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Md. Nazrul Islam - Silk Road to Belt Road Reinventing the Past and Shaping the Future-Springer Singapore (2019)

Md. Nazrul Islam Editor
Silk Road to
Belt Road
Reinventing the Past and Shaping the
Silk Road to Belt Road
Md. Nazrul Islam
Silk Road to Belt Road
Reinventing the Past and Shaping the Future
Md. Nazrul Islam
United International College
Zhuhai, China
ISBN 978-981-13-2997-5 ISBN 978-981-13-2998-2 (eBook)
Library of Congress Control Number: 2018964402
© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019
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Dedicated to all the participants in the first
and second interdisciplinary forum hosted by
the United International College, Zhuhai,
China, and those who perceive and promote
interdisciplinary values in academia.
Belt and Road Initiative’s arguable geoeconomic vision and/or geopolitical ambition of the current Chinese leadership is obviously a venue for cultural interaction
and exchange. This book approaches China’s Belt and Road Initiative as a process
of culturalization which started from the journey of the Silk Road and continued
over the millennium. Belt and Road Initiative in mainstream literature has been
perceived as to the geoeconomic vision and geopolitical ambition of the current
Chinese leadership in shaping the future of the world. This book argues that although
geopolitics and geoeconomy have role, BRI fundamentally creates venue for meeting the culture through promoting people-to-people interaction and exchange. This
book explores the journey from Silk Road to Belt Road through analysing the topics
ranging from history to religion, language to culture, and environment to health.
Scholars, academics, researchers, and undergraduate to graduate students from
Humanity, Social Sciences, and Business will find an alternative thought in looking
Belt and Road Initiative from this volume.
This is a collection of the papers presented in the 2nd Interdisciplinary Forum on
“Belt-Road Connectivity and Eurasian Integration: Meeting the Culture” held at the
United International College, Zhuhai, China, from March 25 to March 26, 2018. I
would like to acknowledge all the participants of the forum including paper presenters, session chairs, session discussants, and audiences, who came from far or near.
The forum could not be a reality without their participation. I would also like to
acknowledge Prof. Ching-Fai Ng, President, United International College, for his
heartfelt encouragement and generous support in organizing this forum and editing
this book.
In particular, I acknowledge Prof. Lilian Kwan, Associate Vice President, United
International College, for her encouragement and chairing the keynote session of
the forum, and Prof. Mildred Yang, Director of the General Education Office, United
International College, for her sincere cooperation and overall supervision in hosting
the forum and producing this book. Prof. Profulla C. Sarker, Prof. Fatima Kukeyeva,
Dr. Pheakkdey Nguon, and Dr. Mark Perry spent large amount of time in reading the
entire book manuscript and provided valuable feedback to the authors and editor. I
truly appreciate my colleagues’ sacrifice and hard work from the General Education
Office, United International College, Lavanie Siqi Yan, Carol Ruhuan Huang, Wan
Yuan, Stacey Xiaomei Su, Sijing Pan, Gemma Elizabeth June Barnes, Theodore
William Sims Carpenter, and Nicholas David Stewart-Bloch, who worked around
the clock to make all the logistical arrangements in organizing the forum and preparing the book manuscript.
Zhuhai, China
July 2018
Md. Nazrul Islam
Plenary Chapter
The Belt and Road Initiative: Mutual Connectivity
of the World����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� xiii
Yiwei Wang
Part I Conceptualizing Belt and Road Initiative
1Silk Road to Belt Road: Meeting the Culture��������������������������������������� 3
Md. Nazrul Islam
Part II History and Civilization
2The Rise of China’s Past in the “Belt and Road Initiative”
(from Historical Perspectives)���������������������������������������������������������������� 25
Dinh Trinh Van
3Imagining China in the New Silk Road:
The Elephant and the World Jungle������������������������������������������������������ 39
Siu-Han Chan
4The Silk Road in the West: Lebanon’s Industrial History
and Current Prospects for Partnership with China ���������������������������� 61
Mark Perry
Part III Religion
5Religion in China’s Public Diplomacy Towards the Belt
and Road Countries in Asia�������������������������������������������������������������������� 75
Chow-Bing Ngeow
6Eurasian Connection via the Silk Road: The Spread of Islam������������ 95
A. Reza Hoshmand
7From Serindia to Japan: A Sketch of the Buddhist Library
of Ximing Monastery in the Eighth-Century Chang’an���������������������� 105
Xiang Wang
Part IV Socio-cultural Dynamics
8China’s Soft Power: Culturalisation Along the Belt Road
Corridors�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 121
Khun Eng Kuah
9Conflict Management Under International and Cross-Cultural
Contexts: Opportunities in the Belt and Road�������������������������������������� 147
Charles T. L. Leung
10Cultural Contestations and Social Integration: What
Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Can Learn
from the Experiences of Malaysia and Singapore?������������������������������ 159
H. C. J. Wong and S. L. Fung
11Foreign Language Learning Beyond English: The Opportunities
of One Belt, One Road (OBOR) Initiative �������������������������������������������� 175
Luis Miguel Dos Santos
Part V Environment
12Ensuring Social and Environmental Sustainability of the Belt
and Road Initiative in Cambodia Based on Experiences
from China������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 193
Pheakkdey Nguon and Yuvaktep Vann
13Navigating a Green BRI in Sri Lanka���������������������������������������������������� 215
Divya Hundlani
14Comparison of Building Environment Assessment Systems
Across the Belt and Road Countries: How Do Green Buildings
Contribute to Achieving Ecological Civilization
and Sustainable Development Goals?���������������������������������������������������� 235
Siu-tai Tsim, Sherry Yue Su, Bonny Bun-ho Yuen,
and Mandy Liyan Xie
Part VI Medicine and Health
15A Malaysian Perspective on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
During Postpartum Care and Its Relevance Towards China’s
One Belt One Road Initiative (BRI) ������������������������������������������������������ 261
Shariffah Suraya Syed Jamaludin and Maria Aloysius
Part VII Country Impact
16One Belt One Road Project is a Driving Force for Holistic
Development of Eurasian Region: Challenges to Bangladesh ������������ 279
Profulla C. Sarker
17Belt and Road Initiative for Kazakhstan: Opportunities
and Risks�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 293
Fatima Kukeyeva and Dauren Dyussebayev
18Cambodia-China’s Trade Connectivity: Reevaluating the Trade
Pattern and Constraints�������������������������������������������������������������������������� 307
Sophannak Chorn, Savuth Cheng, and Yuthnea Ngoy
19Chinese Identities in Southeast Asia������������������������������������������������������ 329
Wei Chin Wong
Index������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 341
Plenary Chapter
The Belt and Road Initiative: Mutual Connectivity
of the World
“If one wishes to stand on one’s own feet, one must help others to stand on their own feet;
if one wishes to succeed, one must help others to succeed.” – Confucius
If you want to get rich, build roads first.
If you want to get richer, build the motor road.
If you want to get richest, build the internet road.
Plenary Chapter Photo 1 Mombasa-Nairobi Railway
Plenary Chapter
• Celebrating 120 years of railway history in Kenya.
• Kenya’s dalliance with railways swings between a lunatic line of yester years
and sobering sanity that defines today’s world development. Historically, the
railway line remains the greatest contributor to the existence of our Kenyan
nation. Its role in shaping the commercial, political, religious and cultural
spheres of Kenya is unparalleled.
• The Nairobi terminus is a crown jewel of the modern-day spectacle in Kenya’s
railway development depicting a magnificent piece of art, offering luxurious
travel experiences and cherished for the promise of “A prosperous future for
• The main station building is a 20-metre high architecture designed to resemble
two diesel multiple unit (DMU) locomotives approaching each other from the
Mombasa and Malaba railway track directions, meeting at the Nairobi terminus
hub. The station comprises the passenger-processing areas, the main control
room, operation offices and amenities.
• It is this station where the current locomotives will replace the legendary steam
locomotives that traversed our landscape, the undulating train rides between
destinations and the lunatic line loyally embracing Kenya’s soils through the
modern-imposing magnificent standard gauge railway line.
• The commitment and cooperation between the governments of the Republic of
Kenya and the People’s Republic of China, together with a combined workforce
of 30,000 Kenyans and 3,000 Chinese, ensured that this project was delivered 18
months ahead of schedule. The teamwork between the Kenya railways, TSDI-­
APEC-­EDON consortium and China road and bridge corporation is a good
illustration that everything is possible if we believe in ourselves and have the
conviction and the passion to accomplish it.
• We celebrate our railways in Kenya by staying right on track to connect nations
and prosper people.
• To all men and women who made this dream a reality, hongera!
• This monument was unveiled by His Excellency Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta, C.G.H.,
President of the Republic of Kenya and commander in chief of the defence forces,
on Wednesday, 31 May 2017, signifying the commencement of operations of the
Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very honoured and happy to be here.
I would like to show you some figures before my presentation. China has invested
more than $70 billion in countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road
Initiative (BRI) since its inception in 2013, with commodity trade exceeding $5 trillion. China has set up 75 overseas economic and trade cooperation zones, with an
investment exceeding $27 billion, and created jobs for more than 200,000 local
people. China’s Silk Road Fund has inked 19 projects with a committed investment
of $7 billion.
In the coming 5 years, Chinese outbound investment in BRI countries will reach
up to 500 billion USD; Chinese tourists going abroad is expected to reach 700
Plenary Chapter
Last year in May, Beijing organized the first forum on the Belt and Road Initiative.
More than 1500 participants attended. Actually, half of them were not invited by the
Chinese government – they volunteered to come; that is the reason that even though
I am a formal participant and I arrived half an hour earlier, there was no seat for me
in the hall. So why are so many people so attracted to such a forum? The one country that was invited by the Chinese government but did not come is India. Maybe
India has some misunderstandings about or concerns over the China–Pakistan economic corridor, which passed through the Kashmir region. The second figure I will
share with you is this: until the end of 2017, there are more than 86 countries (international organizations) that signed an MOU with the Chinese government to jointly
build the Belt and Road Initiative. Third, the United Nations General Assembly and
the United Nations Security Council and other communities or commissions have
endorsed the Belt and Road Initiative. Additionally, the Community of a Shared
Future has endorsed the BRI within resolutions several times. The recent Human
Rights Council also echoes a new type of international relations. So why is the
world so welcoming towards the Belt and Road Initiative even though it is only
5 years old, a baby that is still growing, and will, of course, have many problems?
Plenary Chapter Map 1 China’s New Silk Road
The above map is very popular since the Chinese government has never issued a
map to identify which countries are included in the BRI since it is inclusive and
open. However, the BRI is not a new silk road; it is about globalization, not trade
Plenary Chapter
and culture exchange. Africa is the most remarkable continent that the BRI targets,
as seen in the case of the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway.
I used the title “Discover the Old Continent and Develop the New Continent”.
“The Old Continent” is a Western saying. The Eurasian continent is definitely seen
as “The Old Continent”. In the eyes of English geographer Halford John Mackinder
(15 February 1861 to 6 March 1947), it is called the World Island, but this is geopolitical perspective. Today, we transfer from geopolitical to geoeconomics because
the Belt and Road Initiative is basically an economic corporation. I use the term
“The New Continent” because Latin America and Africa are referred to as “The
New Continent”, but very few countries within these regions are industrialized. All
the landlocked countries in the world, except for European countries, are poor; none
of them are industrialized or modernized. Why? It is because the so-called discovery of new continent is a maritime globalization. Today, 90% of trade is delivered
via the sea, so landlocked countries like Kazakhstan and Mongolia are very poor.
This is the reason that 5 years ago, President Xi visited Kazakhstan, for the first
time, to put forward the Silk Road Economic Belt because Kazakhstan is the largest
landlocked country in the world. Laos in Asia is the poorest Southeast Asian country
because it is a landlocked country. Now we are building a railway that extends from
Laos and then maybe in the future one that reaches Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
Then Laos can access the ocean to join the global value chain.
So this is basically what the Belt and Road Initiative wants to do because the
world is not flat. The world’s gap between the rich and the poor, the continent area
and landlocked area is so huge. For example, take Shenzhen, our neighbour.
Shenzhen’s GDP is more than two trillion RMB and is six times that of the Gansu
province in China. Guangdong province’s GDP is more than Russia now, but we
also have very poor provinces in China. In the United States and Europe, the gap
between the rich and the poor is also huge; that is the reason President Trump was
elected, that is the reason Brexit happened. So the world needs more mutual connection to solve the problem of the gap between the rich and the poor and to solve the
problem of some countries, people and sectors being marginalized from traditional
globalization. For that reason, I think the Belt and Road Initiative is welcomed.
Back to history, this is a map of Germany and France. When Germany was united
in 1871, it defeated France twice. Even today, France cannot compete with
Germany’s economy and industrial science. From the map of the railway, you can
come up with a conclusion that Germany’s railway system is mutually connected.
All of France’s railway system connects to Paris. This is very good for the hierarchy
of society, but it is not good for international competition. In previous times, there
were 24 countries colonized by France in Africa. To reach neighbouring countries,
the Africans cannot take a direct flight; they have to change the flight from Paris to
reach their neighbour. Now this region has changed. Because of the Belt and Road
Initiative, we built the high-speed railway, highway and also regional air network.
In Africa, for instance, I visited Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Now we have five direct
flights from Chinese cities to Addis Ababa. Before, we had to change flights from
Dubai or Paris to reach Addis Ababa. Then Eastern Africa wanted to be more like
Shenzhen and Shanghai. Now from Nairobi to Mombasa, this is called Africa’s
Plenary Chapter
special economic zone. So Mombasa is Africa’s Shanghai or Shenzhen. And we
share this vision with African countries and want to solve problems related to this.
Today’s globalization is similar to the French railway system. It is a poor beneficiary system; for example, if you sat in front of me and I sent an email to you, the
email does not reach you directly; it passes through American Internet and then
reaches your mailbox. If you send money to Hong Kong or even to London, you use
a SWIFT code. In everything we are connected, but we are connected through the
United States, through the West. Why are developing countries poor? It is because
they are not mutually connected. So the Belt and Road Initiative wants to build
greater mutual connectivity and horizontal connections, among others, among our
developing countries because China is the largest developing country. Forty years,
the alleviation of the poverty contributed to the World United Nations more than 76
percent. More than 700 million Chinese people are lifted out of poverty. If China
can succeed, why not other developing countries?
So this is what the Belt and Road Initiative is aiming for. In the United States,
there are many authors of books and articles on connectivity. One book by author
Parag Khanna, called Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization,
mentions global connectivity revolution; this is the key to the Belt and Road
Initiative. The Belt and Road Initiative wants to solve the problem of poverty, development gaps and security. I visited Pakistan and Afghanistan, and people still suffer
from shortage of electricity, violence and terrorism. Why does this happen? I think
the Chinese way to solve this problem is to give hope, lift peoples’ living standards,
alleviate poverty and then build regional sustainability. I think that’s the development-­
oriented approach to globalization, not Colour Revolution, not the so-called Arab
spring. That’s the reason China has succeeded and the Soviet Union has failed.
The Belt and Road Initiative can be traced back 2000 years ago to the ancient
Silk Road. The term “Silk Road” was put forward by a German national named
Richthofen, who was a professor at Friedrich Wilhelm University of Berlin. One of
his students was a Swede named Sven Hadin. In Sven Hadin’s book published in
1936, he predicted that China will help revitalize the ancient Silk Road. When China
does this, it will be the beginning of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. He
predicted it in 1936. That was when the long march of the Red Army just began, so
it is a very far insight.
Why the Silk Road? Why China? Why now? Why is it good for other countries?
This is the ancient Silk Road that Marco Polo entered into in the thirteenth century.
He created major connections between the East and the West. All kinds of civilizations learned from each other and through trade routes. Unfortunately in 1453, the
Ottoman Empire rose in Turkey, occupied Istanbul (Byzantium) and then blocked
the ancient Silk Road. Then there was the decline of the Mongol Empire and many
other events. The Europeans needed spice and medicine from Asia, from India, but
could not acquire them from the continent. So they went to discover the sea and
colonized the world. Portugal and Spain divided the globe into the Western
Hemisphere and the Eastern Hemisphere. So that would mean we are the East and
you are the West; this is the beginning.
Plenary Chapter
But many countries did not forget the desire to revitalize the Asian Silk Road, as
well as UNESCO, UNDP and Japan. Japan thought about creating an Asian Silk
Road from Nara. The United States put forward a new Silk Road strategy in 2011.
In 2010, the European Union also had a new Silk Road plan from Lisbon to
Vladivostok: the Eurasia free economic zone. So China is the latest, actually, to
make a proposal for the revitalization of the ancient Silk Road. At the beginning,
when President Xi was in Kazakhstan and Indonesia, the initiative was called
Economic Silk Road (One Belt), the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road (One Road),
but now we say Belt and Road Initiative, to avoid confusion among many people. Is
there only one road? No, it is not only one. In China, since the Opium War, we have
had our own developing road. We encourage other countries to also have their own
developing road. In Chinese, road means Dao lu. The Daodejing says, “everything
begins from Tao, Tao produces one, one produces two, two produces three”. So One
Belt One Road is not one belt or one road, it is everything that begins from one and
then one because of Tao. Tao is a community of shared future – so that is how we
learned from Daodejing about the meaning of the belt. In regard to the economic
belt, the Chinese open reform developed a model, the so-called China model, and
the road, as I said before, is about Chinese industrialization and Chinese success. So
the Belt and Road Initiative shares much wisdom with other religions, like in the
Quran. They also have a similar saying about the road; Allah said that this goes to
the right road. Also in the Quran, they have a similar saying about the community of
shared future. I learned this from the Egyptian Confucius Institute, which translated
my book into Arabic. I learned from them about that saying because I do not understand Arabic. When I visited Germany and Austria, I also learned from their culture
to understand about the Belt and Road Initiative as Einstein’s equivalence principle:
e = mc2: Europe’s destiny is mutually connected with China through Eurasian
So the Belt and Road Initiative is about mutual connectivity through the Eurasian
continent but now goes beyond and reaches Africa and Latin America, a global
cooperation platform through the air, land, sea and the Internet. So this is a very
advanced technology. The main purpose of the Belt and Road Initiative is to build
infrastructure. The world suffers from poor infrastructure; the West (including the
United States) suffers because private capital has no interest in investing in infrastructure because infrastructure does not make money, in the short term at least. But
in China, we can do that because we have very strong state-owned enterprises and
we think about the long term. We have strong leadership in the Communist Party of
the NDRC. The Chinese will ask “Why do Western companies not want to invest in
infrastructure, but Chinese companies do?” This is one of the key factors to understand: if you read the former governor of National Development Bank, Chen Yuan’s
(who is the son of Chen Yun) book, I think he explained the so-called development
financing, like in Indonesia: from Jakarta to Bangkok, there is a high-speed railway.
The Japanese try to compete with Chinese high-speed railway companies, but even
the local government cannot be credited. So Japanese companies gave up. However
in China, we are supported by the National Development Bank to finance high-­
speed railways. How can we make money from these projects? Although countries
Plenary Chapter
like Indonesia or Thailand do not have money, but they have resources. Between
Jakarta and Bangkok along the railway, you can create and give Chinese companies
a reason to invest. We will invest in real estate, tourism, and all other industries. So,
the railway per se does not make money. Along the railway, we will build economic
zones and industrial parks. All this will make huge money people’s Republic of
China is the only country that have all kind of sectors and industries. So that is the
reason I think our system and our economic competitive advantage can help do that.
Developing countries suffer from poor infrastructure.
And they want to learn about the Chinese experience on how China did develop
so rapidly. The Chinese people would say: “if we want to get rich, we build the road;
if we want to get rich quickly, we build the motor road; if we want to get rich immediately, we build the Internet road; if we want to get rich together, we then connect
the roads”. This is what the Belt and Road Initiative is all about. Thus, first, infrastructure is very important and then, second, is industry cluster and the third is
economic corridor. Infrastructure should benefit the local people – this is the precondition for industrialization; this is the key. If you cannot have industrialization,
then you remain poor. If you are poor, then you won’t have the money to invest in
infrastructure – this cycle is always continuing. This is why so many countries are
poor. But we can finance their first projects and let them start industrialization. Then
they will have money to pay back the investment. For example, take the China-­
Pakistan economic corridor. I have visited Pakistan many times. There are four pillars of the China-Pakistan economic corridor called CPEC.
First is infrastructure building. Second is energy. Pakistan’s energy is reliant on
Saudi Arabia for oil. I visited Karachi. Every year, because of the shortage of
electricity, 1000 people die because of the hot season. Now Pakistan in 2020 will
have independent energy.
The third section is about economic zones and industrial parks. There are more than
70 economic zones and industrial parks, and hundreds of them are projects under
the subsidiary of Gwadar port. Gwadar port will be the future Shenzhen in the
Indian Ocean. This will occur in five years’ time. Shenzhen was once a village;
now it is one of the most advanced cities in China and the world. According to
the long-term CPEC version, Pakistan will change from a so-called failed state
to a mid-income country by 2030. These will be a remarkable achievement. This
will extend to Afghanistan, then India will also want to join and then Iran, all
binding South Asia and China together through the economic corridor. So this is
the economic corridor, the sphere of influence effect.
Last, the Belt and Road Initiative is about soft infrastructure building. FTA bilateral
investment treaty, because of dollar system and President Trump always using
the trade war with China and other partners. So how can we negotiate with the
new framework? I think the Belt and Road Initiative encourages the merging
countries, the developing countries, to join this negotiation. The world economic
structure has changed, but political governance is still dominated by the West; it
is not mutually connected. So that is the reason, I think, that India actually has a
long-term interest in working together with China to reform global governance.
Plenary Chapter
This is the original “actions and visions” released 4 years ago. It covered only 18
provinces at the beginning, but now all Chinese provinces are involved. Xinjiang is
the core area of the economic belt, and Fujian is the maritime Silk Road core area
because Xinjiang is one sixth of the Chinese territory. Xinjiang has eight neighbouring countries, including Fujian; Quanzhou is a very ancient city with Marco Polo,
the Persians, and many Arabs once living there. Then Chinese relations with our
neighbours grew closer and closer. Five years ago, from Chongqing to Germany, we
have the first China-Europe express. Now more than 24 cities and 19 countries in
Europe connect with 23 Chinese cities, more than 7000 turns of the trains per year
to connect China and Europe. The cost is only one fifth of the air price, and the time
takes only a third of maritime routes.
Most importantly, one third of the world’s smart phones, one fifth of laptops and
one ninth of vehicles are made in Chongqing. All these goods come through routes,
not via the sea; the sea takes too long – it is cheap, yes, but it takes 35 days on average. But now through land, it only takes 11 days to reach Germany. Germany has
the largest land port in Europe. It is the heartland of Europe, so it is easy for it to
dispense goods to other places. If you send goods from Chongqing to Shanghai then
to Rotterdam or from Rotterdam, it still takes some time to arrive to the heartland of
Europe, so it takes longer.
So this benefit to Chinese and European companies has a new value chain, and it
also helps Chinese inland provinces to access globalization and the global value
chain. In the Chinese economy, Chongqing is the most dynamic city, and in the
Asian economy, the China-Pakistan economic corridor helps all central Asian countries to access the Indian Ocean. Zhang Qian during the Han dynasty reached
Central Asia, Xinjiang. Zheng He during the Ming dynasty reached the Indian
Ocean. But how can we make the Indian Ocean and the so-called western region,
“Xi Yu” and “Xi Yang”, connect? This is what the China-Pakistan economic corridor aims for. Two thousand years and still another one thousand years after, history
has never achieved this. Today we are turning this into a reality. There is not much
progress in BICM (Bangladesh, China, Myanmar and India) because of India’s
hesitant position. So India’s problem is if India is not invited, it will say there is no
transparency; if India is invited, there is no efficiency. So that is why we should
work more patiently with India to solve this problem. Then we will build a new so-­
called 人 style of the China-Myanmar economic corridor. It is a very important
energy pipeline from Kyaukpyu Port to reach Ruili of Yunnan Province and then
reach China. And then, maybe in the future, in our location from Kunming, the
high-speed railway system will also extend to Singapore. Now the China-Thailand
rail and the China-Laos rail are under construction. Then the Pan-Asia railway network will be connected; this is what I think.
Other countries also have projects: energy, transportation and others. In addition,
because of climate change, the North Pole Antarctic is frozen. But we can shorten
the 20-day trade, and also we can build cable connections under water directly to
Europe. All European countries also have their projects, but if we will have synergy
of strategies, then we will reach a systematic effect of Eurasia integration through
infrastructural mutual connectivity. This will occur at the beginning, and then trade
Plenary Chapter
and finance next, as I said, 五通 (Wu Tong, connectivity in five aspects), thanks to
the Belt and Road Initiative. Today this is 1.0, now extending to Africa and Latin
America. Next it will be global.
This initiative covers three kinds of countries; the first countries are those along
the Belt Road economic corridors. These are the starting 65 countries, including
China. Then the second group of countries, 86 participant countries, are those that
signed a contract with the Chinese government. For the third kind, these cover other
countries, like the United States and the AIID – since we use dollars, this is a related
country. The United States is every country’s neighbour, so definitely the United
States is in the Belt and Road Initiative, as well as the United Kingdom and others.
To summarize, the Belt and Road Initiative is continental and maritime, a one
concept initiative with two wings. The three principles are “build for all, built by all
and build it for all”; they are the new principles, definitely different from that in the
colonist, imperialist and hegemonic period. We say it is a community of common
interest, common responsibility and common destiny (later shared future) because
destiny had a more religious meaning at the beginning.
So there are four kinds of Silk Road: Silk Roads for green, health, smart and
peace. We will not go into the details of this.
Then covered of those most dynamic economic developing area in the world in
the future. Then I think they will contribute to the world economy development. By
2050, the Belt and Road Initiative will contribute to more than 8 percent of the
world’s economic growth while producing three billion new middle class. When I
delivered this speech in Germany, the BMW foundation asked me: “Is it three billion new middle class citizens?” It definitely will make huge money for the West,
and developing countries will benefit from this. For people in poverty to be the
middle class is our dream.
There are eight priorities: infrastructure, industry, resources, economic trade,
finance, cultural, ecology and maritime corporations. So far, we have at least 24
countries with 75 big industrial parks along the Belt Road countries. This is called
the “Six Economic Corridors Projects” (there are details about this in my books).
Why is China doing this? This is the ancient Silk Road. This is Zheng He. With
30Thirty troops, more than 270 ships on average, it never colonized an inch of its
island. That is totally different. This is the destination of Zheng He’s reach in East
Africa. This is the so-called Bao Chuan, Zheng He, the treasure ship compared with
Columbus with a cross on the black one. So small and so big, but 90 years ahead.
Now we stand in the South Pacific, going beyond Zheng He. Why is China doing
this? I think the first point to be said is that the China model so far is quite successful. So we want to share our experience with other developing countries. We also
have the largest foreign reserve. In previous times, we bought US federal bonds.
With the printed US dollars, we suffered from the shrinking of our foreign reserve.
Now we use our money to invest in the Silk Road fund. As I said, China has all kinds
of sectors of technology and culture. I think as Chinese, we are very proud of the
so-called ancient civilization that is very consistent. Our people training and even
four years ago, a high school student passed through the official university entrance
examination system, and then written in Jiaguwen.
Plenary Chapter
So in the past 10 years, we have built more than 20 thousand kilometres of high-­
speed railway. One kilometre of the high-speed railway costs 200 million yuan. It is
remarkable. According to Western economists, our debts would be huge, but then
why do we still enjoy high-speed economic growth? This is because of spillover
effect. As I explained, we have innovation for high-speed railways, and I also
explained where the money comes from. Of course, there are many risks: economic
risks, political security and the so-called outcome of instability. This is similar to the
1960s, when we built the Karakoram Road for Pakistan. We sent more than 3000
soldiers to build; 700 died because the soldiers were so high up they could not
breathe. Pakistan is our brother, so thanks to that.
In previous times, we highlighted some of the value chain with Western countries, but now the Belt Road countries are under the level of the Chinese value chain,
and the Chinese are the crucial link in helping those countries catch up with the
global value chain, including Russia. So that is the key to understanding the Belt
and Road Initiative. For the world, many economists predict the huge potential for
economic growth in the Belt Road countries; even so far, they are poor but they have
huge potential. Risk and profits always come together, so this is part of the gaps of
the investment of infrastructure. The countries will produce new trade and also benefit other developing countries.
