ASEAN will gain from Maritime Silk Road
Updated: 2015-03-31 08:13
By Jiang Zhida(China Daily)
The new Maritime Silk Road is open to all, and about 60 countries, developing and developed both, have already welcomed it. Besides, many developing and developed countries have expressed willingness to join the AIIB and the Silk Road Fund.
Some people may be worried that the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will eventually benefit China alone. But such concerns are baseless, for its success depends on the equal participation of other countries. And it cannot succeed without using the existing mechanisms for cooperation or without being flexible enough to suit the development levels and specific requirements of the participating countries.
The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is a cultural exchange road that will link many nationalities, ethnic groups, religions and customs, which is important to increase people-to-people exchanges so as to promote greater understanding between the peoples of Asia and consolidate the cultural and social foundations of regional cooperation.
ASEAN can get maximum benefit from China's initiative by becoming part of it as early as possible, for that would give it greater access to the infrastructure development fund. Also, the Southeast Asian bloc should integrate the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road into its "Post-2015 Vision", which is likely to succeed the ASEAN Community's economic and socio-cultural blueprints at the 27th ASEAN Summit in November 2015.
Moreover, cooperation between ASEAN and China can prevent the disputes between Beijing and some ASEAN members from creating obstacles for the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. This is important especially because the two sides have agreed to use dual tracks to deal with the South China Sea disputes to maintain peace and stability in the region.
Over the past decades, ASEAN has maintained its independence and centrality in East Asia through its multilateral diplomacy and regional frameworks such as the East Asia Summit, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the ASEAN Regional Forum. Some ASEAN members are worried that the new Maritime Silk Road could compromise ASEAN's centrality in the region. But that will not happen given ASEAN has successfully built a regional economic community and is leading it toward broader East Asian integration.
The author is an associate research fellow at the Center for the Belt and Road Initiatives, China Institute of International Studies.
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