded his remarks by stressing the cultural, economic, and political significance of “extraordinary projects” like the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative that he explained was the opposite of a threat to Europe and the rest of the world.

The Horizons Discussion in Beijing also featured remarks by Thomas Paulsen, a Member of the Executive Board of Germany’s Körber Foundation; Wang Yajun, Director General of Policy Planning Department of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Zhang Yuyan, Director of Institute of World Economy and Politics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and one of China’s most prominent economics experts; and Patrick Ho, Deputy Chairman and the Secretary General of the Hong Kong-based China Energy Fund Committee.

 



Thomas Paulsen focused on the deep economic ties binding Europe and China together whilst indicating that much open space remains unfilled in the realm of political cooperation. He attributed the latter to the vast geographic distance that separated the two, as well as different conceptions of values. He noted two critical commonalities that could serve as the conceptual basis of stronger political engagement: the lack of “missionary zeal to actively export our respective systems” and the shared belief that there are no “quick fixes” to international challenges: both Europe and China prefer to champion longer-term “structural transformations—the wisdom of two old civilizations—such as the new Silk Road.”

Wang Yajun stressed the importance of the forthcoming state visit by China’s President Xi Jinping to the United States, which is in many ways the world’s most important bilateral relationship. He also spoke about China’s continuing commitment to the United Nations, and expressed the hope that the adoption of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda will produce new global circumstances that will require the Organization to play an even deeper role in the pursuit of progress and prosperity for mankind.

Zhang Yuyan devoted his remarks to explaining China’s ‘new normal’ stage of economic development. He addressed the fears of those who believe that recent stock market volatility could result in a “hard landing,” arguing that the fundamentals of China’s economy are healthy. On the other hand, he expressed some concern that global growth could slow down, arguing that the unprecedentedly high levels of sovereign debt caused by low interest rates was artificially driving growth, adding that not only was productivity growing at lower rates, but that trade growth was lower than economic growth due to lower commodity prices. He argued that sustainable global growth required continued and coordinated reform and market liberalization efforts between the main economic players to drive domestic demand.

Patrick Ho drew attention to the increasing importance of soft power. China, he noted, has much to contribute and much to learn from both its historical experience and that of others. He argued that the ultimate manifestation of a benevolent attitude in the conduct of foreign policy such as China’s is to more fully align one’s own aspirations with those of others. He added that China’s experience is one to which many countries can relate: unequal treatment by major powers, the difficulties of development, and the desire to maintain one’s national identity while simultaneously stepping into the modern world. In the Chinese mindset, he concluded, “modernization is neither a zero-sum game nor a life and death competition. It is a free zone offering unlimited opportunities for diverse development and mutual cooperation in which the heritage of each can be preserved.”

The Horizons Discussion in Beijing drew an invitation-only audience of nearly 400 government officials, diplomats, entrepreneurs, investors, bankers, and think-tank officials, as well as students from some of China’s top universities.

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