To summarize the mission of the Belt and Road Initiative, the seek-post-crisis
prosperity of the world, we change from global unbalance to global rebalance and
from partial globalization to inclusive globalization. This is the tradition of globalization, all trade between the majorly advantaged. Compared with other oceans, the
Indian Ocean is very limited, so this is the light of the night. The lights’ brightness
only covers North America, Japan and Western Europe. Other places still live in
darkness, like India; 300 million Indians suffer from shortage of electricity and live
in darkness. India is the biggest democracy but a democracy in darkness, so how can
the people access electricity to get industrialization? The Belt and Road Initiative
wants to do that, and by following that, India will get access to the Internet.
The initiative is about mutual connectivity to help developing countries access
international division of labour; this is something that Europe, Russia, the 16+1 and
even the United Kingdom can benefit from. Albert Einstein said Europe’s future has
mutual connectivity with China through Eurasia. Albert Einstein also reminded us
about the Belt and Road Initiative. Many people from South Asia think that the
China-Pakistan economic corridor and so many other projects are great. The United
Nations mentioned that it is because of the Afghanistan-Pakistan economic corridor.
Seventy percent of the goods from Colombo actually reach India. So China built the
Colombo and Hambantota ports, and India has benefited the most.
With the Belt and Road Initiative, the Europeans set a high standard for international rules, but some of the Belt Road countries actually are less developed, like
Nepal and Afghanistan; you cannot have a high standard for those countries. If the
high-standard marketing principle works, why are so many countries still so poor?
So the Chinese approach, such as developing finance, is not just based on relying on
the market; we should have an invisible hand and a visible hand that work together.
We should create the market to build the market for those countries. That is the
Plenary Chapter
secret of the China model; that is the reason why the West cannot do this but China
can. In Africa, Chairman Mao gave strong advice to Africans, which can be seen in
very famous photos in the Tanzania-Zambia railway. We sent more than 50 thousand
workers for 5 years, and 30 thousand were wounded or died. So our poor brothers
helped China resume its position in the United Nations Security Council.
This is the railway (shows picture). Africans either want to learn from the Belt
and Road Initiative or share China’s open reform experience. There are lots of
investments in Africa now, so we want to share our experience with them. Chinese
figures are printed in Mauritius’ currency bank notes, and the project Belt and Road
Initiative is in Sri Lanka’s currency. If China is not welcome, why do they put China
in their currency? So for Chinese students, I think studying hard may, in the future,
be the reason for you to be in other countries’ currencies. It is very possible. For
more information, you should look at official documents, websites and my books. It
was first translated into Arabic with Xi Jinping’s photo as a cover. The Belt and
Road Initiative is one of the new versions of civilization, not a repeat of the tragedy
of imperialism – that is the hope. Thank you.
Jean Monnet Chair Professor
Renmin University of China
Beijing, China
Yiwei Wang
Maria Aloysius Anthropology & Sociology Section, School of Social Sciences,
Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia
Christian Aspalter Social Work and Social Administration Program, United
International College, Zhuhai, China
Dennis B. Batangan Institute of Philippines Culture, Ateneo de Manila University,
Quezon City, Philippines
Siu-Han Chan General Education Office, United International College, Zhuhai,
Savuth Cheng Mekong Institute of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Sophannak Chorn Lecturer of Economics, Department of International Studies
(DIS), Institute of Foreign Languages, Royal University of Phnom Penh, Phnom
Penh, Cambodia
Shaheli Das School of International Studies, Centre for East Asian Studies,
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India
Dauren Dyussebayev International Relations Department, Al-Farabi Kazakh
National University, Almaty, Kazakhstan
S. L. Fung Chinese Language Center, United International College, Zhuhai, China
Haipeng Guo Director of Whole Person Education Office and Associate Professor
(Computer Science and Technology), United International College, Zhuhai, China
A. Reza Hoshmand Professor of Economics and Director of General Education,
Hong Kong Baptist University, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong SAR
Divya Hundlani Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and
Strategic Studies, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Kelly Inglis General Education Office, United International College, Zhuhai,
Shariffah Suraya Syed Jamaludin Anthropology & Sociology Section, School
of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia
Venera R. Khalikova Department of Anthropology, Chinese University of Hong
Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong SAR
Kwan Wai Ko Division of Business and Management, United International
College, Zhuhai, China
Khun Eng Kuah School of Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University,
Singapore, Singapore
Fatima Kukeyeva Professor of International Relations and the World Economy
Department, Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, Almaty, Kazakhstan
Lilian Kwan Associate Vice President, United International College, Zhuhai,
Chris Lam General Education office, United International College, Zhuhai, China
Kenneth Lan Government and International Relation Program, United
International College, Zhuhai, China
Chiu-Hong Lee Environmental Science Program, Division of Science and
Technology, United International College, Zhuhai, China
Charles T. L. Leung Social Work and Social Administration Program, United
International College, Zhuhai, China
Jianhui Li Academic Registrar and Deputy Director of Graduate School, United
International College, Zhuhai, China
Charles Lowe Division of Humanities and Social Sciences, United International
College, Zhuhai, China
Edoardo Monaco Government and International Relation Program, United
International College, Zhuhai, China
Ching-Fai Ng President, United International College, Zhuhai, China
Chow-Bing Ngeow Institute of China Studies, University of Malaya, Kuala
Lumpur, Malaysia
Yuthnea Ngoy Department of International Studies, Institute of Foreign Languages,
Royal University of Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Pheakkdey Nguon Cambodia 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Research Center
(CMSRRC), Department of International Studies, Royal University of Phnom Penh,
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Mark Perry General Education Office, United International College, Zhuhai,
Victor Rodriguez SINO-US College, Beijing Institute of Technology, Zhuhai,
Luis Miguel Dos Santos Educator, Macao Sar, China
Profulla C. Sarker Royal University of Dhaka, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Sherry Yue Su Building Sustainability, ARUP International Consultants
(Shanghai) Co Ltd, Shanghai, China
Dinh Trinh Van Deputy Director (Office for Research Affairs), Hanoi National
University, Hanoi, Vietnam
Siu-tai Tsim Environmental Science Program, United International College,
Zhuhai, Guangdong, China
Yuvaktep Vann Royal University of Law and Economics, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Xiang Wang General Education Office, United International College, Zhuhai,
Yiwei Wang Jean Monnet Chair Professor, Renmin University of China, Beijing,
H. C. J. Wong Director of Student Affairs Office and Professor of Social Work and
Social Administration, United International College, Zhuhai, China
Wei Chin Wong General Education Office, United International College, Zhuhai,
Mandy Liyan Xie Whole Person Education Office, United International College,
Zhuhai, Guangdong, China
Baojun Xu Food Science and Technology Program, United International College,
Zhuhai, China
Mildred Yang Director, General Education office, United International College,
Zhuhai, China
Chun-Fai Yu Environmental Science Program, United International College,
Zhuhai, China
Bonny Bun-ho Yuen Environmental Science Program, United International
College, Zhuhai, China
About the Editor and Contributors
Md. Nazrul Islam PhD has written extensively on Asian medicine, Chinese herbal
and Indian Ayurvedic medicine in particular, and health tourism. He has extended
research scope on China’s Belt and Road Initiative and cultural connectivity with a
focus on Medicine and Health which is an emerging area of academic investigation
and needs to be explored further. Currently he is an Associate Professor in the
General Education Office, United International College, Beijing Normal University-­
Hong Kong Baptist University. He received PhD in Medical Sociology from the
University of Hong Kong; MSc in Community Health and Health Management
from Heidelberg University, Germany; and BSS in Anthropology from Jahangirnagar
University, Bangladesh. He also studied at Pabna Cadet College, Faridpur Zilla
School, and Tarar Mela Ishan Memorial School. He was a Visiting Associate
Professor in the School of Population and Public Health, University of British
Columbia, Canada (2015–2016); JIRS Fellow (2011 to date); a Visiting Scholar at
the Centre of Asian Studies, University of Hong Kong (2008); attached to University
of Calcutta, India (2004–2005); a Visiting Research Associate at the Ateneo de
Manila University, the Philippines (2003); German Academic Exchange Service
(DAAD) Fellow (2002–2003); and the United Nations University Fellow, Japan
(2001). He is the author of the book Chinese and Indian Medicine Today-Branding
Asia by Springer Nature (2017) and editor of Public Health Challenges in
Contemporary China: An Interdisciplinary Perspective by Springer (2016). He has
produced dozens of high-impact articles in top-notch journals such as Current
Sociology, Health Sociology Review, and so on. His writings and talks on global
commodification of Asian indigenous medicines have received worldwide attention
among scholars, academics, and general audiences and called for interview by leading newspapers.
About the Editor and Contributors
Maria Aloysius is currently pursuing her MA in Social Sciences (Anthropology
and Sociology) in Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and working on her thesis dissertation in the field of cultural sociology and gender studies entitled “Attitudes,
Perception and Level of Acceptance towards Breastfeeding in Public Among
Malaysian Undergraduate Students”. She obtained her Diploma in Business Studies
(Management) from the Polytechnic of Seberang Perai in 2010 and Bachelor Degree
in Social Sciences (Anthropology and Sociology) from Universiti Sains Malaysia
(USM) in 2014. She has been awarded the Gold Medal Prize (Hadiah Pingat Emas)
Tan Sri Dato’ Eusoff Abdoolcader Award in 2014. Her major experiences include
participating in an international forum held in Hiroshima University, Japan, in 2013
and international summer school and semester in the Institute of Asian and African
Studies, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany in 2016/2017. She has also held
positions such as research assistant and has been a USM Fellowship Holder from
2015 to 2018. Throughout her fellowship years, she has tutored and assisted courses
such as Conflict Transformation and Peace Building and Statistics for Social
Sciences. Her first two major publications include “A Qualitative Study on Public
Breastfeeding: What’s Appropriate and Inappropriate in Penang, Malaysia?” (published in Advanced Science Letters, 23: 3185–3189, 2017) and “Postpartumhood:
Dietary Practices and Breastfeeding Attitudes Among Malays” (published in
Pertanika Journal of Social Science & Humanities, 25:153–162, 2017).
Siu-Han Chan PhD is a sociologist graduated from the Chinese University of
Hong Kong. She is now an Assistant Professor in Sociology at the United
International College, BNU-HKBU. She specializes in the fields of cultural sociology, sociology of knowledge and intellectual, colonialism, and postcolonialism. Her
research interests include Chinese tradition and intellectuals, Chinese modernity,
and colonial and postcolonial Hong Kong culture and society.
Savuth Cheng PhD is a Senior Researcher at Mekong Institute of Cambodia. He
earned his doctoral degree in Economics from Nagoya University, Japan. His
research focuses on Labour Economics and Development Economics. He is also an
affiliated Lecturer at Pannasastra University of Cambodia (PUC) and Royal
University of Phnom Penh (RUPP). He is currently working on the project
“Re-examine the determinants and constraints of Cambodia-China’s trade connectivity” at the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road Research Center.
Sophannak Chorn received his BA in Economic Development from Royal
University of Law and Economics (RULE) in 2011. In early 2012, he received
another BA in English Literature from the University of Cambodia (UC). He started
his professional occupation as a Researcher in the Business Development
Department at VisionFund Cambodia in 2012. In the late 2013, he moved on to
pursue his master’s degree of Applied Economics at the University of International
About the Editor and Contributors
Business and Economics (UIBE) in Beijing, China. He worked as a freelance
researcher for a Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) project, and he is currently a
full-time Lecturer of economics in the Department of International Studies (DIS),
IFL, RUPP. His fields of interests are international and economic development,
international trade, education, and impact studies of microfinance and economic
development projects. He is currently working on the project “Re-examine the
determinants and constraints of Cambodia-China’s trade connectivity” at the 21st-­
Century Maritime Silk Road Research Center.
Dauren Dyussebayev is a PhD student at the International Relations Department,
al-Farabi Kazakh National University, Republic of Kazakhstan. His research interests focus on Belt and Road Initiative, the PRC’s foreign policy: theories and practices, Central Asian issues, international relations, regional security, and international
integration. He is a Director of the “One Belt-One Road” International Research
Center and Director of the Image Policy and Public Relations Department, al-Farabi
Kazakh National University. He has undergone a research and language internship
at Jiangsu Normal University (2015–2016, China). Since 2017, he is an expert of
Belt and Road Research Center of Jiangsu Province (China). He is a participant of
the republican and international conferences and seminars: Business Economic,
Social Science and Humanities (2017, Osaka, Japan), International Symposium
(2017, Xuzhou, PRC), etc. He is the author of the following publications: China’s
One Belt-One Road Initiative: Implications for Kazakhstan, 2017; Belt and Road
Initiative in the Focus of US Interests in Central Asia, 2018; Belt and Road Initiative:
Prospects for Kazakhstan, 2018.
S. L. Fung PhD received his BA, MPhil, and PC Ed from the University of Hong
Kong. He completed his PhD in Comparative Drama at the Faculty of Asian and
International Studies, Griffith University, Australia. Prior to joining UIC, Dr. Fung
was Lecturer of Hong Kong Baptist University, Assistant Professor, Supervisor of
PhD students, and Programme Director of B Ed (Lang Ed) at the University of
Hong Kong. Dr. Fung is a prolific scholar. In the past 20 years, he has published
more than 20 books and 100 papers on Chinese drama, language, literature, and
culture. He has been enlisted by the Encyclopedia of Chinese Yuan Drama among
“Important Scholars in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Overseas Countries” since 1993
and invited to join the Editorial Board by the Chinese Drama Publishing Press
(Beijing), Chinese Literature Publishing Press (Beijing), and Guangxi Normal
University Publishing Press. Dr. Fung is the Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Yam Kim
Fai Studies, Editorial Committee Member of Quarterly Journal of Chinese Studies,
and so on.
In addition to being a scholar, Dr. Fung is also a dramatist and involved in more
than ten drama productions and performances in Hong Kong, Macao, and Zhuhai as
drama scriptwriter, lyricist, and associate director. In April 2014, Dr. Fung was
awarded Diploma of Art (Excellent Performance) by the Polish Chopin Culture
Exchange Foundation Commission of Culture, Polish Government, and invited to
deliver a public talk on Chinese Art at the Royal Society Room by the Tasmanian
About the Editor and Contributors
Museum and Art Gallery of Australia as Hon. Advisor of the Chinese Art Society of
Australia in August 2014.
A. Reza Hoshmand PhD received his PhD in Resource Economics at the
University of Maryland. He is currently the Director of General Education at Hong
Kong Baptist University. As an economist he has worked with agencies such as the
United Nations and the US Agency for International Development. As a Fulbright
Scholar, Prof. Hoshmand conducted research on foreign direct investment in the
Pearl River Delta of Guangdong Province. Upon completion of his Fulbright, the
City University of Hong Kong recruited him to be the Coordinator of the GE
Programme in 2008. Prior to coming to Hong Kong, Prof. Hoshmand was the
Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Chair Professor/Dean of Business and
Management at Daniel Webster College in Nashua, New Hampshire. He has taught
at Harvard, Tufts, University of Hawaii, and California State Polytechnic University
in Pomona. He has published six books in statistical analyses and research methods.
The second edition of his book on Business and Economic Forecasting was published by Routledge in 2009. He co-authored a book on Tourism, Trade and Welfare:
Theoretical and Empirical Issues with Prof. Bharat Hazari which was published by
Nova in 2011. Prof. Hoshmand has served as a consultant on several USAID projects in Costa Rica, Cameroon. He is a member of the American Economic
Association and Society for International Development.
Divya Hundlani completed Master of Public Policy at the Lee Kuan Yew School
of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore in 2014. She obtained her
bachelor’s degree, majoring in Economics, from the University of Miami, Florida,
USA. Her master’s thesis was on the role of public-private partnerships in the reconstruction of post-disaster environments. Prior to coming to LKI, Divya was a
Research Associate at the Earth Observatory of Singapore, looking at economic
livelihoods and housing reconstruction in post-disaster environments. Divya has
conducted fieldwork for primary data collection across Southeast Asia including
Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia. Her research interests include microeconomic
livelihoods, Sri Lanka’s environmental policy, and the concept of sustainability in
economic development.
Shariffah Suraya Syed Jamaludin PhD is a Senior Lecturer at the Section of
Anthropology and Sociology, School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia.
She received her bachelor degree from the International Islamic University Malaysia
and Master of Social Sciences (Anthropology and Sociology) from the University
of Malaya. Her academic journey began when she received her doctorate degree in
Medical Anthropology from the University of Malaya in January 2011. She started
her career at Universiti Sains Malaysia in June, 2011. Her research area is Medical
Anthropology/Anthropology of Health where she specialized and has expertise in
the studies on the wellbeing of postpartum mothers. She teaches courses such as
Medical Anthropology and Religion and Social Relations for undergraduate students. She also currently supervises a few postgraduate students under the field of
About the Editor and Contributors
medical sociology and anthropology. She has written a few publications on postpartum care, food, and motherhood and also women’s healthcare and has presented in
numerous international conferences. She is also the author of a book entitled
Penjagaan Kesihatan Wanita: Amalan Tradisi Dan Moden (Women’s Healthcare:
Traditional and Modem Practices) which was published by Dewan Bahasa dan
Pustaka in 2013.
Prof. Khun Eng Kuah PhD is presently Honorary Professor in the Department of
Sociology, University of Hong Kong and Visiting Academic at the Nanyang
Technological University, Singapore. She was Professor of Anthropology and Head
of the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Monash University Malaysia. Prior to
this, she was Head in the Department of Sociology and Honorary Academic Director,
Centre for Anthropological Research, University of Hong Kong, a Visiting Scholar
and Coordinate Research Scholar of Harvard-Yenching Institute at Harvard
University and Oxford University, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Paris
Diderot. Her research focus is on Chinese Diaspora-Mainland China Connections
and Religion and Politics, focusing on Buddhism, politics and philanthropy, gender,
and social movements. She conducts her research primarily in Singapore, Hong
Kong, Taiwan, and China. She is the author of two books (one with Chinese version), editor/coeditor of nine edited books, and guest editor/coeditor of four journal
issues and numerous journal articles and book chapters. Her new book, Social
Cultural Engineering and the Singapore State, will appear in 2018, published by
Springer (Singapore, London, and New York).
Fatima Kukeyeva PhD is a Professor of International Relations and the World
Economy Department at al-Farabi Kazakh National University specializing in foreign and security policy, Central Asian issues, the US foreign policy theory and
practices, and issues of globalization. She is the author of three monographs and
numerous articles on Central Asia, the US foreign policy, international organizations, and international engagement more broadly. Prof. Kukeyeva is a Director of
the Resource Center for American and Democratic Studies. She is the organizer and
Director of the annual Summer School on the different issues of Central Asian
countries. She was codirector of the “al-Farabi Carnegie Program on Central Asia”,
established by al-Farabi University and the Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace (2011–2014). She is an alumni of Fulbright and other US research programmes and recipient of the presidential “Best Lecturer of the Year” fellowship
(2007, 2015) and “Outstanding Scholar” fellowship (2008).
Charles T. L. Leung PhD Charles Leung is a social scientist striving to apply the
concepts and methods of conflict management in real-world settings. Apart from
working as a full-time faculty teaching SWSA and DHSS courses at UIC, he is a
member of Sustainable Hong Kong Research Hub at City University of Hong Kong
(SusHK, CityU), investigating the potential of Hong Kong professional services in
Belt and Road Initiative. Based on his proficiency in the field of social work, he has
researched how to mediate a stakeholders’ consensus of utilizing social develop-
About the Editor and Contributors
ment programme across borders and cultures. He is a dispute resolution expert with
the following qualifications: General Mediator accredited by Hong Kong Mediation
Accreditation Association Limited (HKMAAL); International Accredited
Professional Mediator accredited by Mainland-Hong Kong Joint Mediation Center
(MHJMC); and Mediation Coach (MHJMC and HKMAAL). He mainly presented
related works in the first Asian Mediation Association (AMA) Conference in 2009,
the Joint World Social Work, Education and Social Development (SWSD)
Conferences in 2012 and 2014, and 2017 Asia-Pacific Joint Regional Social Work
(APSW) Conference.
Chow-Bing Ngeow PhD is Deputy Director of the Institute of China Studies at the
University of Malaya. He received his PhD in Public and International Affairs from
Northeastern University (Boston, USA). His scholarly articles on China have
appeared in journals such as China Review, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Journal of
Contemporary China, Contemporary Southeast Asia, and so on. He has recently
published two coedited books: Zhenghe Forum: Connecting China with the Muslim
World (coedited with Dr. Haiyun Ma of Frostburg State University and Dr. Chai
Shaojin of the Ministry of Culture, UAE, published by the Institute of China Studies,
University of Malaya) and Southeast Asia and China: Exercises in Mutual
Socialization (coedited with Prof. Lowell Dittmer of the University of California-­
Berkeley, published by World Scientific Press). Dr. Ngeow’s research interests
include China’s political reforms, organization and management of the Chinese
Communist Party, China’s minorities, and China-Southeast Asia relations.
Yuthnea Ngoy has been working as a University Lecturer for about 7 years. He is
currently working as a lecturing staff in the Department of International Studies of
the Institute of Foreign Languages, Royal University of Phnom Penh. He is also
affiliated with the Cambodia 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road Research Center
(CMSRRC) where he is currently working on a funded project with his teammates
on the topic “Re-examining the determinants and constraints of Cambodia-China’s
Trade Connectivity”. He earned his Master of Economics, majoring in International
Political Economy (IPE), in 2015 from James Cook University, Australia. He also
obtained a Master of Arts in TESOL from the Institute of Foreign Languages of the
Royal University of Phnom Penh in 2014. His main research areas are macroeconomic policy, economic growth, international trade, and economic education.
Pheakkdey Nguon PhD is a Research Fellow at the Cambodia 21st-Century
Maritime Silk Road Research Center (CMSRRC), Department of International
Studies, Royal University of Phnom Penh. His research focuses on Climate Change,
Sustainable Infrastructure, and Environmental Management. He is currently the
Lead Researcher for (1) comparative study on processes to develop national REDD+
strategy in Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand and (2) ensuring social and environmental sustainability of the Belt and Road Initiative. In addition to academic work,
About the Editor and Contributors
Pheakkdey works as an Environmental Consultant for the Asian Development Bank
and United Nations Development Programme. Pheakkdey holds a PhD in Human-­
Environment Geography from Clark University, United States, Fulbrighter.
Mark Perry PhD is an Assistant Professor in the General Education Office at
United International College, Beijing Normal University, and Hong Kong Baptist
University. He specializes in global history, environmental sociology, and the sociology of religion and race relations. His doctorate is in the history of culture from
the University of Chicago. His forthcoming book, Convergence: Cities, Spirituality,
and the Future of Civilization (Oxford: George Ronald, 2018), is the second in a
series on the relationship between material and spiritual development in human
Dr. Luis Miguel Dos Santos PhD is a young scholar and educator in Macau SAR,
China. Dr. Dos Santos earned his Doctor of Education at Northeastern University,
Boston, USA; MA TESOL at the University of Nottingham, UK; MA Government
Management at Chinese Culture University, Taiwan, China; MS Management at
Lasell College, USA; MBA at Aspen University, USA; and BA Chinese Language
and Literature at the University of Massachusetts, USA. His research interests
include qualitative research, education, foreign language learning, lived story, career
development, and adult learning.
Profulla C. Sarker PhD is currently the Vice Chancellor of Royal University of
Dhaka. Prof. Sarker was Pro-Vice Chancellor of European University of Bangladesh
and Vice Chancellor of Prime University, Dhaka. He was Professor and former
Chairman in the Department of Social Work of Rajshahi University. Dr. Sarker was
Professor of Social Work and Social Administration, Director of the Institute for
Cross-Cultural Studies, and Dean in the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences
in Hong Kong Baptist University-Beijing Normal University, United International
College, China. Moreover, he was a Senior Policy Advisor of National Food Security
and Nutritional Surveillance Project of Bangladesh Government and European
Commission. He is the author of 14 books and more than 90 articles published in
professional journals. He is editor of four journals and member of the Editorial
Boards of six journals. He supervised 18 PhD and 6 MPhil students. Prof. Sarker
served as a member of the Curriculum Board of the Regional Center for Social
Development, Latrobe University, Australia. He was one of the organizers of the
14th International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences which
was held in Virginia, USA, in 1998. Prof. Sarker was a member of the International
Scientific Committee of the International Seminars on Health, Mental Health, and
Social Work which was held in Melbourne in 1999 and Tampere, Finland, in 2001.
He was a member of the International Scientific Committee of the 3rd International
Conference on Anthroponomy and the History of Health and Disease which was
held in Genova, Italy, in 2002.
About the Editor and Contributors
Sherry Yue Su is an Engineer of Building Sustainability in Arup (Greater China)
at Shanghai, China. She received her BSc in Environment Science at BNU-HKBU
United International College, and then MSc in Built Environment – Environmental
Design and Engineering from University College London. Miss Su has been
involved in many sustainable building design projects in China such as HuiShan
Project LEED submission, EXPO LEED ND development, Dongjiadu district
LEED design and certification, and sustainable design of IKEA Shanghai and
Changsha project.
Dinh Trinh Van PhD is an expert in Vietnamese and Chinese literature, study on
the Belt and Road, Vietnamese studies, and Chinese studies. Dr. Dinh Trinh Van is
the Deputy Director (Office for Research Affairs) and a Chinese specialist from
Vietnam. He has presented a number of scholarly papers at national and ­international
seminars and conferences in Vietnam, China, and Taiwan on Vietnam and China’s
economic, political, and strategic issues as well as on the State of Chinese Studies
in Vietnam. He is a frequent contributor to leading Vietnamese dailies on current
issues of Vietnam-China relations. Currently, he is conducting a research project on
Rationales and Practices for Evaluating the Role, Goals and Impacts of China’s
21st-Century Silk Road System (2017–2019).
Siu-tai Tsim PhD is an Associate Professor in Environmental Science Programme
at BNU-HKBU United International College, China. He received his BSc and
MPhil in Biology from Chinese University of Hong Kong and then got PhD in
Biology from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Dr. Tsim had
served as a post-doctoral research fellow at Temple University, USA. Prior to joining UIC, Dr. Tsim worked in the field of nature conservation management and environmental impact assessment. He has a wide range of research interests including
ecological values of feng shui landscape and sustainable environmental m
­ anagement.
Currently, he is appointed as the peer reviewer of Journal of Cleaner Production
and Environment and Ecology Research.
Yuvaktep Vann is a Lecturer in Law for the English Language Based Bachelor of
Law Program (ELBBL), Royal University of Law and Economics. His work
concentrates on legal aspects in mega infrastructure development, including
decision-­making processes, financing structures, and environmental safeguards. He
is currently writing a page for Open Development Mekong on international infrastructure financing frameworks in the Lower Mekong region, which touches on
Chinese-­financed infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road Initiative. Yuvaktep
is a New York licensed attorney, holding an LLM in Environmental and Energy Law
from New York University School of Law, Fulbrighter.
Xiang Wang PhD is an Associate Professor in the General Education Office of
Beijing Normal University-Hong Kong Baptist University United International
College (UIC). Dr. Wang had earned six degrees across various different majors at
five universities. He received his PhD degree in religious studies at Stanford
About the Editor and Contributors
University and MA degree of East Asian Studies at Yale University. He is now
teaching liberal arts courses on World Religions and Buddhist Studies. In addition
to Asian studies and spiritual classics, his other interests include global religions,
thanatology, mysticism, and world literature. So far he has single-authored a monograph and published 1 translated work, 4 journal articles, 5 book chapters, 12 conference papers, 1 book review, 4 papers in proceedings, as well as several research
reports and newspaper articles for both academic professionals and the reading public. He is currently at work on two book manuscripts funded by the Guangdong
government and the National Social Science Grant of China.
Yiwei Wang PhD is Jean Monnet Chair Professor, Director of Institute of
International Affairs, and Director of Center for European Studies at Renmin
University of China. He was formerly Diplomat at Chinese Mission to the European
Union (2008–2011) and Professor at the Center for American Studies at Fudan
University (2001–2008). His main research interests include Belt and Road studies,
European integration, public diplomacy, Chinese foreign policy, and EU-China
relations. His recent books include China Connects the World: What’s Behind the
Belt and Road Initiative (translated in 10 versions), New World Press, April, 2017;
The Belt and Road Initiative: What China Will Offer the World in Its Rise (translated
in 20 versions, both book of year 2015, 2016); Hai Shang, Elegy of the Sea:
Revelations of European Civilization (both in Chinese and English); and China
NATO Studies Series.
