China and Maldives: Partners in Building 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Together

China and Maldives: Partners in Building 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Together

Estimated time to read the article : 11 min, 24 secs

Wang Fukang
Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Republic of Maldives

The year 2014 has been a historical year for China-Maldives relations. President Yameen and President Xi Jinping exchanged visit within one month and both countries committed themselves in the construction of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR), thus opening more opportunities for the two sides to work together and bring benefits to their peoples.

However, we have also noticed that part of public of Maldives still find the MSR initiative a bit difficult to understand or accept. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to make a brief introduction of the MSR initiative.

1. What is 21st Century Maritime Silk Road?

In ancient time, Silk Road was a trading route that connects the East and the West, and such a route goes both through the Eurasia continent and across the Pacific and Indian Ocean. Although it is called Silk Road as huge quantities of silk was transported and traded via this route, it also enhanced the exchanges of many other goods, people to people and culture among countries on the Silk Road. It has been an ancient route of peace, development, exchange and cooperation.

With a vision to revive the ancient Silk Road spirit of peace and development and to adapt countries along the road to new realities in the 21st Century such as globalisation, regional integration and win-win cooperation, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed in 2013 that China and countries along the ancient Silk Road would build together the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road ("the Belt and Road Initiative" for short).

“The Belt and Road Initiative" is proposed and conducted with the principle of “joint consultation, joint development and joint benefits”. All countries along the Silk Road are welcome to plan, develop and benefit together from the initiative. The initiative aims to inject strong impetus in enhancing political mutual trust, deepening economic cooperation, and promoting cultural as well as people-to-people exchanges among relevant countries.

21st Century Maritime Silk Road is not just a physical trade or transportation route. It is an open platform for all relevant countries to work together for collaborative benefits in all areas.

21st Century Maritime Silk Road is not China’s exclusive initiative. It is becoming an inclusive regional cooperation model for all relevant countries to develop and prosper together.

2. Who can join 21st Century Maritime Silk Road?

The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is an open and inclusive initiative of economic cooperation. It is neither an entity nor limited to any specific country. Any country interested is welcome to join. With more support from other countries and wider coverage across the region, it has become an initiative not for one country but for all countries involved who are joint advocators, builders and beneficiaries of the initiative.

Since the initiative was first raised, more than 50 countries have actively supported and engaged themselves in the development of the Silk Road Economic Belt or the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road or both, including most of the ASEAN countries and many South Asian countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the Maldives. The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road has always been and will continue to be open to all countries along the road.

3. How does 21st Century Maritime Silk Road work?

The MSR initiative will focus mainly on Asian countries and prioritize connectivity development efforts in Asia; will establish a framework for Asian connectivity on the basis of land economic corridor and maritime economic cooperation; will achieve breakthroughs in transportation infrastructure as an early harvest for Asian connectivity; and will consolidate public support for Asian connectivity through people-to-people exchanges.

To achieve the above goals, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) will be established in 2015, with a membership of more than 20 countries and an expected initial subscribed capital of 50 billion USD, aiming to finance and facilitate infrastructure construction for countries along the "Belt and Road".

To achieve the above goals, the Silk Road Fund will also be set up, with China’s contribution of 40 billion USD, aiming to provide investment and financial support to carry out infrastructure, resources, industrial and financial cooperation and other projects related to connectivity for countries along the "Belt and Road";

To achieve the above goals, free trade areas negotiations are being carried out between China and countries along the “Beld and Road”, aiming to facilitate and enhance the trade and economic cooperation among all the relevant countries.

In short, “the Belt and the Road “aim at promoting the common development and connectivity among all countries along the road, and enhance the benefits of all peoples in these countries.

4. When was Maldives involved in the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road?

In January 2014, senior Chinese and Maldivian officials discussed the possibility and prospect for China and Maldives working together under the MSR initiative.

In August 2014, during the visit of President Yameen to China to attend the 2nd Youth Olympics, Maldives expressed its wish to positively respond to China's initiative of building 21st Century Maritime Silk Road together.

In September 2014, during the visit of President Xi Jinping to Maldives, China welcomed Maldives to jointly build 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

In December 2014, during the first meeting of the China-Maldives Joint Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation (JCTEC), both sides signed the MoU on Jointly Promoting the Construction of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road under the Framework of JCTEC, setting out the roadmap for future cooperation between China and Maldives under the MSR initiative.

5. Why are China and Maldives building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road together?

The ancient Silk Road had linked China and Maldives for centuries. The famous Chinese navigator Zheng He has led ships to visit the Maldives twice in early 15th century and Maldivian Sultans also sent several delegations to China during the same time. Even today, there are numerous Chinese ancient porcelain and coins on display at the National Museum of Maldives, serving as a strong testament to the historical connections between China and Maldives via the ancient maritime Silk Road.

In the 21st century, as our relations are deepening and exchanges expanding, it is very natural for China and the Maldives to join again in the renewed effort to build the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road together.

During President Xi Jinpin’s historic visit to Maldives, China and Maldives decides to establish Future-Oriented All-Round Friendly and Cooperative Partnership between the two countries, with various important documents of cooperation signed between China and Maldives including the Agreement on Establishing JCTEC, the MoU on Foreign Ministries cooperation, the Mou on promoting Male’-Hulhule’ Bridge project construction, and the MoU on health cooperation etc. All these cooperation and joint efforts will further flourish under the MSR initiative.

The MSR initiative will bring better economic and social development for Maldives by facilitating more investment and trade opportunities from China and other countries along the road.

The MSR initiative will enable major projects like Male’-Hulhule’ Bridge and New Runway for INIA to become reality.

The MSR initiative will enhance Maldivian products like fish to be exported to China and cheaper and better Chinese products to be imported to Maldives by establishing Free Trade Area between the two countries.

The MSR initiative will provide more training opportunities and scholarships for Maldives.

The MSR initiative will expand the cooperation between China and Maldives in areas like tourism, culture, science, health etc.

In short, the MSR initiative means more trade, more investment, more development, more opportunities and more friendship between China and Maldives and also people of our two countries.

Looking back to the history, China and Maldives have been traditional friends on the ancient Silk Road. Marching towards the future, China and Maldives will partner again in building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road to link our two countries, economies, and peoples closer.