H. C. J. Wong started a career in social work and social management in Hong
Kong where he was born, after graduating in Sociology from Brock University,
Canada. He acquired extensive experience in applying case, group and community
approaches to youth work, family life education, school social work, civic education, and health education. He has taught at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels
and acted as administrator in schools and healthcare organizations. He is one of the
founders and now member of the Board of Directors of the Social Workers Across
Borders, a NGO registered in Hong Kong devoted primarily to disaster social work
intervention. Since 2006, he resides and teaches social work and social administration in Zhuhai, China.
Wei Chin Wong PhD is an Assistant Professor of General Education at the Beijing
Normal University Hong Kong Baptist University, United International College.
She received her PhD from the University of Macau in 2014 and began her teaching
career there. Her doctoral thesis, entitled “Interrelations Between Chinese Secret
Societies and the British Colonial Government, 1786–1900” has been longlisted as
the Best Dissertation in the Humanities for the ICAS Book Prize Award 2015 by the
International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS). She was the recipient of Young
Researcher Award 2012 at the International Institute of Macau for her research on
“Macao” in British Malaya: The Emigration and the Formation of the Chinese
Community in Malaya, 1810–1870.
About the Editor and Contributors
Mandy Liyan Xie is an Assistant Facilitator in Whole Person Education Office,
Environmental Development Centre, BNU-HKBU United International College
(Zhuhai, China). She received BSc (first class honour) in Environment Science at
Bonny Bun-ho Yuen PhD is an Assistant Professor in BNU-HKBU United
International College (Zhuhai, China). She received her BTech at the University of
Auckland, New Zealand, and PhD in the City University of Hong Kong. Dr. Yuen
had served as post-doctoral research fellow at the Nicholas School of the
Environment, Duke University, USA, prior to her joining UIC. Her research interests lie in water assessment and sustainable development.
List of Abbreviations
American Association of University Professors
Appraisal Center for Environmental Engineering
Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
Association of Southeast Asian Nations
Belt and Road
Bangladesh, China, Myanmar, and India
Building Environment Assessment Systems
Bavarian Motor Works
Belt and Road
Belt and Road Initiative
Belt and Road Portal
Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
China Chamber of International Commerce
Chinese Communist Party
China Council for the Promotion of International Trade
China Central Television
Council for the Development of Cambodia
Ceylon Electricity Board
Confucian Institutes
Central Intelligence Agency
Colombo International Container Terminals
Commonwealth of Independent States
China-Malaysia Center for Traditional Chinese Medicine
China Merchants Port Holdings Company Limited
Chinese, Malay, Indian and Others
China Merchants Ports
China Yuan
Country of Origin Image
Communist Party of China
Communist Party of China Central Committee
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor
MARPOL 73/78
List of Abbreviations
Chinese University of Hong Kong
English Language Teaching Management
Dialogue in the Social Integration Process
English for Academic Purpose
Eurasian Economic Union
Environmental Impact Assessment
Environmental Impact Report
Environmental Impact Statement
Environmental Protection Bureaus
Ethnic Integration Policy
English for Specific Purpose
European Union
Foreign Direct Investment
Free and Open Indo-Pacific
Free Trade Agreement
Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao
Gross Domestic Product
General Inductive Approach
Global Innovation Exchange
Government-Organized Non-Governmental Organization
Guangzhou-Hong Kong-Macao
Hong Kong
Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited
International Finance Corporation
Inter-Industry Trade
International Maritime Organization
Institute of Policy Studies
International Relations
Increasing Return to Scale
Islamic State in Iraq and Syria
International Social Service
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
Leadership Small Group on Foreign Affairs
Liquefied Natural Gas
Leadership Small Group on United Front Work
International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from
Ships 1973 as Modified by the Protocol of 1978
Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China
Malaysian Chinese Association
Ministry of Environmental Protection
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mainland - Hong Kong Joint Mediation Center
Ministry of Environment
Memoranda of Understanding
List of Abbreviations
Maritime Silk Road
National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s
Republic of China
New Economic Policy
Non-Governmental Organization
National Integration Council
National People’s Congress
One Belt, One Road
Official Development Assistance
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Organization of Islamic Countries
Office of the Leading Group on the Construction of the Belt and
Other Official Flows
Our Singapore Conversation
Plan Environmental Impact Assessment
People’s Republic of China
Pearl River Delta
Special Administrative Region
Sate Administration for Religious Affairs of the People’s
Republic of China
Special Administrative Zone
State Council of the People’s Republic of China
Social Cognitive Career Theory
Shanghai Cooperation Organization
Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations
Sri Lanka Ports Authority
Stage of Processing
Silk Road Economic Belt
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
Traditional and Complementary Medicine Division, Ministry of
Health, Malaysia
Trade Conformity Index
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Teaching English as a Foreign Language
Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit
United Kingdom
United States
Union Development Group
United International College
United Nations
United Nations Commission on International Trade Law
United Nations Development Program
List of Abbreviations
United Nations Environment Program
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
USA Dollar
U.S. Green Building Council
World Fellowship of Buddhists
World Health Organization
World Integrated Trade Solution
World Trade Organization
Xiamen University Malaysia
List of Figures
Fig. 1.1China’s apparent dream about the Belt and Road Initiative
(this table has been prepared by the author although some ideas
were taken from Prof. Yiwei Wang’s key note address at the
Second Interdisciplinary Forum on Belt Road Connectivity
and Eurasian Integration: Meeting the Culture held
at the United International College, Zhuhai, China, from
March 26–27, 2018)���������������������������������������������������������������������� 13
Photo 1.1Tour diagrammatic sketch of Suixi Confucius Culture City,
Zhanjiang city, Guangdong Province, China. (Source, photo
is taken by the author during his personal visit of the city
on July 10, 2018)��������������������������������������������������������������������������� 18
Photo 1.2An exhibition hall built inside the Suixi Confucius Culture
City, Zhanjiang city, Guangdong Province, China, and followed
traditional Chinese architecture. (Source, photo was taken by the
author during his personal visit of the city on July 10, 2018)��������� 19
Fig. 5.1
Public diplomacy��������������������������������������������������������������������������� 80
Fig. 5.2Organizational framework of China’s religious public
diplomacy�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 83
Map 6.1The extent and reach of the Silk Road. (Source: UNESCO.
https://en.unesco.org/silkroad/about-silk-road)����������������������������� 96
Map 8.1The ancient Tea-Horse routes (chama gudao 茶马古道).
(Source: http://www.chinauniquetour.com/html/all/2012810/
arts-7317.html, accessed 17/2/2018)��������������������������������������������� 123
Photo 8.1Chinese blue and white ceramic brush pots with Arabic
writings on them. (Photo taken from the Islamic Arts Museum
Malaysia – Photo by author)���������������������������������������������������������� 124
Photo 8.2Big ceramic plate with Chinese motif and Arabic writings
on it. (Photo taken from the Islamic Arts Museum
Malaysia – Photo by author)���������������������������������������������������������� 124
List of Figures
Photo 8.3Arabic writings in Chinese scroll. (Photo taken from
the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia – Photo by author)����������������
Photo 8.4Chinese brush painting of a vase with Chinese and Arabic
writing on it. (Photo taken from the Islamic Arts Museum
Malaysia – Photo by author)����������������������������������������������������������
Map 8.2China’s silk road and one belt one road.
(https://rightways.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/feeb4belt-road.jpg?w=780, accessed 24/10/2017)���������������������������������
Map 8.3Belt and road initiative: six economic corridors.
(Source: The Belt Road Initiative, hktdc_1X0K715S_en
(2).pdf., p.2, accessed 18/5/2018)��������������������������������������������������
Map 10.1Performance of traditional industries in the Guangdong-Hong
Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area����������������������������������������������������� 160
Fig. 10.1Dialogue in the Social Integration Process (D-SIP),
UN DESA 1995����������������������������������������������������������������������������� 166
Fig. 10.2Social Indicators Index (The Hong Kong Council
of Social Service)�������������������������������������������������������������������������� 171
Fig. 11.1
The foreign language learning in the United States (2015)����������� 176
Fig. 13.1
Fig. 13.2
FDI volume to Sri Lanka��������������������������������������������������������������� 216
Containers in Port of Colombo������������������������������������������������������ 222
Fig. 18.1Top 10 export destination of Cambodia in 2015
(in thousand US dollars)����������������������������������������������������������������
Fig. 18.2Top 10 importers to Cambodia in 2015 (in thousand US dollars)����
Fig. 18.3
Total export and import with the three regions of China���������������
Fig. 18.4
Volume of Cambodia trade with three regions of China���������������
Fig. 18.5
Export from Cambodia to three regions of China�������������������������
Fig. 18.6
Import from three regions of China to Cambodia�������������������������
Fig. 18.7
Number of product traded between Cambodia and China������������
Fig. 18.8
Type of product exported to three regions of China in 2015���������
Fig. 18.9Import to Cambodia from the three regions of China by
products in 2015����������������������������������������������������������������������������
Fig. 18.10Trade in consumers, intermediate, raw material,
and capital goods in 2015��������������������������������������������������������������
Fig. 18.11 Export of intermediate goods to China in 2015�����������������������������
Fig. 18.12Import of intermediate goods from China
to Cambodia in 2015���������������������������������������������������������������������
Fig. 18.13 Export product by sectors to the three region of China�����������������
Fig. 18.14 Import product by sectors from the three region of China������������
Fig. 18.15TCI of Cambodia trade with mainland China, Hong Kong,
and Macao�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������
Fig. 18.16Growth rate of real GDP per capita and economic
sectors 2004–2016 (in percentage)������������������������������������������������
Fig. 18.17 Cambodia’s inflation rate (2004–2016)�����������������������������������������
Fig. 18.18Official exchange rate 2004–2016 (LCU per US$,
period average)������������������������������������������������������������������������������
List of Tables
Table 1.1
Comparison between China and Western Europe about
GDP, population growth, and urbanization in different
historic time������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 11
Table 5.1
Table 5.2
Table 5.3
Table 5.4
Table 5.5
Table 5.6
Southeast Asia�������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 77
Religion in South Asia�������������������������������������������������������������������� 77
Religion in Central Asia����������������������������������������������������������������� 77
Religion in Northeast Asia������������������������������������������������������������� 78
Religion in Western Asia/Middle East�������������������������������������������� 78
Religion and population in Mainland China, Taiwan,
Hong Kong, Macao, together with Singapore, Vietnam,
and South Korea����������������������������������������������������������������������������� 78
Comparison of majority religions across countries in Asia������������ 79
China’s public diplomacy: Buddhism and Islam compared����������� 90
Comparison of the potentials of religious public diplomacy:
United States, Russia, India, China������������������������������������������������ 90
Table 5.7
Table 5.8
Table 5.9
Table 7.1
Buddhist catalogues compiled at Ximing Monastery��������������������� 109
Table 8.1
Table 8.2
Table 8.3
China’s income inequality and Gini-coefficient�����������������������������
Countries along 6 BRI corridors����������������������������������������������������
Sectoral distribution of concessional loans from China
(at end of 2009)������������������������������������������������������������������������������
Top recipients of Chinese aids��������������������������������������������������������
Table 8.4
Table 9.1
Table 9.2
The settlement mechanism of trade dispute in the WTO��������������� 149
A comparison between the cost of using the services
of MHJMC and arbitration������������������������������������������������������������� 154
List of Tables
Table 10.1 Attitudes toward Mainland among HK young people
(n = 1000)��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 162
Table 10.2 Major Social Indicators (2015) of 6 cities in GD
Greater Bay Area��������������������������������������������������������������������������� 163
Table 10.3 Domains of social integration process������������������������������������������� 166
Table 11.1 Demographic information of participants������������������������������������� 178
Table 11.2 Themes based on participants’ data information��������������������������� 180
Table 12.1 Institutional arrangements for environmental impact
assessment in Cambodia and China���������������������������������������������� 209
Table 12.2 Legal framework for public participation in EIA�������������������������� 210
Table 14.1 General information of five most popular BEASs (GB/T 50378,
BEAM plus, BREEAM international, LEED and DGNB)
adopted by the Belt and Road countries����������������������������������������
Table 14.2 Implementation of BEASs in Belt and Road countries�����������������
Table 14.3 Comparison of various BEASs being implemented along
BRI countries in terms of assessment criteria categories, number
of credit-bearing assessment criteria, and weightings for new
public building at design and operational stages���������������������������
Table 14.4 Mapping of GB/T 50378-2014 with the Chinese’s evaluation
system of ecological civilization���������������������������������������������������
Table 14.5 Empirical mapping the potential contributions
of GB/T 50378-2014 to the Sustainable Development
Goals proposed by the United Nations������������������������������������������
Table 14.6 SWOT analysis on the roles and niche of Hong Kong SAR
as future platform for BRI in promoting green building
standard and ecological civilization����������������������������������������������
Table 18.1 Index of economic freedom of Cambodia, mainland China,
Hong Kong, and Macao�����������������������������������������������������������������
Table 18.2 Index of tax burden of Cambodia, mainland China,
Hong Kong, and Macao�����������������������������������������������������������������
Table 18.3 Index of trade freedom of Cambodia, mainland China,
Hong Kong, and Macao�����������������������������������������������������������������
Table 18.4 Index of government integrity of Cambodia, mainland China,
Hong Kong, and Macao�����������������������������������������������������������������
Table 19.1 The distribution of Chinese population in Southeast
Asia today�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 330
Table 19.2 Variation of Chinese identities in Southeast Asia�������������������������� 335
Part I
Conceptualizing Belt and Road Initiative
Chapter 1
Silk Road to Belt Road: Meeting
the Culture
Md. Nazrul Islam
Belt and Road, theoretically a revived and extended version of the historic Silk
Road, is a route of transportations and trade of goods and services across
Eurasia. Ancient Silk Road was also one of the major paths of cultural interaction and exchange among various civilizations including Arabs, Chinese,
Central Asians, Indians, and other Europeans. With the announced intention of
Chinese President Xi Jinping to build a maritime Silk Road and landed Silk
Road to connect over 60 countries, the idea of One Belt, One Road emerged.
The objective was to revive the ancient Silk Road through building ports, roads,
railways, and other infrastructure and to enhance people-to-people interaction
through carrying five principles of peaceful coexistence: mutual respect for
each other’s sovereignty, mutual nonaggression, mutual noninterference in each
other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.1
China’s official document under the title cooperation priorities stipulated five
dimensions of connectivity under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)2: policy
coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration, and
people-to-people bond.3 In mainstream English literatures, Belt and Road
Initiative has been perceived as to the “geo-economic vision” and “geopolitical
Full text: Action plan on the Belt and Road Initiative, Published by the State Council, The People’s
Republic of China, pp.3–6, Mar 30, 2015. Retrieved from the following link: http://english.gov.cn/
archive/publications/2015/03/30/content_281475080249035.htm, and accessed on May 15, 2018.
The term “One Belt, One Road” has been replaced by “Belt and Road Initiative” or BRI in short
since 2016 in Chinese official documents.
Ibid: 2.
Md. N. Islam (*)
General Education Office, United International College, Zhuha, China
e-mail: [email protected]
© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019
Md. N. Islam (ed.), Silk Road to Belt Road,
Md. N. Islam
ambition”4 of current Chinese leadership in shaping the future of the world.
Scholars and commentators are divided into two camps: pro-Beijing camps, a
majority of them are from mainland China who provokes that BRI is a mutual
connectivity between China and participant countries that ensures a win-win
situation where participation is voluntary. This camp suggests that China intends
to develop a new system of economic order through BRI and the participant
countries, a large number of whom are landlocked countries that will enormously benefit from Chinese investment. The second camp of scholar is dominated by the Euro-America-­centric world order who contributed large amount
of literatures written in English language. This camp is more concern about
China’s geopolitical vision under the BRI and argues that China intend to establish a new form of political-economic hegemony over the participant countries;
a handful of them considers BRI as similar as to the establishment of a twentyfirst-century “East India Company” across Eurasia and Afro-Asian region by
China. This book takes a third stand and approaches China’s Belt and Road
Initiative as a process of culturalization which started from the establishment of
the Silk Road and continued to date. This perspective argues that although geopolitics and geo-economy have roles, BRI fundamentally creates venue for
meeting the culture through promoting people-to-people interaction and
exchange. This book explores the journey from Silk Road to Belt Road through
analyzing topics ranging from history to religion, language to culture, and environment to health and country impacts.
The objective of this chapter is to give an idea about the major theme of this
book. As mentioned in the preface that this book compiles, the papers presented in
the Second Interdisciplinary Forum on Belt Road Connectivity and Eurasian
Integration: Meeting the Culture. The papers presented in the forum are diverse in
topic and address a range of issues related to Belt and Road connectivity which
makes this book interdisciplinary in nature. It is important to conceptualize Belt and
Road Initiative and introduce various perspectives and debates. The first part of this
chapter tries to conceptualize Belt and Road Initiative and to explore a historic journey from the Silk Road to Belt Road. The next part of this chapter discussed the two
mainstream perspectives readily available in academic literature about BRI, namely,
China’s geo-economic vision and geopolitical ambition. The third part of this chapter introduced the third perspective which I called a process of culturalization and
extension of soft power under the Belt and Road Initiative. This book is divided into
7 sections and contains a total of 20 chapters including 1 plenary chapter. The sections include issues related to Belt and Road connectivity and meeting the culture
such as conceptualizing Belt and Road Initiative, history and civilization, religion,
sociocultural dynamics, environment, medicine and health, and individual country
The terms “geo-economic vision” and “geopolitical ambition” were used by S. Mahmud Ali in his
unpublished article “China’s Belt and Road: Geo-economic Vision; Geo-political Fallout,” Institute
of China Studies, University of Malaya, Malaysia.
Silk Road to Belt Road: Meeting the Culture
Silk Road to Belt Road
The term “Silk Road” was first introduced by a German geographer von Richthofen
in the 1870s which referred to routes for trade running through Central Asia and
linking Europe with South and East Asian countries including China, India, and the
countries across the Mediterranean region. Richthofen also noted that there was no
single Silk Road and the “Silk Road constituted a network of transcontinental commercial routes” (Barisitz 2017, 10). The Silk Road also changed over time depending on various conditions such as war, robbers, natural disaster, etc. For example,
during the initial years of the foundation, the northern part of the ancient Silk Road
was protected by “nomadic horsemen,” whereas the southern part of the road was
“endangered by frozen mountain passes” (Mayhew 2010, 36). The road mostly
traded low-weight, low-bulk, high-value goods, predominantly luxury goods
because of the high transportation cost and favorable transport conditions (Cameron
and Leal 2003, 32; Barisitz 2017, 10). Chinese silk because of the low weight and
high demand in European market became popular goods for transportation through
the route (Mokyr 2003, 369; Barisitz 2017, 10). Chinese production of silk was
boosting at that time and the prices were exorbitant. Since silk was easy to carry, it
became one of the most popular commodities carried through the Silk Road and
sold into the Western, predominantly European, market (Ni et al. 2017, 121). Apart
from Chinese silk, other luxury goods and commodities such as “brocade, embroidery, paper, precious metals, carpets, apparel, glass, horses, and slaves” were also
transported, traded, and sold via the Silk Road. Bulkier goods with relatively low
cost such as “grain, olive oil, other preserved foodstuffs, wax, lumber, textiles, and
manufactured goods” were also traded through the routes in different local and
regional markets over different period of time in the history (Barisitz 2017, 10).
Apart from consumer goods, Silk Road was also the prime route from ancient to
medieval time for economic, cultural, and medicinal exchange across Eurasia.
Evidences produced by the medical historians support that several epidemic and
pandemic diseases during medieval and early modern time were transported and
disseminated by the traders from one region or continent to another along the Silk
Road when they traveled through. One of the most widely known such disease incidence spread by the Silk Road was the “Black Death,” the bubonic plague, which
originated in Southeast Asia and is estimated to have killed up to a third of China’s
and Europe’s population in the fourteenth century (Barisitz 2017, 10–11). Another
popular example is small pox which was brought into India from Egypt either via
the land or sea route and became epidemic in later part of the history, the eighteenth
and nineteenth century in particular (Fenner et al. 1988, 210–211). Small pox was
also introduced in China by the outsiders when they used Silk Road, and there is
very little mention about this disease in early Chinese and Indian medical texts such
as Huangdi Neijing, Caraka Samhita, and Sushruta Samhita. Silk Road was thus a
network of routes for international and regional commercial, cultural, and medical
exchange between Europe, Central Asia, India, and China from BC to the early
modern age (ibid,10; Waugh 2002, 1).
Md. N. Islam
China and Silk Road
Zhang Qian, an early expeditor and ambassador during China’s Han dynasty in
138–119 BC, led the first Chinese diplomatic missions to Central Asia as part of
Silk Road expedition and collected information on states to the west of China.
Zhang Qian was accompanied by 300 armed men and a caravan and “carrying gold
and silk goods” to pay the expenses of his journey. Zhang Qian and his mission were
captured during the journey by the nomadic Xiongnu tribes who patrolled and controlled China’s Western part but managed to escape through offering high tributes
and brought back valuable information (Barisitz 2017, 32–33).
Faxian (337–422 AD), a Chinese Buddhist monk and translator of Buddhist
texts, traveled by foot from China to India and believed to use the Silk Road during
his journey. Faxian entered India from the northwest and reached Pataliputra (present day Patna, the capital of Bihar state) and also reached Lumbini (current day in
Nepal), the birth place of Gautama Buddha through a pilgrimage. He reached India
in the early fifth century when India was ruled by the Gupta dynasty and took back
many Buddhist texts from India to China. Faxian spent the rest of his life in translating and editing the scriptures he had collected from India (present day India,
Pakistan, and Bangladesh) and Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka) (Li 2016, 38–44).
Faxian in his book also mentioned the geography and history of numerous kingdoms and cities along the Silk Road and the similarities and differences between
China and those cities; most of them were in India such as Magadha (an ancient
Indian kingdom located at the southern part of present day Bihar state), Pataliputra,
Mathura (a sacred city of India’s present day Uttar Pradesh), etc. Faxian’s journey
and account clearly symbolize that ancient Silk Road was used as major route of
cultural and religious connectivity among countries along the Silk Road.
Landed Silk Road reached to her golden age during China’s Tang dynasty (618–
906 AD). Chang’an, the capital of China during the Tang dynasty, became one of
the most popular centers for trade and commerce apart from cultural interaction and
exchange along the Silk Road. Famous Chinese Buddhist scholar and traveler Xuan
Zang (602–664 AD) from the city of Chang’an during the rule of emperor Taizong
of Tang during the seventh century traveled to India for exploring more on Buddhism.
During his 17th year of journey over land in India, Xuan Zang visited the famous
Buddhist sight of Nalanda (presently in the state of Bihar in India) including ancient
Nalanda University. Xuan Zang started his journey through Gansu and Qinghai of
China in 629 AD and passed Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan and finally
entered India through the north. The prosperity of the landed Silk Road began to
decline during the later parts of the Tang dynasty for political and commercial reasons. After the An Lushan Rebellion from 755 to 762 AD, landed Silk Road became
mostly abandoned and maritime Silk Road increasingly became popular. During the
final years of Tang dynasty to Song dynasty, China put more focus in developing
shipbuilding and navigation technology, and eventually maritime Silk Road replaced
the landed Silk Road (Ni et al. 2017, 121). By the time of the Song (960–1279 AD)
and Yuan (1279–1368 AD) dynasties, maritime trade had reached its peak. As the
Silk Road to Belt Road: Meeting the Culture
Song, Yuan, and Ming dynasties did not exert control over the Western territories,
the main trade route to West Asia and Europe was via the seas. The main commodity
that was traded between the East and the West also changed from silk to porcelain.
This East-West route closely connected the Chinese mainland and Western territories to Arabia and Persia. After a few centuries of continual development and evolution, the maritime Silk Road extended all the way to the Mediterranean (Ni et al.
2017, 121).
Zheng He, a Chinese admiral during the Ming dynasty, made seven voyages west
(1405–1433 AD) successively with 30,000 troops and more than 270 ships on average. Zheng He reached East Africa, crossed Malacca peninsula in Southeast Asia,
and entered the Indian Ocean. His journey was performed several decades earlier
than Portuguese captain Vasco da Gama who arrived in India by the sea in 1498 as
first European and linked Europe and Asia by an ocean route connecting the Atlantic
and the Indian Oceans. However, Zheng He did not colonize a single inch of land
along the costal routes as Vasco da Gama and other European explorers did.
Although maritime exploration and trade reached to peak during the early Ming
dynasty, China’s navigation industry declined from late Ming to Qing dynasties for
various reasons including European expansion across Asia, China’s domestic priority, etc., and eventually maritime Silk Road also became less important. The presence of European powers in various parts of Asia was increasingly becoming
prominent through the process of colonization, and China was also affected. The
devastation caused by the two opium wars between China and West and the inclusion of five Central Asian countries into Soviet Union blocked China’s path and
journey to the West through both landed and maritime Silk Road and caused the
abandonment of Silk Road for the remaining part of the history.
Conceptualizing Belt Road
Chinese President Xi Jinping during his state visit to Kazakhstan proposed in a
speech at the Nazarbayev University on September 7, 2013, that “China and
Eurasian countries undertake a grandiose joint project, the Silk Road Economic
Belt.” China believed that most of the landlocked countries except Western Europe
are not industrialized and well connected through road which caused their underdevelopment and poverty. The broader aim to undertake such economic belt is to create a land connection from Southeast Asia over China to Western Europe through
building roads, highways, railways, and information technology network. President
Xi Jinping made another proposal on October 3 of the same year during his state
visit to Indonesia in an address to the Indonesian parliament that China and relevant
countries should build a twenty-first-century maritime Silk Road for connecting
China with ASEAN countries, South Asian countries, Africa, and Europe (Mitrovic
2018, 17). The idea of “One Belt, One Road” emerged afterward as an outcome of
President Xi’s above two proposals.
Md. N. Islam
Under the term “One Belt, One Road”: The Belt refers to the Silk Road Economic
Belt, which “stretches through Eurasia and mirrors the route of the ancient Silk
Road” that connects China and Europe, and is a “favored route of exchange” (Cheng
2018, 3). The Road represents the twenty-first-century maritime Silk Road, which
links China to the Mediterranean Sea and reaches to East Africa and Indian Ocean,
eventually connecting China with more than 60 countries under the “One Belt, One
Road” network of connectivity. Because of skepticism from some corners of the
international arena, One Belt, One Road has been renamed since 2016 as Belt and
Road Initiative in Chinese official documents.
President Xi Jinping in his speech at the opening ceremony of the first Belt and
Road Forum in Beijing on May 14, 2017 indicated that Belt and Road Initiative is
inspired by the “Silk Road spirit” which is a “great heritage of human civilization”
and embodies the spirit of “peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness,
mutual learning and mutual benefit” (Xi 2017).5 According to President Xi, the Belt
and Road Initiative is a road of “peace, prosperity, opening up, innovation, connecting different civilizations, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges” (ibid).
From mainstream Chinese perspective, the Belt and Road Initiative aims to create
economic corridors and cultural cooperation with win-win outcomes for all the participating countries.
The Belt and Road Initiative can be seen as an “important public goods” that
China is offering to the world. It can also be seen as a “new proposal from China for
enhancing international cooperation” during the post-globalization era, while so-­
called globalization has become an “Americanization or Westernization” and has
failed to reach its goal. BRI fundamentally represents China’s “comprehensive
opening up and the inevitable trend for cultural revival.” There is a demand for a
new form of globalization which China intends to promote and ensure that “China
has undergone from participating in globalization to shaping globalization.” BRI is
a “sustainable development pattern” which China intends to export to the participating countries, particularly to emerging economies and her neighboring countries,
and contributes to the world at a large (ibid). BRI could thus be viewed as a Chinese
model of development which China intends to promote into other developing countries as an alternative mode of production, distribution, and exchange, and this
model will sooner or later replace today’s globalization.
The Belt and Road Initiative could also be perceived as a process of cultural
interaction and exchange between China and participant countries which will promote culturalization along the Belt and Road countries. China will influence these
countries “through the use of soft power in the form of foreign and humanitarian
aids” and expand her language and culture “through the establishment of Confucius
Institutes and classrooms” (Kuah 2018). The rapid growth of the number of
Confucius Institute which primarily promotes Chinese language and culture is a
good example of Chinese culturalization along the Belt and Road countries.
President Xi Jinping’s speech at the opening of Belt and Road Forum on May 14, 2017. Xinhuanet.
Retrieved from the following link, http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-05/14/c_136282982.
htm, and accessed on May 15, 2018.
Silk Road to Belt Road: Meeting the Culture
According to the announcement made by Chinese vice minister of education
Mr. Tian Xuejun on the eve of the Belt and Road Forum held in Beijing in May
2017, there are “137 Confucius Institutes and 131 Confucius Chinese language
study classes had been established in 53 Belt and Road countries, with more than
460,000 people in these countries studying Chinese” as of March 2017 (Wong
2017). China will also expand her culture through establishing branch university
campuses, such as Xiamen University Malaysia which is a branch campus of
China’s Xiamen University and one of the pioneers in educating and promoting
traditional Chinese medicine in Southeast Asia. Thus BRI could be defined as a
platform of promoting and expanding Chinese soft power along the participating
countries. Soft power could be conceptualized as a process through which a country
secures influence over other through the export of social and cultural goods. China
is not only investing financial resources under the BRI but also actively promoting
culture, medicine, and tourism in participating countries.
In the following sections, China’s BRI will be analyzed from three perspectives:
BRI as China’s geo-economic vision, BRI as China’s geopolitical ambition, and
BRI as a process of culturalization.
BRI as China’s Geo-economic Vision
Through implementing an open-door economic policy and gaining miraculous
­economic success over the last four decades, China has already become the world’s
second largest economy. Bloomberg estimates that China will overtake the United
States and become the world’s largest economy by 2032. Three of the four world’s
largest economies will be Asian in the same year – China, India, and Japan – and all
of them are China’s neighboring country and bordering with landed territory or sea
(O’Brien 2017). South Korea and Indonesia, the two Asian emerging economies,
will also enter into the list of world top 10 economies in the same year, and China
has unique economic ties with them. In the early decades of economic success,
China focused on manufacturing through exploiting cheap labor forces, large
population, land resources, and strict government control. This manufacturing
­strategy made Chinese economy largely dependent on export and has accumulated
surplus capital. China invested these surplus capitals in buying foreign treasury
bond, and a handsome proportion of Chinese bond investment went in Western
China was looking for alternative investment opportunities since the downturn in
the West in the early twenty-first century. Chinese wish of diversifying investment
venue has been realized and begin to materialize under the BRI. China intends to
invest surplus capital in Belt and Road countries through building seaport,
­high-­speed railway network, roads, bridges, industrial park, tourism and travel,
Internet and telecommunication facilities, and other mega infrastructures.
Md. N. Islam
Chinese official document explains Belt and Road Initiative as an economic
vision and stipulates that building “Belt and Road can help promote the economic
prosperity of the countries along the Belt and Road and regional economic cooperation, strengthen exchanges and mutual learning between different civilizations, and
promote world peace and development.”6 It has mentioned the following eight key
cooperation projects under the BRI: infrastructure connectivity, industrial investment, resource development, economic and trade cooperation, financial cooperation, cultural exchanges, ecological protection, and maritime cooperation.7
However, China’s intention behind the BRI and desire to become world’s leading
economic power could be seen as a revival of economic glory of the historic past
and a claim of civilizational prosperity. China’s decline from an advanced economic
and technological power to a developing county from the medieval to modern era
was largely caused by factors such as population growth, bureaucracy, nature of the
feudal state, failure to promote experimental science and technology, and exclusive
dependency on experiential science (Needham 1981; Lin 1995). Historic data supports that China and Western Europe were the two most advanced areas in technology and institutional governances in early centuries of the first millennium, and the
income levels of these two regions were probably similar until the fourth century.
From the second half of the tenth century until late in the thirteenth, there was significant progress in China in terms of GDP (Maddison 2003). From the eleventh
century to early nineteenth century, China’s total GDP volume was still much larger
than Western Europe although per capita GDP was relatively lower because of the
rapid population growth from the sixteenth to early eighteenth century. The following table shows a comparison between China and Western Europe in terms of GDP,
population growth, per capita GDP, and urbanization rate in different time of the
history from the eleventh century to date (Table 1.1).
China’s exclusive focus on agricultural production during the medieval time
ensured a feudal mode of production. Favored by the state bureaucracy and centralized policy, the country was able to ensure sustaining growth. Surplus production
from the agricultural sector helped in boosting the tax and levies of the government.
During the Song dynasty, “best practice techniques were diffused by commissioning and distributing agricultural handbook and calendars” which generated surplus
government revenue (Maddison 2005, 61). Chinese naval technology during the
Ming dynasty was superior to that of Europe, and Chinese admiral Zheng He
(1405–1433 AD) and his fleets were deployed throughout the Indian ocean and
down the East African coast (ibid, 56).
Despite the above success, China’s economic prosperity rapidly declined in the
nineteenth century for various reasons including bureaucratic nature of the feudal
state, civil wars, invasion from external forces, etc. State “bureaucracy and the associated gentry prevented the emergence of an independent commercial and industrial
bourgeoisie on the European pattern in China,” and any lucrative business activities
Full text: Action plan on the Belt and Road Initiative, Published by the State Council, The People’s
Republic of China, pp.1, Mar 30, 2015. Retrieved from the following link, http://english.gov.cn/
archive/publications/2015/03/30/content_281475080249035.htm, and accessed on May 23, 2018.
Ibid, p. 9.
Silk Road to Belt Road: Meeting the Culture
Table 1.1 Comparison between China and Western Europe about GDP, population growth, and
urbanization in different historic time
GDP (billion USD
in 1990)
China Europe China
59.0 25.4
100.0 58.4
72.0 41.5
103.0 57.3
381.0 133.0
437.1 261.0
1950 546.8 304.9
2001 1,275.4 392.1
2018 1,415.0
4,569.8 7,550.3
11,000.2 16397.98
(in 2016)
Per capita GDP (USD
in 1990)
(in 2016)
Urbanization rate
(% of population living
in urban area)
Year China Europe
1500 3.8
1600 4.0 A
1700 NA
1800 3.8
1890 4.4
1953 13.3 Nearly
60 in
2000 36.2
2010 49.7
2015 56.1d 73.4 in
Source: Maddison (2005)
Table 1.1 is prepared by the author from the data produced by Prof. Angus Maddison and available
in the following webpage: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/western-europe-population/ accessed on May 28, 2018. Remaining data were accessed from other sources which are
mentioned in other footnotes
Christiaensen, Luc; Gindelsky, Marina; and Jedwab Remi (2013), The Speed of Urbanization and
Economic Development: A Comparison of Industrial Europe and Contemporary Africa, p.22. A
PDF document retrieved from the following link: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTIE/
Resources/Remi_luc.pdf, and accessed on May 22, 2018
World Bank Report. Retrieved from the following link: http://www.worldometers.info/worldpopulation/western-europe-population/, and accessed on May 3, 2018
Retrieved from the following link: https://tradingeconomics.com/european-union/gdp-per-capita,
and accessed on May 3, 2018
China Statistical Year Book. Retrieved from the following link: http://www.stats.gov.cn/tjsj/
ndsj/2015/indexeh.htm, and accessed on May 3, 2018
Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations (2014)
went under state scrutiny (ibid, 62). China also did not try to develop “the fundamental bases of modern science, such as the application of mathematical hypotheses
of nature, the full understanding and use of the experimental method, and the systematic accumulation of openly published scientific data” until the beginning of the
twentieth century (Needham 1981). On contrary, Western Europe’s economic
growth rose sharply during the same time and was accelerated thereafter. China fell
behind the West because it “did not make the shift from experience-based to
­experimental cum science-based innovation, while Europe did so through the scientific revolution in the seventeenth century” (Lin 1995). All these contributed the
economic failure of China, and although Chinese and Western Europe’s income
Md. N. Islam
level was similar in the fourteenth century, Western Europe’s income levels were
risen ten times higher than China by 1950 (ibid, Maddison 2005).
At the final quarter of the twentieth century, China’s economic history began to
reverse because of the adoption of open-door economic policy by the Chinese leader
Deng Xiaoping. Within the last four decades, China has transformed from an agrarian to highly industrialized economy which gave China the title of world factory.
China has become a role model for many developing countries for economic development. More than seven hundred million Chinese people lifted out of poverty
within the last 40 years through following this pattern of development. Belt and
Road Initiative is a Chinese model of development which China intends to export in
other developing countries and help lift out poverty. Total trade between China and
other Belt and Road countries has exceeded USD 3 trillion in 2014–2016, and China
will spend as much as $1.2 trillion over the next decade on roads, ports, railways,
and power grids under the Belt and Road Initiative8 through the establishment of the
Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Silk Road Fund, and China-­Eurasia Economic
Cooperation Fund.9 China has already invested USD 50 billion in Belt and Road
countries, generated USD 1.1 billion tax revenue, and created about 180,000 jobs in
over 20 Belt and Road countries (Xi 2017, 4).
Why BRI Is a Chinese Economic Vision?
From Chinese perspective the key for development is to build the road and develop
connectivity. There is a common say in Chinese people’s mind which inspired them
to build the Belt and Road along China’s neighboring countries:
if we want to get rich, build the road; if we want to get rich quickly, build the motor road; if
you want to get rich immediately, build the internet road; if we want to get rich together,
connect the roads.
Ninety percent of the traded goods are delivered via the sea which made today’s
globalization as a maritime globalization. Countries and cities having geographical
advantages and located along the coast and sea side took advantage of maritime
globalization and risen fast. Landlocked countries and cities in developing world are
still impoverished, firstly, because they are not mutually connected by neither seas
nor landed infrastructures such as roads and railways and, secondly, they are not
industrialized partly because they don’t have adequate infrastructure which is a prerequisite for industrialization. Most of the advantages offered by the current
According to Morgan Stanley report, cited in “Some of the World’s Riskiest Countries are traversed by China’s Silk Road” by Bloomberg on October 26, 2017 and adapted by Business Gurus.
Retrieved from the following link: https://business-gurus.com/2017/10/26/some-of-the-worldsriskiest-countries-are-traversed-by-chinas-silk-road/, and accessed on May 24, 2018.
Full text: Action plan on the Belt and Road Initiative, Published by the State Council, The People’s
Republic of China, p.9, Mar 30, 2015. Retrieved from the following link: http://english.gov.cn/
archive/publications/2015/03/30/content_281475080249035.htm, and accessed on May 23, 2018.
Silk Road to Belt Road: Meeting the Culture
globalization went to the Western countries. The West had 52% of world GDP in
2001, but only 14% of world population. Average income in the Western countries
was about USD $22,500 (in 1990 purchasing power). The rest, by contrast, with
86% of world population, had an average income of less than USD $ 3400 (Maddison
2003). China intends to break this gap and will build greater mutual connectivity
and horizontal connections among developing countries through the Belt and Road
Initiative (Fig. 1.1).
Many Belt and Road countries do not have cash but have natural and human
resources. China intends to mobilize and extract those resources through
BRI. Chinese investment in building roads, railway, port, etc. may not make immediate profit in financial kind, but Chinese firms will further develop economic zone,
industrial park, real estate, and tourism along the roads. Developing these industrial
parks and service industries will generate profit to replace the investment China
made in infrastructure projects. Industrialization and urbanization are the key to
lifting poverty. China let the developing countries help industrialize through building the infrastructure and make them capable to pay back their investment in later
stage. Investment, infrastructure, industrialization, and connectivity are the four pillars which create a cycle of lifting out of poverty and become richer in Chinese
perspective. China has surplus capital to invest overseas, and she intends to destroy
the cycle of poverty through investment in Belt and Road countries. The Bloomberg
Report said that the Belt and Road Initiative will contribute to more than 80% of the
world’s economic growth and help three billion Asians grow into the middle class
by 2050. China’s own research also predicts that China’s trade volume with the
countries along the Belt and Road will increase to US$ 2.5 trillion in the next
10 years. Thus China hopes to make the Belt and Road Initiative be perceived as a
Fig. 1.1 China’s apparent dream about the Belt and Road Initiative (this table has been prepared
by the author although some ideas were taken from Prof. Yiwei Wang’s key note address at the
Second Interdisciplinary Forum on Belt Road Connectivity and Eurasian Integration: Meeting the
Culture held at the United International College, Zhuhai, China, from March 26–27, 2018)
Md. N. Islam
new version of civilization, not a repeat of the tragedy of colonization that took
place during the eighteenth and nineteenth century across Asia, Africa, and Latin
However, critics raised questions about Chinese motives behind investing in
mega infrastructure projects in the Belt and Road countries:
Firstly, large part of the Chinese investment is coming as loan which will put the
country under debt burden. Many Belt and Road countries are struggling financially.
Will these countries be able to pay back debt? If not, what’s going to happen next?
Will Chinese firms able to make profit from investing in mega infrastructure projects in the Belt Road countries? Repaying ability of Chinese loan for many BRI
countries is a major concern where defaulting nations may have to forego their land
to China as compensation. Sri Lanka, a South Asian island country located at the
bottom of India, is an example of loan trap from China for the construction of a port.
Some Chinese think tank defended this concern through sharing China’s own experience. China went through the same reality at the beginning of the twenty-first
century when short-term foreign loan reached 45% of the total external debt. By the
first half of 2003, the World Bank had lent $36.6 billion to 245 projects in China
which played a significant role in China’s success, especially in developing infrastructure, and also made China as the largest client of World Bank (Ding 2018, 15).
China successfully repaid the debt by “sheer hard work” and relaying on her “manufacturing prowess” and could be seen as an example for BRI countries. They further
argued that if people “are not indebted, probably they would not want to work
harder” and “people without debt are not motivated to work harder and not working
harder magnifies the burden of debt” (ibid).
Secondly, what will be the environmental impacts of these Chinese projects in
the Belt and Road countries and will these projects be sustainable? Chinese investment in foreign real estate market is an example where large amount of land and
natural resources have been used to build property projects. Many Chinese investors
consider real estate, particularly house, as an investment product instead of a living
space. There are thousands of “ghost cities” developed by Chinese developers
across China where the occupancy rate is less than 5%. The author has personal
experience of living in such a ghost city located at China’s southern city of
Zhongshan. One such ghost city in Zhongshan which termed her English name as
“Splendid Gulf City” and developed by the company “Nimble” is currently building
her 11th phase. In her fourth phase of construction, the developer has built a total
299 villas (semi-detached three-story house with garden) size ranging from 150 to
300 m2 each with additional garden, and only 55 of those villas are decorated11 or
made livable until today although the key of the houses was handed over to the owners more than 6 years back. Only 23 out of the 299 villas are currently inhabited, and
This idea has been explained by Prof. Yiwei Wang from Renmin University of China during his
key note speech at the 2nd Interdisciplinary Forum on “Belt Road Connectivity and Eurasian
Integration: Meeting the Culture,” held at the United International College, Zhuhai, China, from
March 26–27, 2018.
In China the developer builds the structure of the house and let the buyer to do interior decoration
such as floor, door, wall plastering, painting, lighting, etc.
Silk Road to Belt Road: Meeting the Culture
10 out of these 23 are used as dormitory by the developer for their workers.12 The
garden has occupied several hectors of land which could be used for farming.
Chinese investors also develop such ghost cities as their investment strategy in the
BRI countries and encourage Chinese buyers to purchase property in overseas that
will definitely pose series environmental and social consequences. There are already
concerns that Chinese buyers are the major causes for property bubble in many
countries although they hardly use these overseas properties.
BRI as China’s Geopolitical Ambition
A document published in China’s government webpage ENGLISH.GOV.CN under
the title “Full text: Action plan on the Belt and Road Initiative” mentioned that Belt
and Road Initiative carries the “Silk Road spirit” which is “peace and cooperation,
openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning, and mutual benefit.”13 However, history reveals that Silk Road was never beyond political implication. Historic sources
suggested that because of the regular raid of Chinese silk and of other taxes by the
Xiongnu’s nomadic tribes from Western China it forced the emperors from Han
dynasty to engage a tributary relationship with the Xiongnu leaders which constituted a heavy economic burden for China and, of course, gave rise to dissatisfaction
in Han ruling classes. Under this tributary relationship, annual Chinese payments of
goods and foodstuffs to the Xiongnu tribes “at their maximum amounted to 92,000
meters of silk, about 95,000 liters of grain, and 200,000 liters of wine” (Barisitz
2017, 32). When the system was first regularized, records show that the estimated
annual cost of tax payments to China’s frontier peoples amounted to one third of the
Han government payroll or 7% of all the empire’s revenue (Barisitz 2017, 32;
Barfield 2011, 237). Emperor Han Wudi (141–87 BCE) decided to abandon the
tributary relationship with the Xiongnu and choose military option and included
cavalry in their armies. The Chinese armies eventually defeated the Xiongnu in a
number of battles from 121 to 119 BCE. By the Ferghana incursion of 105 BCE,
Parthia and China exchanged embassies and inaugurated official bilateral trade
along the caravan route that linked them; and that gave birth the Silk Road (ibid,
33). Thus political necessity was one of the major prerequisites for the formation of
the Silk Road. During Tang dynasty when Silk Road was in the peak of use and
highest stage of prosperity, “protectorate offices were established at Anxi and
Beiting to provide military backing to the traffic” and goods carried on the Silk
Road and to safeguard the close connection between the Chinese mainland and the
Western territories of China. During the Song and Ming dynasties, China lost the
The author lives in this garden and collected all these information by counting himself.
Full text: Action plan on the Belt and Road Initiative, Published by the State Council, The
People’s Republic of China, pp.3–6, Mar 30, 2015. Retrieved from the following link: http://english.gov.cn/archive/publications/2015/03/30/content_281475080249035.htm, and accessed on
May 23, 2018.
Md. N. Islam
control over her Western territories, and the Silk Road gradually “fell into disuse”
and eventually became abandoned (Ni et al. 2017, 123).
China’s political ambition has been perceived as a hidden agenda under the Belt
and Road Initiative and discussed widely by many Euro-America-centric commentators and critics. Although President Xi Jinping in his opening speech at the first
Belt and Road Forum on May 14, 2017, in Beijing assured that “Belt and Road
Initiative carry the spirit of Silk routes” which is “the spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit” (Xi 2017,
2)14, historic reality shows that trade relation becomes a product of political expansion and conquest. President Xi further assured in the above speech that Belt and
Road Initiative will be guided by six principles: “peace, prosperity, opening up,
innovation, connecting different civilizations, and for cultural and people-to-people
exchange” (ibid, 4–6). Despite repeated assurance from Chinese side about peace as
fundamental principle of Belt and Road Initiative, Western commentators are still
skeptical for various reasons: firstly, some believe that most Chinese spending under
the Belt and Road Initiative is going to developing countries and many of them are
politically unstable, corrupt, and having scarcity of financial resource. It is unlikely
that China will see any significant financial payoff from these investments. Secondly,
some believe that it is not about economic cooperation but political and strategic
hegemony that China intends to establish over the Belt and Road countries. Every15
noted that China’s Belt and Road Initiative could be seen as “vast geopolitical project aimed at cementing China’s political and trade role over that of the U.S., not an
economic one in the sense that each project will generate a return” (Every 2017).
Pro-American diplomates and strategic thinkers took a further step in and warned
that “it would be unusual if the world’s second largest economy did not translate its
economic power into increased military capacity” and “a contest of supremacy
between China and the United States is inevitable” (Kissinger 2012, 3). Some of
them argue that China is pursuing long-term objectives through her policy for “displacing the United States as the preeminent power in the Western Pacific and consolidating Asia into an exclusionary bloc deferring to Chinese economic and foreign
policy interests (ibid:1). While “the West has turned decisively inward” today,
Chinese “has turned decisively outward,” and there are “few corners of the world
that are untouched” by China’s influence (Rudd 2017, 1). Chinese official media
and government control news outlets are flooded with the story that “China’s socialist democracy” under the leadership of President Xi Jinping “is the broadest, most
genuine, and most effective democracy to safeguard the fundamental interests of the
people,” while “Western democracy is corrupt, hypocritical, and fails to meet the
President Xi Jinping’s speech at the opening of Belt and Road Forum on May 14, 2017.
Xinhuanet, p.2. Retrieved from the following link: http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/201705/14/c_136282982.htm, and accessed on May 15, 2018
Every, Michael is the head of financial markets research at Rabobank Group in Hong Kong. His
statement has been published in an article under the title “Some of the World’s Riskiest Countries
are traversed by China’s Silk Road” by Bloomberg on October 26, 2017, and adapted by business
gurus. Retrieved from the following link, https://business-gurus.com/2017/10/26/some-of-theworlds-riskiest-countries-are-traversed-by-chinas-silk-road/, and accessed on May 24, 2018
Silk Road to Belt Road: Meeting the Culture
needs of the poor” (ibid, 3). Although Belt and Road Initiative looks like a project
of economic cooperation, it will help China in establishing political claim in the
near future.
BRI as a Process of Chinese Culturalization
One of the five cooperation priorities under the Belt and Road Initiative framework
is to people-to-people bond. President Xi Jinping in his opening speech at the first
Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in 2017 mentioned that “guided by the Silk Road
spirit, we the Belt and Road Initiative participating countries have pulled our efforts
to build the educational Silk Road and the health Silk Road, and carried out cooperation in science, education, culture, health and people-to-people exchange” (Xi
2017, 4). History reveals that ancient Silk Road did not only transport trade goods
and merchandise but also is used as a route of exchanging culture, religion, medicine, art, music, etc. The Arab astronomy and calendar found their way to China
through the Silk routes. Buddhism originated in India and entered into China via the
landed Silk Road. Islam was brought into India by the Arab and Persian traders who
used landed Silk routes. Islam also reached to Central Asia and China via the landed
Silk routes. Islamic medicine which in India is called as Unani system of medicine
was transported to India by the Persian and Arab physicians who used Silk routes.
Three of the world’s largest religions, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism, were
transported through the landed Silk routes which makes Silk Road a unique venue
for cultural exchange. Scientific and technical knowledge such as production of silk,
paper, paper money, gun powder, printing technology, etc. and various forms of arts
such as dances, acrobatics, mime, taming, magic, music, painting, architecture, as
well as literature spread via Silk Road. Traders, merchants, diplomates, monks, pilgrims, missionaries, soldiers, refugees, nomads, and urban dwellers were also active
on the network of Silk routes. Famous travelers such as Marco Polo, army generals,
and explorers such as Sir Aurel Stein and Albert von le Coq; language such as
Tumshuqese language, Brahmi scripts, Khotanese literature, Manichean script,
Sogdian ancient letters, Buddhist texts, Mongolian Buddhist texts, Persian language, and Indo-European languages, art, and material culture; and archaeology
and architecture such as Hellenistic architecture, terra-­cotta horses of BactriaTokharistan, wooden architecture of the Kizil Caves, Peacocks under the jewel tree,
glassware, textiles, metalwork, etc. were also transported, exchanged, or shared
through the Silk routes (Meisterernst 2017, ix–xv).
From Chinese perspective, Belt and Road Initiative does not only revive historical Silk routes as a road of trade and commerce but also a venue of transportation
and exchange of culture such as education, “think tank networks and partnership,”
“science and technology,” “political parties and non-governmental organizations,”
tourism, music, health, medicinal goods, sports, and “historical and cultural heritages” and enhance people-to-people interaction. Several areas in China already
started cooperation with the participating countries such as language, tangible and
Md. N. Islam
intangible heritages, education, and cultural events. As mentioned before that as of
March 2017, there are 137 Confucius Institutes and 131 Confucius Chinese language study classes had been established in 53 Belt and Road countries by China
where more than 460,000 students were enrolled for learning Chinese language.
China is also domestically building Confucius cultural cities across the country in
an attempt to revive and promote Confucius culture and teaching among Chinese
citizens and visitors from overseas. Suixi Confucius Culture City in Zhanjiang,
China’s southwestern end of Guangdong province, is one of them which will be
opened for public viewing shortly (Photos 1.1 and 1.2).
Education is another area of exchange that needs to be highlighted. The Chinse
government is providing around 10,000 scholarships to the foreign students from
Belt and Road countries to pursue study in China. Various local governments from
different cities and provinces also set up special Silk Road scholarships to encourage international cultural and educational exchanges. China will also offer 2500
short-term research visits to China for young foreign scientists; train 5000 foreign
scientists, engineers, and managers; and set up 50 joint laboratories in coming
5 years (Xi 2017, 4–7).16 Critics are saying that China is creating a new form of
cultural dependency along the Belt and Road countries under the framework of
Photo 1.1 Tour diagrammatic sketch of Suixi Confucius Culture City, Zhanjiang city, Guangdong
Province, China. (Source, photo is taken by the author during his personal visit of the city on July
10, 2018)
President Xi Jinping’s speech at the opening of Belt and Road Forum on May 14, 2017.
Xinhuanet, p.2. Retrieved from the following link: http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/201705/14/c_136282982.htm, and accessed on May 15, 2018
Silk Road to Belt Road: Meeting the Culture
Photo 1.2 An exhibition
hall built inside the Suixi
Confucius Culture City,
Zhanjiang city, Guangdong
Province, China, and
followed traditional
Chinese architecture.
(Source, photo was taken
by the author during his
personal visit of the city on
July 10, 2018)
educational exchange and cooperation in science and technology. China is also
enhancing her acceptance to Belt and Road countries through a trained class of
young students through offering scholarship who will work as ambassador or
organic intellectual17 for China after returning back to their own country.
Offering aids in developing countries, providing development assistance, and
implementing various poverty alleviations and rehabilitation program along the Belt
and Road countries are other areas of contestation where critic says China is expanding her soft power. President Xi Jinping mentioned in the previous speech that
China will provide assistance worth RMB 60 billion to developing countries to
launch more projects to improve people’s well-being in the coming 3 years in Belt
and Road countries. China will also “provide emergency food aid worth RMB 2
billion to developing countries along the Belt and Road and make additional
­contribution of US$ 1 billion to the Assistance Fund for South-South Cooperation”
(Xi 2017, 7). China will launch 100 “happy home” projects, 100 poverty alleviation
projects, and 100 healthcare and rehabilitation projects in countries along the Belt
and Road. China will also develop a network for cooperation among the NGOs,
people-to-people exchange platforms such as Belt and Road news alliance, and a
music education alliance (ibid). China will also encourage hosting international
forums and exhibitions along the Belt and Road countries and promote platforms
such as Boao Forum for Asia, China-ASEAN Expo, China-Eurasia Expo, China-­
South Asia Expo, China-Arab States Expo, and other trade and cultural exchange
activities.18 Promoting tourism is another area of cultural exchange that China
The term “organic intellectual” was used by Italian neo-Marxist philosopher and politician
Antonio Gramsci.
Full text: Action plan on the Belt and Road Initiative, Published by the State Council, The
People’s Republic of China, p.7, Mar 30, 2015. Retrieved from the following link: http://english.
Md. N. Islam
intends to ensure under the Belt and Road Initiative. Chinese official document on
Belt and Road Initiative stipulates that China will “expand the scale of tourism”;
“hold tourism promotion weeks and publicity months”; “create competitive international tourist routes and products with Silk Road features”; make the tourist visa
procedure convenient; and push forward the “twenty-first-century maritime Silk
Road cruise tourism program” with cooperation from the Belt and Road countries.19
There are already millions of Chinese tourist each year flocking to Belt and Road
countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, etc. Although Chinese tourists
may contribute much needed foreign currency into the economy of Belt and Road
countries, public concerns are increasingly rising about environment, public disturbance, sanitation, property price, etc.
Investing in intangible heritages is another area through which China is promoting cultural nationalism. China is establishing museums and expos and investing in
urban, monumental, and archaeological cultural properties, 34 of them are recognized by UNESCO as prestigious World Heritage List (Winter 2016, 2). Chinese
embassies in many Belt and Road countries are hosting Chinese cultural events
during the Chinese New Year festival, celebrating Chinese culture jointly with the
local people of respective countries. China is using culture as an important pillar to
secure influence internationally, along the Belt and Road countries in particular.
Belt and Road Initiative was first announced about 5 years back by Chinese President
Xi Jinping. China repeatedly assured that it is an initiative inspired by the ancient
Silk Road spirit of peace, prosperity, and mutual cooperation through which participating countries will be economically and socially benefited. Although some
Western critics interpret Belt and Road Initiative as a geopolitical ambition of China
to create a new form of political economic hegemony, it is too early to assess and
draw such conclusion. There are obvious challenges in implementing megastructural projects under the Belt and Road Initiative such as lack of adequate knowledge
of the cultural, social, and environmental contexts, political and credit risk, bureaucratic framework, legal mechanisms, regulatory procedures, and local partners
(Blanchard 2018, 9). Belt and Road Initiative also needs to consider various security
issues along both the landed routes and maritime Silk routes (Arduino 2018, 1).
Political instability, domestic insurgency, terrorism, and religious violence exist in
different countries along the Belt and Road, and all these are valid concerns.
Environmental sustainability and building a green BRI is another issue China needs
to be aware of.
gov.cn/archive/publications/2015/03/30/content_281475080249035.htm, and accessed on May
23, 2018.
Silk Road to Belt Road: Meeting the Culture
China as a first non-Western power since the beginning of the eighteenth century
has risen from a developing country to the world’s second largest economy only
within four decades and poses challenges to Euro-American world order run according to the philosophy of liberal capitalism (Ali 2018, 10). Belt and Road Initiative is
an alternative model of development and prescription for the developing countries
that China wishes to offer since China is the world’s largest developing country.
China intends to create a new form of civilization through the Belt and Road
Initiative, not to repeat the history of colonialism and imperialism that took place
during the eighteenth and nineteenth century, in an era when the West rose. We need
to wait at least few more decades to see and experience any significant impact of
China’s Belt and Road Initiative in participating countries. Whether BRI will continue as geo-economic vision for the developing world or turn into a geopolitical
hegemony of China over the participating countries is a matter of uncertainty. It is
too early to assess or draw any conclusion about the above two arguments. However,
Belt and Road Initiative will certainly enhance people-to-people connectivity and
promote cultural and human exchange through which all the participating countries
will be benefited. This is again questionable whether China will expand her soft
power through a process of culturalization and human interaction along the Belt and
Road countries!
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van Zanden (Eds.), Exploring economic growth: essays in measurement and analysis ; A festschrift for Riita Hjerppe on her 60th birthday (pp. 29–62). Amsterdam: Aksant.
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Part II
History and Civilization
Chapter 2
The Rise of China’s Past in the “Belt
and Road Initiative” (from Historical
Dinh Trinh Van
China is one of the ancient civilizations that still exist today among the four great
ancient civilizations (Egypt, Babylon, India, and China). China has the longest continuous history of any country in the world – 3500 years of written history and
develops continuously without any disruption. This was verified by the consistency
between archaeological discoveries and the continuous historical text record. In the
meantime, most of ancient cultures declined or sought to hide themselves in other
civilizations for their new existence. Egypt civilization ended thousand years ago,
and Babylon was invaded and destroyed several times in history. Their language
extincted and religions lost. Indus Valley Civilization was preserved better than the
other two, but still experienced the Muslim and British colonization. As for China,
what made them think the civilization is preserved is the language, the writing system hanzi; the Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism (came from India and later
became an important part of China cultures) are pretty much still practiced and used
by the Chinese today. Chinese civilization continues to evolve vibrantly and presents its unique adaptation to the changing world. The way of Chinese’s existence
and the persistence of its vitality assert a unique feature of China when compared
with other civilizations.
The rise of China continues to be the most important trend in the world for this
century. China today is like a dragon that, waking up after centuries of slumber,
suddenly realizes many nations have been trampling on its tail. With all that has
This research was funded by the National Foundation for Science and Technology Development
(NAFOSTED) under the project number 506.01-2016.01.
D. T. Van (*)
Deputy Director (Office for Research Affairs), Hanoi National University, Hanoi, Vietnam
© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019
Md. N. Islam (ed.), Silk Road to Belt Road,
D. T. Van
happened to it over the past 200 years, China could be forgiven for awakening as an
angry nation, and yet Beijing has declared that it will rise peacefully.1 Chinese civilization continues to revive and rise. The rise of its traditional past is concentrated
and crystallized on the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by the Secretary General,
Chinese President Xi Jinping and officially launched in 2015.2 However, its distinctive feature is that the rise of the past took place in modern time but nested in the
past. The values ​of the past were interwoven in the present and reflected a continuous development of the tradition. The role of the past, the ideologies influenced on
the present and contributed to the development of the present.
China’s “Historic Connectivity” in the Belt and Road
More than two millennia ago, the diligent and courageous people of Eurasia
explored and opened up several routes of trade and cultural exchanges that linked
the major civilizations of Asia, Europe, and Africa, collectively called the Silk Road
by later generations. For thousands of years, the Silk Road spirit “peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit” has been
passed from generation to generation, promoted the progress of human civilization,
and contributed greatly to the prosperity and development of the countries along the
Silk Road. Symbolizing communication and cooperation between the East and the
West, the Silk Road spirit is a historic and cultural heritage shared by all countries
around the world. In the twenty-first century, a new era marked by the theme of
peace, development, cooperation, and mutual benefit, it is all the more important for
us to carry on the Silk Road spirit in spite of the weak recovery of the global economy and complex international and regional situations.
The BRI has two main prongs: one is called the “Silk Road Economic Belt” (the
belt) and the other the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” (the road). In scale and
ambition, the BRI has no direct precedent. It traces back more than 2000 years to
the grand vision of the ancient Silk Road, which forged trade links between China
during the Han dynasty and the heart of Europe and the Mediterranean. Originally,
the Silk Road marked the beginnings of commercial relations between China and
the Western world from ancient through modern days. However, the trade volume
along this route significantly diminished in the early thirteenth century, after the
fragmentation of the Mongol Empire. In this context, the Silk Road was still robust
enough for Marco Polo, who chronicled his journey to China on it in his memoir,
completed in 1299. The route was still in use in the nineteenth century. In fact, the
Kishore Mahbubani, Understanding China, Foreign Affairs. Council on Foreign Relations (2005).
p. 49
Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk
2015/03/28 http://en.ndrc.gov.cn/newsrelease/201503/t20150330_669367.html accessed on 12
December 2017
The Rise of China’s Past in the “Belt and Road Initiative” (from Historical…
term Silk Road was coined in 1877 by German geographer Ferdinand von
Richthofen, who designated them “Seidenstrasse” (silk road) or “Seidenstrassen”
(silk routes). Polo, and later von Richthofen, made mention of the goods which were
transported back and forth on the Silk Road.
In China’s history, the B&R can be divided into two types, i.e., natural routes and
nonnatural ones. The natural routes are understood to be natural and basically formulated by geological tectonics. The artificial (nonnatural) routes are made by
human or man-made. However, there simultaneously exist types of routes that are
integrated among natural and artificial routes (partly made by nature and partly
man-made). The natural routes are usually associated with the river routes and basically discovered by people who explored and opened up for trade and cultural purposes. For the time being, there emerge the stations and seaports. For artificial
routes, they are discovered and constructed by humans. The ancient Silk Road is
typical for this type of route that linked the major civilizations of Asia, Europe, and
Africa, collectively called the Silk Road by later generations. As yet another type,
the Grand Canal systems3 – the longest as well as one of the oldest canals or artificial rivers in the world – were formulated on the basis of human’s will, or the dug
river systems were connected to each other and connected to the natural river systems. Also, the B&R today is basically an artificial type, the continuation of which
is based on the will of the precursors.
But more interestingly, the B&R is not only human’s will but also the inheritance
from the nonnatural routes of the Silk Road and Zheng He’s expeditionary voyages.
Therefore, the essence of this type of route is the inheritance of the precursors’
wills. It is a lineage from the ancient and middle ages to the modern times. It is not
only the repetition, integration, or restructure but also a continuity and change, and
moreover it is the unique law of development with Chinese’s identity. As a result,
the rise of the past can be found in the soul of the BRI. The B&R belongs to the
nonnatural ones that were created by human’s will. It reflects development rules in
the overall development of China. More interestingly, along with the nonnatural
types, the B&R is also the “rebirth” of the ancient Silk Road and the maritime trade
route of Zheng He, basically the restructure and the return of a new development
process in China’s history. Moreover, it reflects the succession or inheritance of
today’s President Xi Jinping to the Emperor Wu of Han, Zhang Qian, Genghis
Khan, Kublai Khan, Emperor Zhu Di, and Zheng He’s initiatives in the past. This is
a unique point in China’s development process. It continues to be the rise of the past
in the aspects of the founder or initiator who establish and implement the idea of
constructing the nonnatural routes. Once, dealing with the rise of the past in the
BRI, it is necessary to mention the nonnatural types of route.
In the late Spring and Autumn period (770–476 BC), Fuchai, king of the state of Wu (whose capital was in present-day Suzhou), ventured north to attack the state of Qi. He ordered a canal be
constructed for trading purposes, as well as a means to ship ample supplies north in case his forces
should engage the northern states of Song and Lu. See more at Needham, Joseph. (1986). Science
and Civilization in China: Volume 4, Physics and Physical Technology, Part 3, Civil Engineering
and Nautics. Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd.pp.271–272
D. T. Van
The B&R is the largest network of connection in China’s history. In the history
of China, the grand and typical construction works have lasted until today and
became pride of the Chinese people. The interesting point of all these great works
lay in connectivity character. Today, the B&R is the network of the largest-scale
connectivity. From this perspective, we can also see the special character of the
B&R and understand the development of its rules of connectivity. In other words, it
is the rise of the past in the rule of connectivity by connecting grand works in the
form of connecting many routes and many passages into the grand works.
Not only is it inherited and dominated by the past on the nonnatural routes, the
B&R continues to follow another tradition that bears China’s uniqueness, namely,
the connectivity of the great construction works in China’s history. This connectivity is once again the largest scale than ever before in China’s history that is clearly
found in the B&R. Looking back at the model of connectivity before BRI, we found
that most of the construction works reflect the wills and power of Chinese emperors
and their subjects. Most of the typical projects are the Great Wall, the ancient Silk
Road, the Grand Canal system, and the maritime sea route of Zheng He. The striking feature is that these construction projects have its implication in today’s appearance and were formed on the basis of a process of hundreds or even thousands of
The Great Wall is an ancient series of walls and fortifications, totaling more than
13,000 miles in length, located in northern China, perhaps the most recognizable
symbol of China and its long and vivid history. This is also the connectivity of different cities of pre-Qin dynasty that was brought together and built further by Qin
Shi Huang. The Great Wall has been preserved and renovated as it is today. The
Great Wall provided protection to the economic development and cultural progress,
safeguarded the trading routes such as the Silk Road, and secured transmission of
information and transportation. The Great Wall is a powerful symbol. It represents
the unification of China, because it was linked together as China was unified for the
first time in the Qin dynasty (221–206 BC).
If the Great Wall was the connectivity among the mountain peaks, the ancient
Silk Road was the connectivity among the deserts in China and Tibet, Central Asia,
and Turks. Interesting thing is that the subject of the connectivity in the deserts is
camels. Further east, the two-humped camel was domesticated in Iran or Afghanistan
possibly a little earlier than the one-humped variety. It spread westward as far as
Mesopotamia and also east to India and was the basis of caravan traffic along the
Silk Road under the Parthian and Sasanian empires.4
The Grand Canal is the connectivity among the canals and river systems in
China. This river system has been dug and connected in China since the Warring
States period. This is the internal connection of the whole China in terms of waterways. If the Grand Canal is an inland waterway connectivity, Zheng He’s maritime
sea road is a connectivity among Chinese seaports and sea lanes between China and
Southeast Asia, South Asia, India, and Africa.5 The Grand Canal also enabled
Clive Ponting (2008). World History: A New Perspective. Random House. p. 370
Zheng commanded expeditionary voyages to Southeast Asia, South Asia, Western Asia, and East
Africa from 1405 to 1433. His larger ships stretched 120 m or more in length. These carried hun4
The Rise of China’s Past in the “Belt and Road Initiative” (from Historical…
c­ ultural exchange and political integration to mature between the north and south of
China. The canal even made a distinct impression on some of China’s early European
visitors. Marco Polo recounted the Grand Canal’s arched bridges as well as the
warehouses and prosperous trade of its cities in the thirteenth century. The famous
Roman Catholic missionary Matteo Ricci traveled from Nanjing to Beijing on the
canal at the end of the sixteenth century.
Therefore, long before the BRI, China had got a tradition of connectivity and
linkages to form the great works. In particular, at each period of China’s connectivity, it does not only create its permanent works, but more importantly, it shapes and
creates new development forces and a precondition for China’s future stage of
development. For instance, this way is attributed to the famous story of The Foolish
Old Man Removes the Mountains.
The rise of China’s past in the B&R is not only reflected in its typological aspects
and the model of connectivity, more importantly, it is related to the subjects of the
BRI.6 The BRI should deliver an economic win-win for China and the countries it
covers; China will also gain geopolitically. Before we study the subjects of the
B&R, it is necessary to trace back the history to understand and explain the subjects
before the BRI from the great works throughout China’s history to the present. This
aims to answer the questions whether they follow any rules and, if yes, what do that
rules imply, and we will identify how the past re-emerge from the perspective of the
subjects that they took place.
It is very interesting to note that every grand structure, such as the Great Wall, the
ancient Silk Road, the Grand Canal, or Zheng He’s sea route, is associated with a
pair of characters, usually structured with the first place as initiators; the idea was
originated from the emperor, or the courtiers, or the next descendants of these
emperors and the executor of the idea.
The first pair worthy to mention is Qin Shi Huang and Meng Tian. Qin Shi Huang
was the initiator of the idea of c​ onnecting cities and annexing more cities into the
Great Wall. General Meng Tian is the direct leader to bring his troops and directed
the construction of the Great Wall for 10 years. In over 2000 years ago, the Great
Wall had been serving as an effective way for defense in China’s history. As a product of the clashes between agricultural and nomadic economies, the Great Wall
provided protection to the economic development and cultural progress, safeguarded the trading routes such as the Silk Road, and secured transmission of information and transportation.
The ancient Silk Road was formed by Zhang Qian and Emperor Wu of Han during the Han dynasty who connected the West Asia and China. Threatened by incursions of mounted nomadic tribes from the north and northwest, the Han Emperor
Wudi (141–87 BC) dispatched missions westward to seek allies. Emperor Wu of
Han ordered Zhang Qian to play an important pioneering role in the Chinese’s
­colonization and conquest of the region now known as Xinjiang. Zhang Qian went
dreds of sailors on four tiers of decks. See more at: Pollard, Elizabeth (2015). Worlds Together
Worlds Apart. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. p. 409
The “subject” mentioned in this research means the initiator of B&R.
D. T. Van
to West Asia twice during the period of 30 years. For the second mission, he opened
up the route from China to the west. This paved the way for the formation of ancient
Silk Road. Although these missions were unsuccessful in securing alliances, they
returned with reports, not only of an existing trade in Chinese products but also of a
superior breed of horses. It was in part the need to secure this breed of horse, vital to
the Han campaigns against the nomads, which drove Han armies into Central Asia.7
Moreover, China is not only well-known with the inland Silk Road and the
Maritime Silk Road but another grand work labelled as Chinese brand was the
Grand Canal system. This canal system of China is attached to the names of father
and son of Sui dynasty – Emperors Wen and Yang with a lasting legacy as the Grand
Canal which “connects” the river system and canals with one another and with the
great plains of China. They were the initiators to perfect the river system from thousands of years ago in China’s history. The connectivity of this canal system with
each other and with the natural river system almost has completed the waterway all
over China and connected the systems of Dagu River (today’s River Haihe) with
that of the Yellow River, the River Huai, the Yangtze River, and the Qiantang River
(in modern Zhejiang), facing the thriving Tang dynasty and shifting to the south of
China’s economy.
Through opening the entire routes, creating the most favorable conditions for
transportation between China and Europe was a prominent feature of the Silk Road.
Its founder was Genghis Khan and his nephew, Kublai Khan. The route of Zheng He
is often referred to as the Silk Road on the sea, which was the product of Emperor
Zhu Di in Ming dynasty and Zheng He, a eunuch and at the same time a Muslim. It
marks the culmination of the Ming dynasty’s naval development.
The Rise of the Precursors in the BRI
The so-called “east wind” train made history by retracing part of the ancient Silk
Road that more than 2000 years earlier had linked northern China to the
Mediterranean. The railroad traversed Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland,
Germany, Belgium, and France on its journey to Britain. These rail projects, which
share the same visionary origin, are just two of dozens of road, rail, port, and power
generation plans within China’s much-vaunted BRI. Formerly known as One Belt,
One Road, this vast, interconnected infrastructure project spans at least 65 countries
with a combined population of 4.4 billion and about a third of the world’s economic
The BRI launched in 2015 is a product having the bold character of Chinese
President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang; this pair of great leaders
­regularly present in the work of the government in the implementation of the
BRI. The BRI is not about physical routes in Eurasia. It is a global strategy with a
Monks and Merchants, curated by Annette L. Juliano and Judith A. Lerner, February 17, 2018,
Asia Society Museum http://sites.asiasociety.org/arts/monksandmerchants/index.html
The Rise of China’s Past in the “Belt and Road Initiative” (from Historical…
combination of foreign policy and economic development strategy that has now
been enshrined in the Communist Party of China’s constitution, signalling that it is
going to shape China’s engagement and investment with the world for many years
to come. It is also said to be a post hoc branding exercise that pulled together pre-­
existing projects and development plans under the BRI umbrella, chiefly to bolster
President Xi’s claim to being China’s great rejuvenator.
BRI’s story began in 1999, when the government of China made a concerted
effort to promote overseas Chinese investments with its “Go Out” policy: this was a
mandate to Chinese companies, demanding they invest and operate outside China’s
borders whenever possible. The country’s leadership understood that they could not
rely on growth from domestic markets alone. Led by its state-owned enterprises,
China’s overseas investments rose from $3 billion in 1991 to $35 billion in 2003.
During this time, the Chinese government signed bilateral agreements to collaborate
in financing and developing infrastructure in many developing countries.
First mentioned by Mr. Xi in speeches in 2013,8 BRI’s import has suffered a bit
from its confusing branding. The initial English name “One Belt, One Road” was
changed in 2017 after foreigners consistently misunderstood it; and the confusion
was not helped by the fact that the “belt” refers to land routes (evoking the old Silk
Road through Central Asia) and the “road” refers to shipping lanes from the ports of
East Asia to the Middle East.9 China’s BRI is a President Xi Jinping policy aimed at
improving China’s “connectivity” with the rest of the world. The idea is to promote
development and “economic cooperation” along five corridors out of China: land
routes through Central Asia to Europe, to the Middle East, and to Southeast Asia
and sea routes connecting Chinese ports to Europe and to the South Pacific. The
BRI interconnected infrastructure project spans at least 65 countries with a combined population of 4.4 billion and about a third of the world’s economic output.
The BRI also has well-defined strategic and security aspects: it contributes to
China’s overall national security but is also subject to a variety of operational and
strategic challenges. The US strategic research center has termed it as “crystal
network.”10 On one hand, it is the connectivity of China to the world in which the
highest aspiration is global connectivity, taking China as the heart and starting point.
In that structure, the main connecting tributaries include the connectivity of the
main Belt Axis of northern and western provinces of China with Russia and Central
In September 2013, Xi Jinping became secretary general of the Communist Party, and 6 months
after being elected, President Xi Jinping proposed the overland component, the Silk Road
Economic Belt, during a trip to Kazakhstan. He announced the Maritime Silk Road on a trip to
Indonesia a few weeks later. These two efforts culminated in the announcement of the formal initiative in May 2014, at the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia.
The initiative, renamed the Belt and Road Initiative in 2016, is not always consistent. Chinese
statements about new undertakings don’t always mention a Belt and Road linkage. But with any
new Chinese project outside the country’s borders, there is an implicit expectation that it will fit
somehow with the Belt and Road.
See more at: Christopher K. Johnson, Center for strategic & international studies (CSIS),
President Xi JinPing ‘s “Belt and Road” Initiative, Apractical Assessment of the Chinese
Communist Party’s Roadmap for China’s global Resurgence, 2016.
D. T. Van
Asia. And the Road has connected the seaports in the East and South China to
Southeast Asia, South Asia, Europe, and Africa. On the other hand, it is easier to
observe as the connectivity lays in China’s inland. It is the connectivity between
east China and west China, which is essentially the connectivity of the region comprising of only 5% in terms of land area in the east and the population of 95% with
95% in terms of the land area and the population of only 5%.11 The connections
among China’s core zones, such as Xinjiang, and China’s inland provinces and
beyond, connecting Yunnan with other provinces inside and outside China, connecting Fujian as a core zone with the surrounding regions of Fujian, have formed the
core region to attract and create the attraction and expand to the surroundings.
Moreover, the B&R is the connectivity of the Belt itself to the Road, actually the
connectivity between the deserts and the seaports, the connectivity between camels
and boats, and the connectivity of roads, rails, and sea routes among inland China
and China to the world. Even more, it is a connectivity and re-emergence of tradition from the ancient Silk Road of the Han dynasty, the Yuan dynasty with the Silk
Road Economic Belt, and connecting the maritime sea route of Zheng He to today’s
sea routes.
The return of the precursor in the past and the Shaanxi tradition combined with
Fujian, Jiangsu, and Shanghai coastal traditions can be found in the B&R today. As
abovementioned, Chinese President Xi Jinping was the first to raise the idea and
propose BRI on September 7, 2013, followed by the Chinese Communist Party
implemented his project idea with ​a resolution calling for the construction of the
Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk Road in the twenty-first century, and
on December 13, 2013, in his annual conference on economic tasks, he also focused
on the project. In October 2015, Xi Jinping visited the United Kingdom; he repeated
his commitment to the project. On May 15, 2017, at the summit conference on the
B&R in Beijing, China’s President Xi Jinping himself chaired the meeting. It
attracted hundreds of participating countries with leaders of state and members of
28 countries.
In addition, President Xi Jinping has spoken about his initiative extensively in
many countries, including major forums; during a meeting with the US President
Donald Trump, Xi also proposed a partnership for the BRI. Briefly summarizing the
above milestones, we can see that president Xi is not only an idea initiator but a
practical leader in implementation. We can also focus on his ambition as a haunting
past in him, as a motive force from the distant past. Thus, it can be said that he is the
central character, the soul of the BRI. Since he is the core of the BRI, he is also the
center of connecting dimensions.
Strictly speaking, Beijing is neither the center, the point of convergence, nor the
start of the B&R today. The heart of the Silk Road is Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi. By
the late second century BC, military colonies were established in Gansu to protect
the trade routes from nomadic incursions. These colonies became important trading
posts on the Silk Road. The main route led from Chang’an (modern Xi’an) through
Hu Angang (editor), Tran Khang, Bui Xuan Tuan (translation) (2003). Chinese Great Strategies.
Hanoi: Publishing House of News Agency.
The Rise of China’s Past in the “Belt and Road Initiative” (from Historical…
Lanzhou, Wuwei, Zhangye, Jiuquan, to Dunhuang and was protected by a Han
extension to the Great Wall. As trade flourished, new products and ideas entered
China, brought by foreign merchants. Buddhism entered China at this time but was
confined mainly to colonies of foreign merchants. Indeed, imperial control of the
country ensured that foreign influences were still largely unassimilated or marginalized. President Xi once said proudly: “my hometown, Shaanxi, is at the very beginning of the ancient Silk Road. Standing here tracing back the history, I listen to the
sound of camels echoing in the middle of the hill, I saw the thin smoke scattered,
scurrying, the way that birds fly in the desert wide. All that makes me feel very
close.”12 As we know that, Xi’an (formerly known as Chang’an) is the oldest and
richest traditional capital of China, the capital of the two most dynastic dynasties –
the Han and Tang dynasties. Not far away, Xianyang, also in Shaanxi, was the capital of the Qin dynasty. The three most powerful dynasties of China have been based
in Shaanxi, which is understandable when he proudly praises his hometown with
these three most dazzling dynasties in China’s history. But especially, Xi’an is the
starting point of the ancient Silk Road, with Chang’an city as the center of international exchange route of the Han and Tang dynasties. With the rise of the B&R, it
means restoring the location of Xi’an, Shaanxi’s capital, where today the tomb of
Xi’s father – Mr. Xi Zhongxun – was located there.13 In essence, it is a return to the
homeland, a connection back to the past, taking and seeking inspiration from the
glorious past of the great men. With this revitalization, it is also easy to understand
the Xi’an defining action plan as a key to the Silk Road; in particular, the Xi’an
Transportation University is the focal point for international academic exchanges
about the Silk Road.14 Hundreds of universities are involved in shaping that academic belt of the Silk Road. In doing so, he revives the tradition, renews his hometown, and adds vitality to his traditional homeland. In this dimension, he is the key
for the connection, the renewal, and the life of the past, bringing it a new face; he is
the emperor of today, connecting and revitalizing his homeland.
Not only that, as far as we know, Xi’an is the capital of the Han dynasty, the focal
point, the heart of exchanges, and the center of the Silk Road. It was the Han dynasty
with Xi’an as the capital; right from the time of opening the road to the west, Han
Emperor, a special character, Zhang Qian was dubbed the “tracer” to open the Han
empire to the outside world and, as the key figure, had the practical merits of forming the ancient Silk Road, together with the Emperor Wu of Han, which formed a
pair that connected the ancient silk route. Zhang Qian, interestingly, was also a
Shaanxi citizen.15 Today, the Shaanxi Museum features Zhang Qian statue and
Zhang Qian tomb also in Shaanxi. Haunted and taken pride by the great, longest,
Xi Jinping (2014). Xi Jinping tan zhi guo li zheng,. Beijing: Wai wen chu ban she, Publisher: 外
文出版社有限责任公司p. 287
Dong Ngan – Tu Son (2014) Chuyện về mộ bố ông Tập Cận Bình http://dantri.com.vn/the-gioi/
chuyen-ve-mo-bo-ong-tap-can-binh-1413886096.htm. Accessed on 31 January 2018
Pham Sy Thanh (2017). A Strategic OBOR One Belt One Road of China and Policy Implications
for Vietnam,. Ha noi:World Publisher. p. 127
See more at: Le (Editor) (1994). Chinese Silk Road Dictionary. China: Xinjiang Publishing
D. T. Van
and most brilliant capital of China, the origin and heart of the ancient Silk Road,
where Zhang Qian was the pioneer in shaping the legacy of the Silk Road, Xi
Jinping must have the inspiration and the ideas of connectivity, and he is proud of
this unique character in the history of China. Thus, the restoration of the ancient
Silk Road, with the new name of the Silk Road Economic Belt, with the cultural
exchange center of Xi’an Transportation University, is no doubt. The meaning of the
road of cultural exchanges will guide him to the crossroads of cultural exchanges
for Xi’an University of Transportation. It is clear that the connection with the great
predecessor Zhang Qian must bear in his mind, along with his connection with
Xi’an, Shaanxi, his hometown.
On the other hand, Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, is well-­
known for the construction of the Great Wall; Emperor Wu of Han stationed in
Xi’an is famous for the plan of expanding to the West as a foundation for establishing the world’s Silk Road; the legendary monk Tang Xuanzang is famous for introducing Buddhism into China also on this road. A tradition with splendid dynasties
and eminent emperors would have made him one of the few. Today, his status is as
well-known as Qin Shi Huang, Emperor Wu of Han, and even beyond these. Born
in the places where Emperor Qin Shi Huang and Emperor Wu of Han died in honor
and created the Great Wall and the Silk Road, Xi Jinping must have stimulated himself by being born in the same homeland with them which directed him to be at least
equal or surpass the previous emperors in his hometown.
Not only Xi’an, Shaanxi as the major silk route, the cultural and economic belt,
Fujian and Zhejiang are also shaped as the focal points of China’s 21st Century
Maritime Silk Road. It is known that Fujian and Zhejiang were the famous ports of
China in the past where Zheng He started and built the boats in history, but the connection of these places together with Xi’an creates a new layer of meanings in
restoring and connecting them, because Xi Jinping, the designer of the BRI, was
once the secretary of Fujian and Zhejiang.
Actually, another connection dimension should be mentioned in correlation
between Xi Jinping and other three individuals: Deng, Xi, and Li. Without talking
about age, we only talk about the relationship and connections related to the Belt
and Road. In essence, Deng is not involved, not directly constructing the BRI, but
he is the one who laid the foundation for the formation of the B&R. As the action
plan indicates, the connectivity in B&R is actually China’s “opening up” to the
world, which is based on a rather obscure and imprudent basis, namely, Deng. To
Xi, this connection and opening has been concretized, documented into the action
plan with the very clear connection points set forth above. Thus, in essence, Deng
and Xi have connections. As for Mr. Li Keqiang, in the introduction of the BRI, Li
is acting as the Meng Tian, Zhang Ziyun, and Zheng He, previously implementing
the idea of core leaders, mobilizing government and political system, national
resources, huge propaganda apparatus, and abundant financial resources for the
comprehensive implementation of this idea.
Thus, Xi Jinping is the focal point, the soul of the connections between the past
and the present and the future, which is the connection of the traditions of the
ancient capital of Chang’an with Xi’an today. From the famous emperors such as
The Rise of China’s Past in the “Belt and Road Initiative” (from Historical…
Emperor Qin Shi Huang and Han Emperor Wu to this day, he is the center of the
connection with the pioneer in the past Zhang Qian.
In particular, he is the linkage of the ancient Silk Road to the new Silk Road
Economic Belt, and he is also the person to revive and connect the ancient Silk Road
to the current Silk Road. For the first time, he plays a role of connecting the two Silk
Road systems and the Maritime Silk Road and linking them together into a single
network, and for the first time in history, he has been the subject who connects
China to the outside world.
Goals and Genesis of the Return to the Past
Firstly, it aims at reviving China and maintaining the imperishability of China’s
past. In fact, with any great connectivity projects in China’s history, it interestingly
marks the brilliant and glorious phases of the Chinese empire of that time. For
instance, the most recognizable symbol of China and its long and vivid history, the
Great Wall was originally conceived by Emperor Qin Shi Huang in the third century
BC as a means of preventing incursions from barbarian nomads. Though the Great
Wall never effectively prevented invaders from entering China, it came to function
as a powerful symbol of Chinese civilization’s enduring strength. Zhang Qian, an
outstanding diplomat, traveler, and explorer in the Han dynasty of China, was honored as the “pioneer of the Silk Road,” “the first Chinese to open their eyes to see
the world,” and “the Columbus of the east,” who has connected China with the
world and implemented the idea during the Han dynasty. Today Zhang Qian’s travels are associated with the major route of transcontinental trade, the Silk Road. In
essence, his missions opened up to China the many kingdoms and products of a part
of the world then unknown to the Chinese. Zhang Qian’s accounts of his explorations of Central Asia are detailed in the early Han historical chronicles, Records of
the Grand Historian, compiled by Sima Qian in the first century BC. The Central
Asian sections of the Silk Road routes were expanded around 114 BC largely
through the missions and explorations of Zhang Qian.16 The river system connected
in the time of the Sui dynasty and especially the Silk Road connected as a conveyor
belt with a system of security and administrative support only took place in the Yuan
dynasty. From 1405 to 1433, the Chinese imperial eunuch Zheng He led seven
ocean expeditions for the Ming emperor that are unmatched in world history. By the
beginning of the Ming dynasty, China had reached a peak of naval technology
unsurpassed in the world. While using many technologies of Chinese invention,
Chinese shipbuilders also combined technologies they borrowed and adapted from
seafarers of the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. For centuries, China was the
preeminent maritime power in the region, with advances in navigation, naval architecture, and propulsion. In the early 1400s, Zheng He led the largest ships in the
Boulnois, Luce (2005). Silk Road: Monks, Warriors & Merchants. Hong Kong: Odyssey Books.
p. 66
D. T. Van
world on seven voyages of exploration to the lands around the Indian Ocean, demonstrating Chinese excellence at shipbuilding and navigation. And nowadays, the
B&R project appeared at the time when China ended 30 years of magic development and has become the second world economy with the ambition to rise to global
On the other hand, the formation of these great projects also has a multidimensional effect on China. The Great Wall had the role of shaping the southward expansion of China. It was during the Qin dynasty that the kingdom of Qin united the
different parts into one empire, to defend off the invasions from northern invaders,
creating stability for the empire. In the Han dynasty, the emperors extended the
Great Wall far into today’s western China to protect Silk Road trade. Over 2000 years
ago, the Great Wall had been serving as an effective way for defense in China’s history. As a product of the clashes between agricultural and nomadic economies, the
Great Wall provided protection to the economic development and cultural progress,
safeguarded the trading routes such as the Silk Road, and secured transmission of
information and transportation. The Silk Road opened up and threw the door for the
Chinese market to the world; the gold and silver of the outside world poured into
China, enriching China, so that the Chinese products were sold outside with the
great gains. Especially the culture of Tibet, and also through this way, Buddhism has
changed the face of Chinese culture. In the Yuan era, the Silk Road was the economic blood vessel with money circulation pouring into China. The Great Canal
system was the blood vessel of the arteries, helping the Tang economy flourish. The
Maritime Silk Road once helped the ports of Quanzhou, Fujian, etc. becoming the
largest ports in the world, enriching the Ming dynasty and China. All this means the
great projects on one side of the picture. It was at the peak of the dynasties, but at
the same time, it played the opposite role in helping to revitalize and sustain China’s
economic, cultural, commercial, and informal development in the old days of China.
Nowadays, the B&R reaches its peak during the period of the People’s Republic
of China. However, at the same time it continues to promote China to develop the
foundation to restore the Chinese’s dream. Like the Silk Road, if gold and silver
from other parts pour into China, it also means that other places will run out of
money, especially today’s natural resources, gems, and oil from all over the world
are flowing to China.17
Secondly, it is the genesis of the connectivity or the obsession of separation. It is
a fact that China is the second-largest economy in the world, the third largest nation
in the world, but a divided and unstable country which can always break apart with
the territory and islands always looking for independence. Therefore, it is the genesis rooted in ambition to unify the minds of the Chinese and the top leader Xi
Jinping. The leading scholars of Tsinghua University, led by Hu Angang at the strategic level in their book China – The great strategies, insightfully summed up this
obsession in the chapter on “Assessing China’s Changes in Strategic Resources”
See also: Juan Pablo Cardenal & Heriberto Araújio (2013). China’s Silent Army: The Pioneers,
Traders, Fixers and Workers Who Are Remaking the World in Beijing’s Image. New York: Clown
The Rise of China’s Past in the “Belt and Road Initiative” (from Historical…
and opined that China is the third largest country in the world and borders with
dozens of countries and, furthermore, is still divided, requiring the state to pay the
necessary defense costs, but the central budget is too small to address these issues.
This is the “death penalty of China’s strategic resource.”18 More deeply, the story of
separation is a historical obsession with China’s tradition of unity and division, so it
will be an insult19 to any emperor or any institution, so-called mighty China but still
not unified. For example, the story of Taiwan’s unification has become a core interest of China, because the story is not just territorial imperfection, more importantly,
it involves the incapacity of national unification of the world’s leading power.
Moreover, the ambition to connect is a great unifying aspiration, affirming the
notion of China’s unifying national capacities, so the connectivity, on the one hand,
is open and connected with the outside world. And another important aspect is that
connectivity nowadays makes the world doubt the unifying power of China as the
world power. The Tsinghua scholars wrote that “the significance of the Taiwanese
issue is not just in Taiwan’s strategic position or just a matter of face losing of the
nation. The problem of the idea herewith is whether China can continue to exist or
not. Therefore, it is a matter of China’s vital interests … Therefore, China needs to
make the U.S aware that China without Taiwan is no longer China. Taiwan is as
important to China as democracy and freedom matter to the United States.”20
The BRI is not a route, but a smart power strategy (a combination between cultural
power and economic power) which aims to wrap the entire world, not only Eurasia
and Africa, and which has become the leitmotif of China’s foreign policy. The BRI
combines hard power elements, like economic investments, with a soft power strategy, like promoting Chinese culture or improving China’s image, to create an international label for Chinese foreign policy. The now-global BRI has largely been
successful, not so much in terms of concrete projects, but in the way that has helped
improve China’s image. Joining the BRI has become synonymous with the opportunity to grab a piece of China’s increasing economic pie. Coming on the heels of
Xi’s Davos speech in 2017, in which he presented China as a defender of globalization in an age of Western economic populism and protectionism, the BRI has helped
improve China’s image as a responsible power. Thus, the BRI as the nucleus role of
President, Secretary General Xi Jinping reflects the rule in the process of survival
and unique development in China’s path. Though the motivation for the development of the West is the separation, the promotion of the role and creativity of the
individual, the road of China’s development nowadays is merging together, creating
Hu Angang (2003). Chinese Great Strategies. Hanoi: Publishing House of News Agency. p.90
This obsession is so great that the Chinese have compiled a dictionary called “National Shame.”
Ho An Cuong (ed.), Tran Khang, Bui Xuan Tuan (trans. 2003), Chinese Great Strategies. Hanoi:
Publishing House of News Agency. p. 363
D. T. Van
conditions, making different cultures reconnect, and complementing each other.
The driving force of the development of China follows the unique road. BRI is the
next great thing in history, the greatest super strategic appearance in China’s history. Does it reflect a peak of development, a new peak that claims the rise in
China’s new era?
Angang, H. (2003a). Chinese great strategies. Hanoi: Publishing House of News Agency.
Angang, H. (Ed.). (2003b). Tran Khang, Bui Xuan Tuan (translation). Chinese great strategies.
Hanoi: Publishing House of News Agency.
Boulnois, L. (2005). Silk road: Monks, warriors & merchants. Hong Kong: Odyssey Books.
Cardenal, J. P., & Araújio, H. (2013). China’s silent army: The pioneers, traders, fixers and workers who are remaking the world in Beijing’s image. New York: Clown Publisher.
Christopher K. (2016). Johnson, center for strategic & international studies (CSIS), President Xi
JinPing ‘s “Belt and Road” Initiative, A practical Assessment of the Chinese Communist Party’s
Roadmap for China’s global Resurgence.
Cuong, H.A. (Ed.), Tran Khang, Bui Xuan Tuan (trans. 2003), Chinese Great Strategies. Hanoi:
Publishing House of News Agency.
Jinping X. (2014). Xi Jinping tan zhi guo li zheng. Beijing: Wai wen chu ban she, Publisher: 外文
Le (Ed.). (1994). Chinese silk road dictionary. China: Xinjiang Publishing House.
Monks and merchants, curated by Annette L. Juliano and Judith A. Lerner, February 17, 2018, Asia
Society Museum http://sites.asiasociety.org/arts/monksandmerchants/index.html
Mahbubani, K. (2005). Understanding China, Foreign Affairs. New York: Council on Foreign
Needham, J. (1986). Science and civilization in China, Volume 4, Physics and Physical Technology,
Part 3, Civil Engineering and Nautics. Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd..
Ngan, D. &. Son, T. (2014). Chuyện về mộ bố ông Tập Cận Bình http://dantri.com.vn/the-gioi/
chuyen-ve-mo-bo-ong-tap-can-binh-1413886096.htm. Accessed on 31 Jan 2018.
Pollard, E. (2015). Worlds together worlds apart. New York: W.W. Norton & Co..
Ponting, C. (2008). World history: A new perspective. New York: Random House.
Thanh, P. S. (2017). A strategic OBOR one belt one road of China and policy implications for
Vietnam. Hanoi: World Publisher.
Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk
Road 2015/03/28. (n.d.). http://en.ndrc.gov.cn/newsrelease/201503/t20150330_669367.html.
Accessed on 12 Dec 2017.
Chapter 3
Imagining China in the New Silk Road:
The Elephant and the World Jungle
Siu-Han Chan
The apparently ambitious project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), first advocated
by the Chinese Government in 2013 has triggered dubious responses from around
the world, especially in the America-led West. The BRI is widely taken as China’s
new economic agenda, which brings immense business opportunities to the world,
important for the revitalisation of global capitalism. But the BRI also connotes
China’s expansionist, if not imperialist, political attempts. For those who are distrustful of China, BRI is to challenge American’s trans-Atlantic ties with Europe
and interests in the Middle East. China is also understood to be using this economic
initiative to reshuffle the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region. Picturing
China as an ambitious, power-driven state makes perfect sense within hegemonic
Western political discourse. The hegemon cannot help but regard rising political
actors with vigilant consciousness because it assumes a reified projection of world
order and development that places it at the top. Sceptical representations of China
are the outgrowth of the epistemic hegemony of the West. They depict China as just
another assertive political actor in search of her national interests at the expense of
others, and (mis)represent China’s undertakings of the BRI as expansionist. The
unique character of China as a cultural and political entity is hardly acknowledged
under such hegemonic framework of knowledge and knowing.
As the veteran sinologist John Fairbank (1968: 5) reminds us in his study of
traditional China’s foreign relations, ‘(i)n modern parlance alone, we cannot comprehend this [Chinese] international order…(T)o understand it in our own modern
terms in English we must first find out how it was understood by Chinese and other
East Asian people in their own language at the time.’ Another contemporary
observer of China Martin Jacques (2009: 416) also points out, ‘the problem with
S.-H. Chan (*)
General Education Office, United International College, Zhuhai, China
e-mail: [email protected]
© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019
Md. N. Islam (ed.), Silk Road to Belt Road,
S.-H. Chan
interpreting and evaluating China solely or mainly in terms of the Western lexicon
of experience is that, by definition, it excludes all that is specific to China: in short,
what makes China what it is.’ What Fairbank and Jacques are suggesting is that
researchers of China should adopt a more sympathetic perspective, and remain culturally sensitive about the difference of China. Their proposal has pointed to the
right direction, but sensitivity of language use alone would not be efficacious
enough to set China free from the straitjacket of Western epistemic fabrication
hegemony, and recover her more authentic faces. The categorical difference of
China must be dealt with more carefully and sociologised (Chan 2017).
I argue that a comprehensive sociological understanding of the BRI and China in
general calls for more than cultural and linguistic awareness. The exegesis of China
must first involve the recognition of the fundamental hiatus between Chinese and
Western mentalities and worldviews. An alternative episteme and ontological thinking of China should then be invoked, only against which her variegated orientations,
dispositions and actions can be rendered sufficiently intelligible, and culturally
authentic. In this paper, I will deploy the metaphor of lion and elephant to illustrate
the divergent ontological perspectives of the West1 and China respectively. The militant Western lions often view China as ‘an awakening lion’ in the twenty-first century, posing dangers to the world. Yet I surmise that the spiteful projection of the
modern rise of China reflects less about the actual orientation of China than the
wary consciousness of the West. China is closer to the predispositions of an
elephant,2 another prominent being in the jungle characterised by its peaceful
Nation-State Versus Civilisation-State
The world has been all too familiar with seeing China through the Western hegemonic lens. Such (mis)representations just appear to be ‘natural’ and comfortable.
Despite the inconvenience, the perspective and unique character of China have to be
identified. Otherwise the world would never be able to comprehend China. In line
with Lucian Pye (1992) and others (Dynon 2014; Jacques 2009), it is the intellectual
departure of this article to position China first as a civilisation, then as a state,
The author is well aware of the problem of over-generalisation when the ideas of ‘the West’,
‘Western world’ or ‘Western societies’ are invoked. The unity of perspective of the West is for
certain a myth. See for example Delanty (2003) for the discussion of the idea of ‘post-Western
Europe’. But those notions are still deployed in this article mainly for referential purpose of a
(fragmented) civilisation, which is fundamentally different from China. The West here refers
mainly to the United States and United Kingdom, which articulate ‘China Threat’ explicitly in
their political rhetoric, but not limited to them.
China is usually referred to as dragon in general usage, which is the totemic symbol of the Chinese
people. The connotation of dragon as a mythic creature however varies greatly across cultures. The
author deems the image of elephant more appropriate in capturing the non-aggressive nature of
Chinese civilisation that would form a meaningful contrast to the lion-like nature of Western
Imagining China in the New Silk Road: The Elephant and the World…
instead of an ordinary nation-state, so to understand her (a)political nature, and the
meaning of the BRI to her and her neighbours. As Pye (1992: 235–236) succinctly
(t)he starting point for understanding…is to recognize that China is not just another nation-­
state in the family of nations. China is a civilization pretending to be a state. The story of
modern China could be described as the effort by both Chinese and foreigners to squeeze a
civilization into the arbitrary and constraining framework of a modern state, an institutional
invention that came out of the fragmentation of Western civilization.
It is greatly misguided to take China simply as another rationally calculating, self-­
asserting nation-state in search of her national interests like modern Western states.
In dealing with a country with long and continuous historical legacy as China, the
weight of her past can hardly be overestimated. It necessarily casts a long shadow
over her present and future in the forms of cultural motivations, moral imperatives,
political unconsciousness and so on—much more so than any other nation-states.
The major difference between nation-state and civilisation-state, to couch in
Talcott Parsons’ (1951, 1977) sociological concepts, is their primary orientations as
social systems.3 The two also have their respective frameworks of political and cultural reference. Nation-state is always regarded as the highest modern political
embodiment of nationhood that has both antiquated and modern connotations at the
same time (Chan 2018: 332–333). Yet, as Eric Hobsbawm (1992:14) suggests, ‘[t]
he basic characteristic of the modern nation and everything connected with it is its
modernity.’ The very idea of progress entrenched in modernity predisposes the primary orientation of a nation-state to be ‘goal-attainment’—a mode of forward-­
looking, extramural quest for achievement. As a political invention of Western
societies, modern nation-state fits well the profile of ‘rational mastery of the world’
Max Weber (1951: 248) outlines about the West. Nation-state operates on a relatively arbitrary national territory with delimited scope of political efficacy. This is
not only a result of disunity of the Western civilisation. The restricted political
framework is also the square reflection of Western worldview, which perceives ‘a
tremendous and grandiose tension toward the “world”’ and others (Weber 1951:
227), and is devised to contain the conflict-prone modern inter-state relations.
In contrast, civilisation-state has very different characteristics and nature. Lying
behind a civilisation-state is not the modern invention of ‘nation’, but the sublime or
even awe-inspiring idea of civilisation. The exaltation a civilisation invokes and the
inertia of its historical legacy dictate a civilisation-state to prioritise ‘pattern-­
maintenance’ in Parsonsian (1951, 1977) sense—backward-looking, intramural
concern—as its fundamental orientation. Accommodating the past and conserving
the civilisational order that is already the culmination of humanity are the preoccupations of a civilisation-state. Such preservative orientation reflects no less the
Confucian, cultural prescription of ‘rational adjustment to the world’ worldview, as
Weber (1951:248) famously names. Unlike the conquering nation-state, the p­ olitical
According to Parsons’ theory, all social systems have to fulfil four functional pre-requisites,
namely adaptation, goal attainment, integration, and pattern-maintenance, so to survive. But different types of social systems have their own priorities.
S.-H. Chan
imagination of ­civilisation-­state, as China traditionally understands herself, founds
upon the ontological departure of Chinese Confucianism that seeks to reduce ‘tension with the world to an absolute minimum’ (Weber 1951: 227). China inclines to
use the imagery of community to deal with politics so to reduce potential conflicts.
Or as Mark Mancall (1963: 19) describes, ‘(i)nternational society was the extension
of internal [Chinese] society.’ Her cultural and political conception is hence relatively unbounded by national borders and spans over a much broader transnational
cultural—and civilisational—zone, as in the historical tributary system and along
the Silk Road.
If the fundamental nature of China as a civilisation-state is duly considered, the
alleged Chinese ‘national rejuvenation’ is actually a project of civilisational revival
and maintenance. The latter is marked by a much less restricted understanding of
cultural and political perimeter permitted by the reference of nation-state. This
Chinese civilisational self was largely depressed in the nineteenth and twentieth
centuries in China’s painful struggles to transform from a civilisation into a modern
nation. Entering into the twenty-first century, China gradually regains her cultural
confidence to shed her pretence to be just another nation-state. China is now seeking
to return to and reinvent herself as a civilisation in modernity that radiates cultural
and moral influence to a region, and serves as the political fulcrum and impetus of
regional solidarity.
It is against the specific cultural and historical context of China’s modernisation
and her fundamental nature as a civilisation-state that this paper interprets China’s
BRI. The BRI is an important economic foundation for a more profound Chinese
civilisational imperative to reconstruct the Chinese (regional) world order shattered
in the modern age. The images and memories of the historical Silk Road network
and tributary system are the cultural sustenance of this civilisational project. Thus,
the catchphrase ‘New Silk Road’, imbued with cultural imageries and historical
allusions, is preferred in this paper to the narrower notion of BRI, unless the actual
policy is referred to.
In the following, I will first briefly outline the generally watchful gaze the
Western world uses to scrutinise China and her BRI, and revisit the Western political history to explain why the Western world exhibits a particularly pugnacious
ontological perspective of a lion. This constitutes the basis of Western hegemonic
(mis)representation of China and her BRI. Next, the elephantine existence of China
and its historical genesis will be discussed. The imperial history and tributary system of China will be briefly reviewed to account for the generally contented Chinese
political consciousness. Lastly, I will explicate the New Silk Road as China’s
endeavour to return to her civilisational self by reviving the Silk Road network and
reconceiving her relations with her neighbours reminiscing the symbolic order of
the tributary system.
Imagining China in the New Silk Road: The Elephant and the World…
Lion as Metaphor of the Political Ontology of the West
China as ‘The Awakening Lion’?
More than two centuries ago, Napoleon warned the world, ‘China is a sleeping lion.
Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will shake the world.’ Two centuries later, in
2014, President Xi Jinping of China addressed an audience in Paris that included the
then French President Francois Hollande, and said, ‘Today, the lion has woken up.
But it is peaceful, pleasant and civilised.’4 Napoleon’s presage reflects the long-­
standing political anxiety in the West about China’s power and influence in the
world, even in the nineteenth century when China was still the vulnerable subject of
Western imperial domination, and lost her central position in the East Asian region.
The Chinese leader Xi was responding not only to Napoleon, but the Western world,
which is generally ambivalent about the rise of China in the twenty-first century.
The Napoleonic ‘awakening lion’5 imagery is still resounding in the West after
two centuries. It cogently hypostatises the perceived threat coming from China’s
ascendency, widespread in the West and plaguing its political allies and ideological
cognates as well. Unfriendly imageries alike underpin the hegemonic interpretation
of China’s national orientations in the West. Under the Western sceptical gaze,
China embodies some kind of original sin in her development. She is regularly relegated to a defensive position and pressured to bear the responsibility of cleansing
the doubts of the Western world about her national agendas and pursuit of prosperity. Obviously, notions like ‘peaceful rise and development’, ‘China will never seek
hegemony or engage in expansion’, ‘China will not export China’s model (of
development)’6 put forth by the Chinese leaders in various occasions by no means
significantly appease mounting concerns of Western powers over the impact of
China’s development to the world order. It begs the question whether a lion can
really be peaceful after all.
The West as the Lion It Sees in China
The great Song poet Su Dongpo (1036–1100) in China had a poor track record
debating with his friend Monk Foyin. He always wanted to get the upper hand to
Foyin. One day he saw a chance. Su asked Foyin how did he look when he was
These two quotations are taken from ‘Xi Jinping says world has nothing to fear from awakening
of “peaceful lion” in South China Morning Post, dated 28 March 2014. http://www.scmp.com/
In other version of this saying, China was named the sleeping giant. No matter it is the lion or the
giant, the meaning is consistent. Giant by its very presence dwarfs others, and so in a similar sense
reflects the anxious consciousness and no less the self-perception of Western powers when they
look at China.
See, for example, Wen (2003) and Xi (2017).
S.-H. Chan
meditating. Foyin thought for a while, and replied that Su looked as dignified as a
Buddha statue. Foyin then posed the same question to Su, and Su felt smug and suggested, ‘you look just like a pile of cow dung’. Foyin just smiled and said nothing.
Su went home conceitedly and shared his victory with his clever sister Xiaomei.
Xiaomei told her brother, ‘Dear brother, you lost completely to Foyin again. Foyin
has an unassailable heart of the Buddha so he sees the decency in you. But you have
a contaminated mind of cow dung to think up the impurity of him.’7
Anyone familiar with this popular Zen story ‘Buddha and cow dung’ knows this
very wisdom: what you see is actually what you are, and what preoccupies your
mind. So it is the lion that sees ‘the lion’ in others, and conceives the world with the
ontological thinking of the lion. When the Western powers envision China to be ‘the
awakening lion’ posing threat, they are revealing who they are themselves and their
own political orientations and conception. The West is the lion it sees in China.
Lion is the revered ‘king of the jungle’ in Western cultural perception. It dominates the animal world with its unrivalled power and strength. Lion virtually takes
all animals as preys. Despite its overriding predominance, the existence of a lion,
to look at it from an anthropomorphic angle, is largely unsettled and inevitably
imbued with militant consciousness. Inveterate territorialism is lion’s species character. The reigning lion constantly watches over its sphere of influence from trespassers, intention or not. Fatal fight is necessary to resolve power contest. In the
lion’s perspective, rivalry and conquest is the norm of the jungle. Jungle is about
deadly competition and zero-sum game between predator and prey, the strong and
the weak.
Just like a reigning lion of its territory, being the preponderant power-holders
does not quench the fear of Western powers. They are still bothered by deep-seated
anxiety about their survival. Being belligerent and getting prepared to fight the war
of survival from time to time is the fundamental dispositions of Western lions. The
conquering being is always the one who is most cautious of the possibility of being
encroached upon. Its insecurity makes it hypersensitive to the potential consequences of the actions of others. The lion’s ontological perspective manifests in
Western mainstream political thinking—social and political Darwinism. Politics is
realpolitik: ruthlessly realistic and opportunistic political actors are competing
against each other in pursuit of their greatest interests. International relations and
diplomacy are perceived to be about advancing political and economic gains of a
state and its cliques at the expense of the rest—a zero-sum game.
Historical Cultivation of the Lion’s Perspective
The Western wariness about potential contestants haunting the sedentary powers
has its historical precedence in the famous ancient Greek Peloponnesian War in
431–404 B.C.. In Thucydides’s (2013: 16) analysis:
A popular traditional Chinese story passed on as legend.
Imagining China in the New Silk Road: The Elephant and the World…
The Athenians and Spartans began the war when they broke the thirty-year truce they made
after the capture of Euboea. To explain why they broke it…how it came about that so great
a war arose among the Greeks. I consider the truest cause, though the one least openly
stated, to be this: the Athenians were becoming powerful and inspired fear in the Spartans
and so forced them into war.
The historical memory of Peloponnesian often translates into what Graham Allison
(2017) calls ‘Thucydides’s Trap’ of war between a dominant power and a rising
power. The ephemerality of great historical empires from the highly revered Roman
Empire, the extensive Austro-Hungarian Empire, to the British Colonial Empire in
the West for various reasons is also the genesis of Western vigilant political consciousness (Mann 1990).
Besides the immediate context of the 30 Years Wars, the highly militant Western
historical and political understanding gave birth to the Westphalian idea of sovereignty and inter-state system that impose well-defined boundary of national political community, and delimit the capacity and influence of a state within its territory.
The limited concept of nation-state can actually be interpreted to be the expedient
solution to what Charles Tilly (1985) criticises as the symbiosis of bellicosity and
modern (nation-)state making in Europe. Inevitability of lethal conflict between
competing, goal-attaining national powers still suffuses the political consciousness
of the Western world. Now only that the fault-line shifts from among contending
European states to between the West and the non-West. Samuel Huntington’s (1997)
famous (self-fulfilling) prophecy of ‘the clash of civilizations’ between the West
and the rest is perhaps the most influential contemporary intellectual embodiment of
the underlying anxiety of Western political mentality.
he Sceptical Interpretation of China and Her BRI
in the West
Mediated by unsettled political (un)consciousness and hegemonic knowing, it is not
surprising that the Western world finds China’s aspiration for ‘national rejuvenation’ to be gravely worrying. An American observer of China candidly confesses,
the rise of China is bringing ‘existential challenge to the world’ (Chang 2015).8
‘The peaceful rise of China’ that Chinese leaders repeatedly assure does not have
much effect in changing Western perception about the rapid development of China.
Similar claims are little more than the delusion of China, or the delaying tactic of
her prospective challenge to the global leadership of the West. The perceived threat
from China is becoming imminent, when China prospers and she represents something that the West cannot fully apprehend (Navarro 2015).
In addition to political analysis, America’s existential anxiety of its leadership position and survival manifests also in popular culture. A very common theme in Hollywood movies, much less
frequently seen in other cinemas, is that America is under siege by its enemies from different
places, other planets, alien species, or from the future.
S.-H. Chan
As for the BRI, China is understood to be flexing her muscles in the Eurasian
region, vying for regional predominance in her neighbourhood and further. Despite
the economic overtone of the BRI official document ‘Action Plan on the Belt and
Road Initiative’ released by the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
(2015) and the frequent use of concepts like ‘communication’, ‘consultation’, and
‘negotiation’, China’s actual intention in installing such a grand scheme remains
highly suspicious in Western eyes. China is taken as a major participants in the
‘New Great Game’ now taking shaping in the heartland of Eurasia,9 competing with
other stakeholders in the area, including Russia, India, and the US, for influence and
leadership, after the fall of the Soviet Union (Fingar 2016; Laruella 2010). Joel
Wuthnow (2018) succinctly summarises the widespread concerns regarding the BRI
in America in his ‘Testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review
Commentators liken the BRI to the Marshall Plan—i.e., a way for China to create strategic
advantage in its backyard just as the United States used economic statecraft to cement its
position in Western Europe following World War II—and as a modern manifestation of
early 20th century British geographer Halford Mackinder’s thesis that dominating Eurasia
is a prerequisite for global hegemony. In carefully-argued research, Nadège Rolland depicts
the BRI as part of China’s “grand strategy,” using all elements of national strength to “assert
[China’s] influence and reshape at least its own neighborhood.” (p. 2)
China is perceived to be no different to other expansive, power-driven national political actors like the America. What remains unconscious or unstated behind this or
similar analyses is that the commentators would concede to the dominance and
hegemony of America, but readily uphold a double standard when and if China is
acting in any similar fashion. The Western imperialists certainly tolerate no other
competitors of the same kind, even though I argue that China does not bear similar
aggressive proclivity. Moreover, the fact that the entire American continent, North
and South, is left out from the route plan of the BRI also fuels doubts over China’s
intentions behind her mega economic and cultural project.
The doubts of Western observers over BRI reveal clearly the epistemic consequence and violence of Western hegemonic understanding at work. No matter how
tactful she is, China has to bear the stigma of expansionist power often unjustifiably
pinned on her. She is hence forced to engage in tiresome defence refuting interpretation that has largely distorted her intentions and the nature of the whole New Silk
Road project. She is usually too hard-pressed in refutation to make what is in her
mind truly heard. Her voice is just lost in the sea of her bad repute, or is hardly intelligible under Western political episteme.
All in all, hazy conclusion is reached—the BRI is a monstrous behemoth to the
(Western) world, even when the project is still in its very nascent stage. China’s BRI
will challenge America’s trans-Atlantic ties with Europe, when the latter is drawn
closer into a China-led Eurasian circuit. China is also usurping American post-War
leadership in the Asia-Pacific region (Chance 2016). As a strategic response,
The idea of the ‘Great Game’ describes the competition between Russian and UK in Central Asia
during the nineteenth century.
Imagining China in the New Silk Road: The Elephant and the World…
America is allying with Australia, Japan and India to establish a ‘Belt and Road
alternative’ named the ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ (FOIP) strategy to counterbalance China’s BRI.10 As a result, epistemic hegemony political episteme becomes the
complicity and corroborates with the polity in sustaining the dominance of the West
against the rest of the World.
Elephant as Metaphor of Chinese Ontological Thinking
To circumvent the pitfalls of Western epistemic hegemony hegemonic interpretation,
an alternative episteme and ontological perspective of China must be recognised and
construed. Following from the jungle metaphor, the lion’s hostile gaze of China must
first be cast aside. Far from being a lion, China’s ontological orientation resembles
another salient being in the jungle: the elephant. Regarding China as another aggressive lion-­like superpower is the intellectual bias of Western political mentality. China
belongs to an entirely different kind of political actor with her unique civilisational
consciousness. Invoking the predominant Western perspective in the comprehension
of the BRI and the national orientations of China is akin to inflicting symbolic violence to her. The atrocity is tantamount to putting an elephant in lion’s habitat, feeding her with lion’s diet and observing her eccentric behaviours.
he Civilisation-State: China as the Elephantine
Existence in Asia
The Chinese people are taught by the popular childhood game ‘the animal chess’,
Doushouqi in Chinese, to conceive the truly majestic being in the animal world to
be the peaceful, long-lived elephant, instead of the fierce lion or tiger. The pecking
order of the Doushouqi follows a rather simple logic—the relative size of animals.
It puts elephant the largest terrestrial animal species on the top. This pecking order
is somehow predetermined that depends little on aggression nor active strivings.
The elephant position in such kind of ‘natural’ hierarchical order of the jungle concurs with the way Chinese people look at the world and their position in it.
Unlike the carnivorous lion that species character predisposes it to be competitive and violent so to survive, the herbivorous elephant is the gentle giant, a socially
oriented herbivore in the jungle. Elephant has a much less rigid territorial
In Reuters ‘Australia, U.S., India and Japan in talks to establish Belt and Road alternative: report’
(dated 19 February 2018) https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-beltandroad-quad/australia-us-india-and-japan-in-talks-to-establish-belt-and-road-alternative-report-idUSKCN1G20WG; In
SCMP ‘US may boost projects in Indo-Pacific to counter Beijing’s belt and road plan’ (dated 8
S.-H. Chan
c­ onsciousness than lion. Elephant does not have natural predator in the wild, nor
does it take prey. The elephant’s survival in no way depends on its aggression.
Elephant’s enormous body mass together with its protruded tusks and powerful
trunk makes it largely immune to the predation of other carnivorous species. At the
same time, its elephantine existence poses little direct threat to other species in its
surroundings. But if the situation warrants, like when its family is under attack or it
is provoked, the counter-attack of an elephant can be highly lethal. In the main the
prowess of the elephant is categorically different from the lion. It is a non-­dominating
pre-eminence, which guarantees her autonomy and commands respectful distance.
Just as the composed, peaceful elephant in the dangerous animal world, China
generally keeps her equanimity in the world jungle. The relatively complacent elephantoid existence of China is a product of the cultural and political history of
China. The very fact that China being the only unbroken ancient civilisation that
lasts into modernity gives rise to the relatively nonchalant political consciousness of
Chinese society, whether in the past or the present. The continuous legacy of China
as a civilisation and dynastic political system renders the rise and fall of great
empires largely alien to Chinese historical understanding and political consciousness. In more than 2000 years of Chinese imperial history, China appeared to be an
‘everlasting empire’ that was never fully superseded (Pines 2012). The takeover of
the imperial China by nomadic tribes like the Mongolians in Yuan dynasty and the
Manchurians in Qing dynasty or her division into smaller states may have changed
the ruler family and the size of the country, but did hardly hamper the integrity of
the cultural and political orthodox of China. The nomadic powers could never fully
impose their governing logic of the steppe onto China. Instead, they always had to
yield to the culturally advanced Sinic order so as to rule China. As a result, the non-­
Han rulers and peoples would be largely sinicised and became constitutive part of
the Chinese cultural order and not vice versa, when they took over China (Fairbank
1968; Li 2002). No matter it was the harmonious cultural reverence and deference
of China’s neighbours like in the prosperous, cosmopolitan Tang Dynasty (Lewis
2009) or the confrontational encounters of China with her neighbours, the cultural
and moral supremacy of China—her high civilisational status as against the barbarism—were affirmed.
In time when China was divided into smaller states, the disunited status of China
usually bothered the competing states. Compelled by the feeling of incompleteness,
they each imagined themselves to be the genuine representative of ‘China’, the one
bestowed with heavenly mandate. Military conflicts in traditional China were not
primarily about conquest and domination of one state over the others, but the preservation of China. Armed confrontation was simultaneously a manifestation and
reinforcement of the centrifugal impetus of China as an overriding framework of
cultural and political reference over a vast territory. Irrespective of the viability or
the time the enterprise of reunification may take, rebuilding a unified China—an
unrestrained frame of action—was usually the self-assigned project of these relatively smaller, constricted states (Hsu and Ho 2002; Yang 2004). No matter it is
taken as a normative expectation or reality, the resilience of China, as a ­unified
political and cultural framework, gives rise to the unique modality of political con-
Imagining China in the New Silk Road: The Elephant and the World…
sciousness in China, and is also the genesis of Chinese conception of ‘universal
state’, ‘universal empire’ (Li 2002). The latter are much more generalised understanding of China’s cultural and political influence as a civilisation than merely as
delimited polity with restricted control of land.
The self-image of traditional China in the pre-modern Chinese world order was
a civilisational centre. This was the cultural basis upon which China understood her
relationship with her partners. It has to be emphasised that the ‘centrism’ of China
in the pre-modern, so as the modern, world is more positional, like the majesty of
an elephant, than pre-emptory, like the dominance of a lion. The order that put
‘China at the center’ in the main did not observe the logic of imposition and suppression (Mancall 1984). China preferred prestige and respect to power from the
periphery. It was her civilisational mission to enlighten, but not to dominate the less
advanced. In Chinese conception, power, and politics in general, is secondary to and
the manifestation of cultural and moral supremacy.11
The non-imposing character of China as the centre of an order was revealed in
the traditional ‘tributary system’, the structural foundation of the Chinese pre-­
modern world order (Fairbank 1968; Mancall 1968, 1984). China operated highly
complex tributary foreign relations with her neighbours. The heavenly dynasty
China was the originator and the centre of this Chinese world order. Undeniably,
China and her vassal states were in some form of deferential, anti-egalitarian relationship (Fairbank 1968; Li 2002). Yet the hierarchy in the Chinese world order
based more upon cultural than political criteria. The essence of the hierarchy of the
Chinese tributary system was not mainly about political subjugation, nor the economic exploitation of other states.12 China looked primarily to maintain certain level
of political influence over her vassals, but allowed them to be autonomous on
domestic affairs.13
The most important instrumental value of the tributary system is the maintenance
of regional peace and order by keeping vassal states in continuing friendly terms
with China (Li 2002; Liu 1980: ix). Why China’s neighbours were willing to act as
the subordinates of China in the tributary system and submitted to the Chinese
world order all over the years? In additional to political stability and relative autonomy, they also benefited greatly in trade with China and received exquisite gifts
from the heavenly dynasty by subjecting to China symbolically (Mancall 1968;
In contrast to being the appendage to culture and morality, power connects intimately with violence and domination, and is the basis of morality in the West. Max Weber (1946: 78) famously
defines state, the most salient political actor, to be ‘human community that claims the monopoly of
the legitimate use of violence within a given community’ is a telling case in point.
China never took her vassals as colonies like the Western imperial states did. China was situated
at the top echelon of the Chinese order mainly because of her cultural and moral superiority.
In general, China’s interest in expanding territory into neighbouring areas was moderate.
Engulfing neighbouring states in most situations was expedient means to prevent the nomadic
tribes in north-western China from disrupting the order of the Zhongyuan area, the central plain
and the cradle of Chinese civilisation. The Xinjiang area, long referred to as the Xiyu, was annexed
by China in Qing dynasty because of the increasingly frequent political activities that was
­hazardous to the security of the Chinese capital is a case in point (Kim 2004).
S.-H. Chan
Chun 1968; Fletcher 1968). Overall, the pre-modern tributary system China sustained with her neighbours was a compact system, in which politics, culture and
economy interpenetrated into a collective order. This was the important basis of
pre-modern Pax Sinica. For certain, the pre-modern Chinese world order was not as
conflict-free or orderly as I portray here. But the basic organising principle of this
Chinese world order is communal and about cooperation towards a regional order,
instead of coercion.
The Wounded Civilisation in the Modern Age
The pre-modern Chinese world order began to disintegrate in the nineteenth century
and eventually shattered in the early twentieth century. China was virtually forced
out of her traditional self, when she lost her pivotal position and status in the regional
world order. It appears that China ceased to be the custodian of the civilisation—the
universal state of this civilisation, and was surrendered to a marginal position, the
periphery of the modern world capitalist system.
Politically, China not only gradually lost her conventional political autonomy
and superiority in dispensing her neighbours and vassals starting from the nineteenth century, and was forced to appropriate the form of constricted nation-state.
China also became the victim of repeated Western imperial domination and invasions from the nineteenth to mid twentieth centuries. China even lost her sacred
territory to Western colonialism. At the same time, she also experienced a heavy
blow to her economic standings that undermined the material basis of the tributary
system. China descended unexpectedly from one of the most advanced pre-modern
economic systems and a major regional innovation and export centre along the Silk
Road to an underdeveloped modern economy. China also became the dumping
ground of Western products like opium in the nineteenth century and the ‘world
factory’ today—the lowest end in the capitalist industrial chain.
Political and economic decentring in the modern age may have been greatly detrimental to Chinese dignity and self. The most injurious to China and Chinese people is however the sudden cultural degradation of China. China’s historical
self-understanding as a great civilisation built upon her traditional proximity to and
supreme status in the Chinese cultural and moral order. In the pre-modern age, no
problems seemed to be unresolvable within Chinese cultural and intellectual horizons. The modern outlook the imperialist Western powers brought with them cast
China ominously, by the yardstick of modernity, into a culturally underdeveloped
state and the Chinese into a backward people. Chinese society then not only lost its
cultural pride, but also sprang to the extreme of cultural denial (Chang 1987). Anti-­
traditionalism in the May-Fourth movement and later in Mao’s China was symptomatic of such cultural denial. Many rules and norms of the pre-modern world are
no longer applicable. China as a civilisation and polity that depended on tradition
and prided over her culture became rather disoriented. At time, she was forced to
swallow insults and humiliation. At other time, she was found to be overly defensive
Imagining China in the New Silk Road: The Elephant and the World…
of herself. The perturbed cultural and historical Chinese self explains many erratic
development and out-of-character behaviours of this highly civilised state in the
modern age.
China Returning to Herself in the Twenty-First Century
The grave contrast between the splendid pre-modern history of China and her
unpropitious modern development in the last two centuries is the reason Chinese
people seem to be so obsessed with their ‘national humiliation’ and why ‘national
rejuvenation’ is the recurring theme of modern China. The call for ‘national rejuvenation’ must first and foremost be understood against the traditional cultural self-­
understanding of China and her historical experience in modernisation. The
civilisational self of China was thrown into chaos and greatly suppressed when she
first encountered modernity. She was forced to realign into a delimited modern
mode of operation in the form of ‘nation-state’—institutional form devised to maintain political balance between assertive, goal-attaining political actors,14 which is
but largely alien to the ontological character of China as a civilisation (Pye 1992: ix,
235–236). It can hence be predictable that the arbitrary disparagement of China
would not last forever. When the time is ripe, China will shed off her pretence and
set herself free from the straitjacket, be it political, cultural, or epistemic in nature,
which the (Western) world unfairly imposed upon her when she was relatively
I would like to argue that the cultural leitmotif of the development of China in the
twenty-first century is ‘China returning to her historical and cultural self’ as a civilisation. Just as the elephant in the jungle, China is by default a conspicuous and
influential player in the region and the world. Sooner or later, she will resume her
normative position. Entering into the twenty-first century, China eventually manages to overcome some of her major obstacles in modernisation. She has secured
her footings again in the international order, and is becoming an increasingly significant member. China has now gathered enough cultural confidence and space to
fight for her own orientation and autonomy.
The path for recovery of the China from her modern injuries and setbacks is not
going to be smooth. She is surrounded by fierce and encroaching feline states, which
treat her as potential threat and prey at the same time. Yet, the self-returning endeavour of China is imminent in this century. Chinese people and political leaders are
equally compelled by the civilisation-maintenance motivation of China. On the one
hand, ‘the overriding duty to defend a great civilization by upholding a moral order
seems to cause Chinese leaders to discount the risks of irritating other governments’
The hypocrisy of justice and autonomy of nations that they however have to yield to ‘universal
values’ or ‘universal standards’, defined by the West is now an open secret about the Westphalian
nation-state system (Ling 2014: 1).
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(Pye 1992: 250). On the other, Chinese people almost have magical ‘faith in history
and the cycle of change’ that China will return to her former glory and status.
(T)hey have often been able to convince themselves…(m)erely with the passage of time
cycles would change, and China would expect to rise again to its position of acknowledged
historical greatness…This basic outlook has made the Chinese talk…about the need for
‘revitalizing’ life and about the arrival of ‘Chinese renaissance’ (Pye 1992: 127).
China’s striving for the resurgence of a Chinese (regional) world order in the twenty-­
first century, based upon the image of Silk Road, will be an important part of her
self-returning and self-reinventing trajectory in modernity.
Imagining China in the New Silk Road
The importance of Chinese past and the nature of China as a civilisational entity on
the modern development can hardly be overstated. The burden of being observant to
a great but inertial civilisation was perhaps the source of the cultural and historical
setbacks, and the existential injuries of this ancient civilisation in the modern era.
But the burden at one time is the steadfast anchor at the other. When China goes
beyond the initial state of existential disorientation in modernity, she inevitably
draws inspiration from her historical legacy to gauge the development of contemporary China, and reorient herself.
China’s grand scheme of the BRI should hence be comprehended as China’s
attempts to reinvent her traditions and institutions of foreign relations in the reminiscence of the past to (re)build a regional world order. It is about the revitalisation
of the commercial and cultural connection of the historical Silk Road and the re-­
enactment of tributary system, politico-symbolic in nature, at the same time. The
New Silk Road project, given its economic outlook, is driven in the main by a cultural imagination of the historical Pax Sinica—the world order that is largely fragmented in the modern era. In the process China will strive to transcend the rigidity
of the Westphalian conception of state and political community, which is the political product of Western history and worldview and increasingly found to be a myth
in actual practice (Osiander 2001).
Thinking beyond Westphalian conception does not mean China will overstep her
neighbours’ sovereignty. She just has her own conceptions about inter-state relations and more flexible understanding of the boundaries of political community.
Cultivated by the traditional tributary system, China does not understand foreign
relations in relatively abstract terms as inter-state relations. In this connection,
China does not see foreign relations as primary political in nature, along Weber’s
(1978: 53) line of interpretation, as contesting political actors seeking to impose
one’s will against the other. China used to regard foreign relations in kindred, personified terms, albeit anti-equalitarian, like ruler and minister, father and son, uncle
and nephew or nowadays friend-to-friend. The normative expectation is the relevant
parties would each act in accordance to what is apposite to his role, and if that is the
Imagining China in the New Silk Road: The Elephant and the World…
case, the relations will be harmonious.15 By implication, the Chinese idea of political community always extends over a transnational, cultural framework of reference, much further than the restricted nation-state of a national people, to include
states and peoples in some kind of kindred ties. Those who, without much deliberation, criticise China for expansionism or exercising hegemony through BRI are too
preoccupied by the epistemic hegemony hegemonic interpretation of the West to
conceive that there is alternative and equally valid approach in handling (historical)
foreign relationship. They have failed to consider the fundamental communal
Chinese imagination of inter-state relationship and mistake China’s relatively apolitical undertakings in dealing with issues of political nature.
The idea of the New Silk Road recalls the precious memory of friendship, trade,
and cultural exchange between China and her neighbours and trade partners in the
past. When the traditional Chinese world order disintegrates in the modern age,
many of the states along the (New) Silk Road turn into developing countries and
only partially integrated into or even being marginalised by the capitalist world
system. Rebuilding the New Silk Road network represents thus to many of these
periphery or semi-periphery states a renewed opportunities to feel incorporated into
an order which is more inclusive and cosmopolitan in nature, and familiar to them.
he Tide of Global Rebalancing and China’s New Silk
Despite the cacophony over China’s BRI in Western media, the New Silk Road,
sociologically speaking, is propelled by the structural and power disparity of the
world order after the end of the Cold War. The American-led West, albeit increasingly fragmented, becomes the unrivalled hegemon and power-wielder of the world.
It invokes cultural or even epistemic hegemony to demonise its competitors, like in
the case of China and Russia, or cajoles the weaker states both with carrot and stick
to fall under its radar of influence. Or else, they will be the foe to the West. The dissolution of the Soviet Union also introduces new dynamics and potentials in the
Eurasian region, and calls for new form of regional integration.
The exclusionary practices and unilateralism of the America-led West, in the
name of universal values, have become ever more hostile to its competitors and
fabricated ‘enemies’, breeding terrorism at one extreme and estrangement at other.
The Arab world in particular suffers greatly in their ties to both America and Europe
after the 911 incident in 2001. This is how the rejected Arab world gradually turns
away from the West and rediscovers China in the New Silk Road. China ‘offers a
way for the Arab world to hedge its relationship with the West. The resurrection of
the Silk Road is a timely reminder that the world’s center of gravity may not always
China was not always the superordinate partner. In Song dynasty, for example, China was the
subordinate partner, the nephew, to her militarily stronger neighbours. But the personified principle
guiding the foreign relations between China and her neighbours was consistent.
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lie in the West’ (Simpfendorfer 2009: 1). Simpfendorfer’s observation signifies the
enthusiasm of the Arab world to have closer partnership with China, and the integration process of China and the Arab world starts well before China’s formulation
Similarly, China’s integration with the Central Asian region began also in the
1990s soon after the fall of the Soviet Union. The dissolution of authoritarian control of the Soviet Union over Central Asia releases vitality to the region. The sudden
void of overarching power nonetheless introduces potential instability and disorganisation. The formation of an alternative regional order is what the newly established
Central Asian states aspire for. The precursor of the Shanghai Cooperation
Organisation (SCO), Shanghai Group, which brought together China and the new
states in the settlement of border issues in the 1990s is the manifestation of the need
and early success of closer regional cooperation in Central Asia. The platform further develops into the SCO today that fosters more comprehensive bi-lateral relationship between China and her Central Asian neighbours (Peyrouse 2009).
As told from both the cases of the Arab world and Central Asia, China’s closer
integration with her neighbours and traditional Silk Road partners takes place as a
result of the global power rebalancing after the end of the Cold War (Deepak 2018),
and the intensifying unilateralism of the America-led West that couches inter-state
relationship in binary friend or foe manner. This growing connection can also be
interpreted as a rebound of history, which has contingently derailed the long-­
standing friendship and interaction in the Eurasian region and the Silk Road in the
modern age. China’s New Silk Road vision is therefore by no means her one-­
dimensional infatuation in (re)building the Chinese (regional) world order. It reflects
both the collective historical anticipation, for China and her neighbours and partners, and structural propensity of the asymmetrical world. China has just taken up
the calling of a civilisation-state to ride on the social and historical undercurrents
and the world’s craving for a new centre of gravity beyond the West and counter-­
balancing the West.
he Formation of a New (Regional) World Order
Reminiscing the Image of an Ancient One
The order China seeks to reinstate through the BRI resembles in the main the symbolic order and arrangement of traditional tributary system. The tributary system
was the foundation and institution of a more compact and generalised order in the
region. It for certain had its political dimension, but politics was not its only essence.
Through the tributary system, China and her neighbours actually engaged in ‘generalised’, ceremonial relations, not unlike Malinowski’s (1922) famous studies on
the Kula ring. The tributary system built around China asked more for symbolic
than political submission to China with ulterior end resided in the collective affirmation and promotion of the Chinese world order (Li 2002). Ceremonial
Imagining China in the New Silk Road: The Elephant and the World…
relationship necessarily involves the exchange of gifts and rituals. The tributes sent
by the vassals were the prestation—gift of cultural and ceremonial nature than political and material offerings—to China.16 Being the suzerain, China did not gain
much from tributes materially (Kim 1980) or even lost economically (Ge 2013:
71–72). The superior status of China in the Chinese cultural order obliged China to
reciprocate generously.17 Gifts are symbolic goods that reflect and reinforce the
status and authority of the participating parties (Mauss 2001). The ongoing gift
cycle in the tributary system functioned ritualistically in the (re)affirming of the
­collective order ushered by China and her vassals.
Interpreting within the historical tradition of China’s foreign relations and the
foundational nature of China as a civilisation, lying behind the economic motive of
the BRI is China’s programme of regenerating the Chinese (regional) world order.
This reminisces the pre-modern tributary system, and constructive partnership of
the Silk Road. As a powerful state and given the asymmetry of national strength of
China and her neighbours, the priority of Chinese foreign relations today, as it was
in the pre-modern time, is to find way to co-exist peacefully with her neighbours
and develop productive collaboration. Instead of juxtaposing each as weakly connected, potential rivals as against one other, China looks to re-enact the traditional
ceremonial relationship with her neighbours and partners in a collective order,
superimposing politics, economic, and culture, in the grand New Silk Road agenda.
Trade and commerce of the New Silk Road will be the motive force for reactivating
the historical communal network and closer social and cultural interaction. It is the
mode of interaction greatly familiar to states in the traditional Chinese world order.
The essence of the Chinese (regional) world order is the collective symbolic
submission to a supreme cultural and moral order, but not direct subservience to
China. It is a China-steered order, and not a China-dominant order. China and the
Chinese world order are analytically distinctive concepts, even though China, for
her paramountcy in its population, size, and social and economic capacity, was the
de facto centre and guardian of that civilisational world order for most of the historical time. China, as a pivotal state in the area, now perceives it to be her duty to create
conditions favourable to the regeneration and perpetuation of this lost regional
order. China is ‘taking the lead’, in Chinese Qiantou, in the project of regional
world order rebuilding in the modern time. That is why Chinese Government
chooses ‘Initiative’, instead of strategy or policy, to name her Belt and Road agenda.
‘Taking the lead’ (Qiantou) denotes that the leading role China seeking is primarily
a soft leadership—a positional one like the elephant kind, contributing to the
­formation and maintenance of a collective enterprise, and not the pre-emptive, covThe semantics of the Chinese term for gift —‘li wu’ means literally the object for ‘li’, rituals and
Chinese government bore the cost of the embassies in the capital and returned expensive gifts in
exchange for the tributes she received. The gifts from the Chinese emperors to the envoys were
necessary recompense for the ritualistic subordination for her vassals. These are also the reasons
why foreign representatives in most cases had to preform a series of rituals to the Chinese emperors, including kowtowing, to demonstrate such symbolic subservience.
S.-H. Chan
etous kind like the lion. Within Chinese cultural context, Qiantouren, the persons
who take the lead always have to contribute more and make sacrifices if it is necessary. They do not primarily look for direct benefits. They take the initiatives usually
because of righteous cause and moral responsibility. Also, Qiantouren have to rely
on the consensus and backings of other stakeholders for the success of a common
project, and hence often situate in a rather uneasy situation.
ift Cycle and Regional Solidarity Along the New Silk
The trillions of RMB China invests or prepares to put into the construction of the
transportation network or infrastructural project along the New Silk Road is both
the commitment of the Qiantouren and the economic incentives for China’s neighbours to support the collective project. While economic fruits are not unimportant,
they are not necessarily the most important concern for China. This civilisation-­
state is looking for more than reaping the economic benefits from such investment.
To interpret sociologically, the mega-investment is the gift—a token of goodwill—
China sends to her neighbours inviting them to participate in the renewed cultural
and political community of states in the region. Gifts exchange enhances solidarity
between involving parties (Douglas 2001: x; Mauss 2001). No matter they were
tributes or returned gifts in the past or Chinese proposed infrastructural investment
or subsidy in the BRI region, when China and her neighbours enter into gift cycle,
they are not just exchanging material goods, or having economic transactions. They
enter into some kind of collective order.
The gift cycle extends relationship and binds China and her neighbours—otherwise potential contestants—into reciprocity, which entails sundry mutual obligations in hospitality, non-aggression, and cooperation. The New Silk Road is China’s
proxy for enveloping her neighbours and traditional partners into mutuality, into the
‘community of common destiny’.18 Communal imagination would provide better
foundation and institution for resolving the emerging inter-border, resources and
ethnic conflicts, and enhancing regional communication and co-operation. If the
project is successful, a new (regional) world order would be formed. The prospective New Silk Road order will re-establish broken friendship and connect different
states in friendly trading terms—the important basis for deeper regional integration.
This prospective order would be a more inclusive and cosmopolitan one, which
provides alternative to the unilateralism and discrimination of the America-led
West. Only when such world order is reinstated and maintained, China as a
­civilisation would be able to return to herself, understand herself fully, and feel her
historical mission completed in the modern era.
This concept is mobilised frequently by Chinese leaders in the last few years in international
speeches. For the discussion of the meaning and implication, refer to Zhang (2018).
Imagining China in the New Silk Road: The Elephant and the World…
Conclusion: (No to Be) The Elephant in the World Jungle
The article deploys the jungle metaphor and the anthropomorphic images of lion
and elephant to gauge the divergent worldviews and ontological departures of the
West and China. The main purpose is to outline China’s unique ontological perspective and mode of understanding the world, which is a compatible, self-sufficient
alternative to the Western model. China’s ontological perspective and the historical
context of the Silk Road must be taken into careful consideration when the New Silk
Road is interpreted.
The world has long been appropriating uncritically the episteme of the West,
because this is the hegemonic—the most natural and convenient choice, to frame
major moves in China, the Arab world or other non-Western parts of the world.
Their actions are often denigrated as posing threat to the West as a result. Western
epistemic hegemony often enables the America-led West to monopolise discourses
and to have monologue about the non-West in the global media and discursive
space. Such kind of hegemonic framing is not only inflicting symbolic violence on
the framed by suppressing their voices, distorting the meaning of what is held dear
to the development of their indigenous societies and cultures. It all but blocks communication and promotes ‘democratic authoritarianism’, to borrow Ulrich Beck
(2002), of the West by closing the door of dialogue and forcing non-Western peoples and societies to yield to the demand of the hegemon. Monopolising discursive
powers and effectively pressuring others to subscribe to Western ideological apparatus allow the hegemon to maintain its hegemony and domination without facing
too many challenges.
If cosmopolitanism, instead of authoritarianism, is the collective destiny the
world strives towards, then we must learn to listen to the voices of China, the Arab
world, and people in the global south, and respect them. Listening to their voices is
only the very first step. The episteme and worldview of the West must be relativised
to provide room of imagination to accommodate other ways of thinking and looking
at the world. Our world will not be a truly cosmopolitan and polyphonic place without such relativising and dehegemonising efforts. This is also what underlies my
attempts in this article to articulate an alternative view, a more culturally authentic
one, to Western framing in the interpretation of China and her New Silk Road plan.
It is time that scholars reflect on their epistemic standpoints and shed off the unwarranted epistemic hegemony long applied to the study of other societies.
Even though this article deploys the jungle metaphor, it is after all an unsatisfactory expediency for the study of China. It still falls in line with Western political
mentality and worldview in seeing the world as full of tensions and conflicts. It
would not be totally appropriate to invoke the logic of the wild if China is concerned. She has an entirely different worldview and self-image. Cultural and social
metaphors would be much more suitable for this highly civilised state. China does
not have the wariness and existential insecurity of living in the wild as the West. She
only has the cognition of living in the human world. She is civilised and believes
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only the barbaric resorts to measures of strength and power. The civilised likes to
use reasons, communication and observes moral propriety.
Unfortunately, China is still surrounded by many who conceive the world and
inter-state relations in the manner of jungle. So China from time to time is compelled to adapt herself partially to the logic of the wild, which is largely against her
will and nature. But even if that is the case, China is still conscious of herself as a
civilisation, and will not be easily corrupted by the dynamics of the animal world to
become another belligerent species. She just wants to be the peaceful giant, the
elephantine existence in the world jungle: one who does not attack first, and shies
away from possible aggression as far as possible.
Let us wait and see when China will be able to fulfil her civilisational mission in
installing a new world order, and instilling in people’s mind a new type of cultural
worldview of cosmopolitanism and communitarianism.
Acknowledgement I would like to express my gratitude to Professor Hoi-Man Chan from the
Department of Sociology, the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He had read through the manuscript and provided valuable insights for its revision. I also like to thank the reviewers for their
comments. All remaining mistakes and insufficiencies are mine.
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Chapter 4
The Silk Road in the West: Lebanon’s
Industrial History and Current Prospects
for Partnership with China
Mark Perry
In antiquity Lebanon was an important western terminus of the Silk Road. From its
ports silk and other luxury goods from Asian territories as distant as China were
transported to Greece and Rome. In time the influence of the silk trade drew the
Lebanese themselves into production of cocoons, thread and fabric. The arc of this
spectacular economic development declined soon after its zenith a decade before
World War I, leaving no significant trace in Lebanese culture by the 1980s. Strangely,
an industry that transformed Lebanon from a feudal economy into a significant
participant in a rapidly evolving sector of international capitalism, involving not
only hotly demanded luxury goods but ever-expanding flows of capital and banking
power, had little enduring influence in the country, and the Lebanese found themselves after World War I with no meaningful industrial role in the modernizing
world. Only through the rise of a new product, Middle Eastern oil, did Lebanon
regain its footing and economic status.
But Lebanon’s recent history is likewise a story of light and shadow. Just as the
glory days of sericulture ended when Lebanese farmers, who had converted nearly
all of their food crops to silk production, faced famine in the wake of World War I,
so too the influx of oil money in Lebanon, and the political power it entailed, fueled
far greater internal violence than the traditionally contentious and competitive factions in Lebanon had ever known, resulting in a devastating 15-year civil war.
Despite these trials, Lebanon still holds a potentially strong position in the modern world and the international economy. Unlike most nations of the Middle East,
Lebanon enjoys a rare combination of resources: plentiful supplies of fresh water, a
temperate climate year round, mountains and seashore ideal for tourism, and outstanding commercial ports connecting the Arab world directly with southern Europe.
M. Perry (*)
General Education Office, United International College, Zhuhai, China
e-mail: [email protected]
© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019
Md. N. Islam (ed.), Silk Road to Belt Road,
M. Perry
But the goal of establishing a solid industrial sector remains elusive, and thus
Lebanon’s true potential remains unfulfilled.
China, which is vigorously building ties with direct neighboring states and more
distant relatives along the Silk Road, has indicated in recent years its interest in
developing Lebanon’s long delayed economic potential.
Silk was known to the Greeks before regular contact with China through the Silk
Road, but it was a local “wild silk” which required far greater labor to process and
produced inferior results.
Alexander the Great (356–323 BCE) wore silk robes dyed with the purple murex
dye of the Phoenicians; his silk was likely from China, yet this was an exceptional
case, as at that time Chinese silk was generally unknown in the Mediterranean world
(Kurin 2002).
Chinese silk first appeared in Rome by the third century BCE. The Silk Road
became a firmly established trade route in the second century BCE, and the first
great wave of silk products flooded Rome’s luxury markets by the time of Pliny the
Elder in the first century CE (Kurin 2002; Liu 2010:32). By that period the use of
the famed purple dye was also standard among Rome’s elite, indirectly uniting in
luxury commerce the Chinese with the Phoenicians, whose homeland would later
become known as Lebanon.
In the sixth century CE the monopoly of world silk production held by China was
broken when, according to legend, two monks returned from Asia to Constantinople
with smuggled silkworm eggs hidden in their walking canes, and from that time
Byzantium was established as a Western center for the production of silk comparable in quality to that of China (Kurin 2002; King 2017:54, note 94; Ducousso
1913:34). In the same period fine silk production was likewise established in Persia,
and by the end of the eighth century it had spread to the Syrian capital of Damascus
and to North Africa (Kurin 2002; Liu 2010:80, 93).
By the beginning of the European renaissance high quality silk production was
established in Europe, specifically in northern Italy. Most significantly for our study
of Lebanon, the next European city to become a center for silk production was Lyon
in the mid-fifteenth century, and a century later it was granted a monopoly on the
industry by Francois I, who was fanatically devoted to this luxury and wished to
create a supply independent of Italy and under his personal control (Currie 2001:7;
Essinger 2004:15).
Consequently France emerged as a major producer of silk, and as production
became systematized with the rise of advanced industrial methods, silk fabric gradually grew more affordable to the middle class, making it a popular aspect of French
In the early 1800s, however, a disease struck the silkworm population in Italy,
and reached France around 1849. French silk cocoon production, which had reached
The Silk Road in the West: Lebanon’s Industrial History and Current Prospects…
26 million kilograms in 1853, fell to only 4 million in 1865, forcing the French to
seek blight–free lands abroad in which to continue their work (Tyndall 1870:181).
For both practical and political reasons, Lebanon proved to be one of their most
attractive targets. Lebanese had been producing silk since the seventh century, when
the industry had become established in Byzantium and Damascus (Firro 1990:151).
The French were already deeply involved in Lebanon, having founded silk-spinning
factories in the Mount Lebanon region as early as 1838. Regular transportation
existed between France and Lebanon by means of steamboat lines between
Marseilles and Beirut. Lebanese farmers were encouraged by rising cocoon prices
to expand and intensify production, especially in the aftermath of the European
blight, and what had been a secondary source of income quickly became primary.
French entrepreneurs chose the Christian region of Mount Lebanon specifically
to be “distant enough from the Muslim cities” to avoid “exciting too many sensitivities.” It is clear that distrust and intolerance between the various communities of the
Lebanese mountains were exacerbated not only by geographical isolation but also
differences of religion and tribal culture. To facilitate their business ventures the
French naturally relied on ties with fellow Christians in Lebanon, where French
missionaries had been working since 1770. Moreover, Lebanon’s well established
pre-industrial culture of silk cocoon production “was most common” in those
regions, a situation that was in part due to that area’s plentiful supply of water and
pinewood needed for the processing of cocoons (Khater 2001:26–27).
All of these developments were supported by increasing French involvement in
Lebanese political affairs from the early 1860s, when the French military gained
extensive experience intervening on behalf of Christian communities to resolve
their conflicts with other religious sects (Ibid: 26).
French demand for silk was so great that orders rose not only for cocoons but
also for thread and, later, finished cloth. The Lebanese, in satisfying these demands,
dramatically raised their technological culture as well as their national economy to
new levels, shedding a mostly feudal agricultural order and entering an accelerating
world capitalist economy (Ibid, Khater: 26; Ibid, Firro: 166). In 1867 there were 67
silk factories in the Beirut area, and by 1912 there were 200 throughout Lebanon,
employing over 10,000 men and women (Fevrét 1949:256; Ducousso
By that time, however, on the eve of World War I, the silk industry in Lebanon
was already experiencing decline. Lebanese entrepreneurs lacked the capital needed
to modernize their factories and keep pace with cutting edge industrial practices in
Europe. With the rapid development of international shipping lines that could take
advantage of the Suez Canal, overwhelming competition from the East arose.
Superior cocoons were being shipped from Japan and China, and Japanese manufacturers, who had far more advanced factories than the Lebanese, were shipping superior silk thread and fabric around the world. To make matters worse, new synthetic
fabrics were further undermining the silk market. Khater concludes: “Although the
demise of the silk industry was not abrupt, it was quick enough that for all intents
and purposes sericulture had ceased to be of any economic value in [Mount Lebanon]
by World War I” (Ibid, Khater: 202, note 50; 207, note 120; Ducousso 1913:144).
M. Perry
Lebanon’s silk industry collapsed so completely that it was unknown to younger
generations of Lebanese until 2001, when a museum dedicated to reviving interest
in the heritage of sericulture opened in the village of Bsous.
Economic and Social Impact
At its height the silk industry became the leading economic sector in Lebanon and
transformed the country’s economy. Firro (1990:163–164) states: “From the 1840s
to the beginning of the 1900s, the value of Syrian silk and cocoon exports generally
registered an upward trend,” and such exports were “handled at the port of Beirut.
Silk averaged almost 30 percent of exports shipped from all Syrian ports (including
those of Palestine) and close to 70 percent of that at the Beirut port.” Not surprisingly, Lebanese farmers received only a small fraction of this treasure; middlemen
in Beirut and Tripoli took the lion’s share (Ibid), an arrangement which drove the
rise of the middle class in Beirut and the transformation of the city from an Ottoman
backwater into an internationally connected trading powerhouse.
The social ramifications of this shift, beginning around 1860, were profound and
reached every corner of Lebanon. Whereas traditional Lebanese society was led by
landlords with substantial agricultural holdings passed down from father to son,
now the influence of international capitalism bypassed the old structure and raised
up the urban entrepreneurs flush with silk money (Ibid: 163). The long history of
traditional patriarchy, and the myriad folkways and social rules that had evolved
with it, were now subject to rapid changes reflecting the silk industry’s dominance
and the influence of European cultural standards (Ibid, Khater: 38–42). Among the
most important new developments was the entrance of girls and women into factory
work, breaking with centuries of tradition requiring that they live out their lives in
the households of their father, husband or other male family member. This was the
first step toward the economic and social emancipation of Lebanese women, one of
the first such steps among women throughout the Middle East.
With the demise of sericulture, the bottom dropped out of the Lebanese economy; but of equal importance is the fact that such a dramatic economic loss, in such
a small country, had a tremendous social and cultural impact enduring even to the
present. “At the time of the establishment of Greater Lebanon in 1920,” writes
Carolyn Gates (1998:24), “almost two-thirds of the population were dependent
upon the agrarian sector, which was in a state of crisis as a result of the First World
War and the decline of sericulture.” Whereas in the 1800s Lebanese found expanded
labor opportunities abroad, especially in America, and the silk industry itself suddenly appeared on their doorstep resulting from the unexpected blight in Europe,
now in the period between the two World Wars, America’s economic door was closing and the silk industry was an empty shell. In economic terms, Lebanon was
experiencing a perfect storm, the effects of which exacerbated sectarian violence
and antagonism for decades thereafter even till today. In collaboration with French
experts, Lebanese attempted to revive sericulture, “but output of cocoons in the
The Silk Road in the West: Lebanon’s Industrial History and Current Prospects…
Levant never reached more than two-thirds of prewar levels” (Ibid). Whereas the
silk industry employed 10,000 workers in 1912, all modern industries in Lebanon in
1937 employed less than 5000. World War II was yet another serious blow that
removed most of the surviving silk industry in Lebanon, and the final traces faded
by the 1980s (Ibid: 27–28).
China’s Interest
China has expressed great interest in renewing economic and cultural ties with Syria
and Lebanon as part of its Belt and Road Initiative. In September 2017 Raed Khury,
Lebanon’s Minister of Economy and Trade, signed a memorandum of understanding with China to promote economic cooperation (NNA 2017). The potential impact
of this diplomatic step is clear in the details of the memorandum, which calls for
cultural exchanges, political cooperation, and the formulation of joint projects
Should China and Lebanon proceed with their cooperation, there is little doubt
that the outcome would be the most significant force for economic growth in
Lebanon’s history. As we have seen with the history of its silk industry, Lebanon
has, throughout the age of modern international capitalism, been plagued by a lack
of capital with which to sustain industries at the cutting edge. China would be more
than able to provide such a vital resource.
Of indirect but critical importance is China’s role in negotiating a resolution to
the current conflict in Syria. Before the outbreak of hostilities, China already had
“tens of billions of US dollars invested in Syria’s oil and gas industry” (Escobar
2017), which means China is an established influence in the country and the region.
With vast capital resources, its word at the negotiating table no doubt has a profound
impact. The various contending factions in the Middle East may well see in cooperation with China a future of real industrial and technological development far
outshining the political and economic competitions that sparked their conflicts in
the first place. And once Syria achieves peace and begins rapid redevelopment,
Lebanon, which holds the largest ports in the region, will be a chief and immediate
beneficiary. In short, the revival of Silk Road ties means that Lebanon is poised on
the threshold of a total economic transformation.
Is It Realistic?
The social indicators are favorable. The Lebanese and Syrian populations, though
economically restricted, are relatively well educated. Indeed, the oldest American
university outside the United States is the American University of Beirut, founded
in 1866. For all the contentiousness and disunity marring the Middle East decade
after decade, Syrians and Lebanese have greatly benefitted from long association
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with Western styles of education, with literacy in Arabic, English and French, with
habits of international commerce and banking, and with the strikingly successful
yet ultimately capital–starved Lebanese sericulture itself. Lebanon in particular has
been the pioneer of women’s education in the Middle East. Even after the fall of
sericulture, which had given women their first access to industrial economic activity
outside the family home, the rise of women continued in Lebanon. In 1924 American
missionaries founded the Middle East’s first women’s institution for higher education, the Beirut College for Women, which was the sister school of the all-male
American University of Beirut, and which set a new cultural standard that gradually
convinced fathers to allow their daughters to gain education at all levels, primary
through graduate school.
Another indicator—though a negative one—of the great economic and social
potential that makes Lebanon a fertile field for Chinese development aid and investment, is the country’s chronic brain drain over the past 40 years, a steady stream of
talented youth migrating to greener pastures in Europe, the Americas and Australia.
The Lebanese population regularly produces large numbers of highly skilled workers, entrepreneurs, scientists, technologists, artists and academics, and the very fact
that they leave Lebanon’s shores for brighter opportunities elsewhere must clearly
indicate to China that Lebanon is undervalued due to environmental circumstances.
It appears, then, that China, in assessing the economic and social potential of
Lebanon, has reached a positive conclusion that with careful investment these hindering circumstances can be remedied. Like any investors seeking a good deal,
China’s planners have recognized Lebanon as a diamond in the rough, requiring a
relatively small investment to reap dramatic returns.
A third indicator that Chinese investment in Lebanon could be richly rewarded is
found in recent history: America has played the same role in other continents with
great success. Here China is stepping in to fill a vacuum, as did the United States at
the end of World War II. Lebanon and Syria have been, for most of modern history,
neglected or underappreciated by larger more powerful states overseeing them and
exploiting their resources, from the Ottomans to the French to various political factions sponsored by one great power or another. Throughout this history none of the
senior states was ever willing to make a committed long–term investment in
Lebanon itself, resulting in a severe economic and infrastructural vacuum. Perhaps,
then, China is, consciously or not, taking a page from America’s post–World War II
history in Europe and Japan, where the Marshall Plan and the Japanese reconstruction—which were relatively modest investments in the long term—raised prostrate
defeated enemies into self-sustaining economic and cultural powerhouses who, not
surprisingly, have remained firm allies of the United States.
These three indicators—an educated and experienced population, a steady brain
drain, and the historical successes of America’s own economic investments abroad—
are clear evidence that China’s proposed cooperation with Lebanon is, at the very
least, reasonable, with a high possibility of great rewards for relatively small investments. The potential rewards are even greater when we consider also the fact that
Lebanon is located at the confluence of Europe, Asia and Africa; in an era when
globalization has become the central theme of all economic activity, in whatever
The Silk Road in the West: Lebanon’s Industrial History and Current Prospects…
continent, country or city, Lebanon represents the intersection of global economic
and social forces that will only grow stronger with time, and whoever invests early
will enjoy the greatest advantages.
Suspicions and Fears
Given humanity’s checkered experience with the rise of great powers, whether of
the East or the West, it is only natural that some observers regard China’s proposals
and activities in Lebanon and Syria with caution, concern, suspicion and even fear.
Similar reactions have accompanied Chinese investments in Africa, where warnings of neo–colonialism and concerns about Chinese workers entering the labor
force in local economies have been raised for several decades. Chinese investments
in Africa began in 1970, and from the year 2000 have accelerated in a series of systematic programs increasing loans, direct investments, Chinese workers in Africa
and trade between Africa and China. Since 1970 China has invested over USD 300
billion in Africa, making the Chinese presence on the continent both prominent and,
to some, worrisome (Larmer 2017; Manero 2017; China Africa Research Initiative).
The history of colonialism and neo–colonialism has taught Africans to expect to pay
a heavy political and economic price for the “cooperation” of outside powers and
investors. Some observers might argue that the dark history of exploitation in Africa
is identified exclusively with Westerners, and therefore China represents a new and
quite independent source of capital free of the destructive and exploitative habits
associated with past foreign investment (Monyae 2016; Smith 2015). Others are not
convinced, hence the ongoing debate. The same conflicted emotions are influencing
Lebanese as their cooperative relations with China deepen.
In 1955 businessman Adnan Kassar took the initiative to develop ties between
Lebanon and China even before formal diplomatic relations were established. To
this day he and his Chinese counterparts continue to promote cooperation between
the two countries, their efforts bearing fruit in a variety of fields, including cultural
and academic exchanges, tourism, peacekeeping and humanitarian and military aid
(Xinhua 2015). In 2017 China offered Lebanon a USD 2 billion investment deal,
and in 2018 gave a grant of USD 35 million for the construction of Lebanon’s
national music conservatory and opera house (Xinhua 2018; Alieh 2017). The conflict in Syria has flooded Lebanon with refugees, straining economic resources but
also raising hopes for increased international economic aid that would benefit
Syrians and Lebanese alike. Looking toward the inevitable end of the Syrian conflict, Lebanese anticipate new and bountiful economic opportunities in the reconstruction work for decades ahead. The optimists anticipate that the active involvement
of China, with its vast capital resources, is about to transform the region, which has
never before had such generous long–term economic support.
On the other hand, pessimistic observers argue that China is stepping into an
arena already poisoned by generations of sectarian feuding, civil war and international war. It is a situation so complex and deep–rooted, they assert, that China
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could become embroiled in a no–win situation (Payne 2016). Indeed, one could
further argue that by providing massive infusions of capital, China would only add
fuel to a smoldering political fire. Without first achieving a reliable peace and stability in the Middle East, as did the United States in Europe and Japan after World War
II, investing in reconstruction might well intensify the chronic destabilization that
already exists.
Beyond the issue of the practicality of Chinese investments in Lebanon and the
wider Middle East, some Lebanese, as do some Africans, question China’s motive.
Even amongst themselves the Lebanese are known to be suspicious of outsiders
from a neighboring village, let alone from the other side of the world. Although this
xenophobic tradition is gradually fading under the influence of globalization, it is
still strong enough to contribute to the persistent and debilitating political tensions
existing in Lebanon today. In this context, the entry of China into Lebanon’s political and economic matrix is seen by more cynical Lebanese as a contest in which
Lebanon and China each try to gain advantages from the other and exit the relationship without having lost anything of value. The cynics suspect that although the
relationship is framed as a win–win “cooperation” between two states, it may in fact
be a Machiavellian trap destined to produce a loser, and they fear that China’s
friendship may come with a hidden price tag in lost economic and political power
that Lebanon would inevitably regret.
In such a fluid political and economic context both the optimist and the pessimist
have valid grounds for their arguments, and the outcome of China’s role in the
Middle East cannot be predicted. This very unpredictability is an important point
that allows for further analysis of the situation.
The Globalization Factor
Globalization is a primary cause of unpredictability, not only in political and economic relations but in all aspects of human activity, from the arts to science and
technology. Today we simply cannot predict how individual actions, and how the
political strategies of nation states, will create change. The immediate post–World
War II era had an economic and political logic that made the Marshall Plan and
reconstruction in Japan reasonable and predictable. But today, with changes—
including environmental threats and even random events of global significance—
occurring at a far faster pace than in the 1940s and 1950s, we simply cannot predict
with any real confidence the full result of investments we make now, and therefore
the Marshall Plan may no longer serve as an accurate model. Disruption is now not
exceptional but constant, and from this fact both the optimist and the pessimist can
claim to find support for their arguments.
The optimistic view is that chaos, or constant disruption, provides the fluidity for
new realities to be created. When traditions are strictly observed, actions and ideas
are locked into nearly unbreakable patterns, and society evolves only very slowly. In
times of chaos, however, traditions disintegrate and make room for new thoughts
The Silk Road in the West: Lebanon’s Industrial History and Current Prospects…
and new actions, resulting in the rapid discovery and fulfillment of previously hidden potentialities. Thus China could be viewed as a superhero bringing new creative
powers into play.
The pessimistic view is that chaos, in providing this fluidity of action, not only
unleashes new creative powers but removes the broader traditional limits that had
kept destructive forces in check. It is effectively a lawless state in which the outcome is determined by the strongest party in a Darwinian contest. Thus China could
be viewed as yet another conqueror on the prowl.
Since the future in this rapidly globalizing world is not predictable, we cannot
comment with any confidence on whether the optimist or the pessimist will be
proven correct. Instead, it might be better to argue that globalization is a key to
understanding the future. From this perspective, China, however economically and
politically powerful it may be, is but one actor in a world of actors drawn together
by globalizing forces transcending them all. This means that the world of “superpowers” is fading away and being replaced by another world in which all nation–
states, whether large or small, maximize gain through cooperation. If deep
cooperation is the chief paradigm for international affairs in the globalizing era, we
might summarize it in two principles:
First, profound change can come from anywhere. In a globalizing world, centers
of power like New York, London and Beijing are no longer the primary sources of
innovation or solutions to problems. Since the 1800s we have seen that many of the
technological innovations having the most far–reaching impact on the global economy, like the Wright brothers’ plane and the first Apple computer, have been created
in obscure places by people unknown in the economic centers of society. Chaos
means powerful changes can occur anywhere at any time. States like Lebanon and
Kenya, however small and marginal they may seem, in the globalizing age possess
incalculable potential for technological innovation and cultural creativity, potential
that the human race can no longer afford to ignore.
Second, profits are greatest through cooperation. In other words, hegemonic control causes profits to decline for all concerned, even large and powerful states. This
fact has been best demonstrated by the Internet, which came into existence through
the voluntary actions of institutions and individuals at the grassroots around the
world, and still functions today through such voluntary actions. Without voluntary
participation, the Internet’s infinitely rich informational universe shrinks and thus
loses practical value as a resource for everyone.
Given these two principles, it might be argued that deep cooperation itself is
today the world’s most valuable resource. A nation–state can certainly exist without
participating in worldwide economic, cultural and political networks, but it would
lose access to key resources and be unable to fulfill its higher potentialities. By the
same token, a nation–state that acts on hegemonic policies may in the short run
achieve victories as defined by older models of political action, but in the long run
would shut itself out from the higher profits and, more importantly, higher creative
potentialities that can be obtained only through such universal cooperation as demonstrated by the Internet.
M. Perry
In pursuing its economic cooperation plans in Lebanon and the wider Middle East,
China is at a crossroads: it may choose to follow the traditional political philosophy
that sees the world as a Darwinian contest for land, people and resources, or it may
choose to embrace the new paradigm that sees globalized cooperation as the key to
unlock the hidden potentialities of each nation–state, just as the Internet unlocks the
full potentiality of an individual computer. And China is not the only nation facing
this choice; every state and every community must meet the same challenge.
Globalization is occurring so rapidly and so unpredictably that states may no
longer enjoy complete freedom to choose their policies. Circumstances transcending national sovereignty are rising in importance—foremost the global environmental threats—and forcing nations to alter plans. If global warming and similarly dire
threats continue to darken the horizon of our near future, the actions of every state
will, as in any emergency, shift for the sake of maximizing life and minimizing
dangers. All international action, therefore, whether by China or any other state, is
occurring on a playing field that is constantly being transformed by forces beyond
any state’s control.
Lebanon began building its international ties by means of the silk industry, first
during the Phoenician period over 2000 years ago, then with the rise of sericulture
in Byzantium in the sixth century, and a third time with the investments of the
French in the late 1800s and early 1900s. If self–sustaining economic development
is like a brilliant fire, it never caught on in Lebanon, as the source was always external and sooner or later withdrawn by circumstances. Consequently, over the centuries Lebanon experienced periods of connection and disconnection from the
international economy. China, Lebanon’s polar opposite in more ways than one, has
also experienced the same processes of connection and disconnection, with all the
disruptions and changes they entailed. It may well be that today, as unprecedented
globalization processes grow ever stronger, China, Lebanon, the wider Middle East,
Africa and other partners along the Silk Road may be drawn into a relationship that
makes disconnection ever less likely, and deep cooperation increasingly the principle recognized as the means to maximize benefit for all parties.
Acknowledgements The author would like to thank the following people: Ms. Fung Ying Cham,
Deputy College Librarian at Hong Kong Baptist University–Beijing Normal University United
International College, for her extraordinary support in providing critical research material for this
paper; Dr. Victor Rodriguez, Associate Professor and Acting Director, SINO-US College, Beijing
Institute of Technology Zhuhai, China, and Dr. Kelly Inglis, Dr. Nazrul Islam and Dr. Wong Wei
Chin, my colleagues in the General Education Office of United International College, for their
insights and guidance essential to the revision of this paper; Ms. Yan Siqi for her assistance in
researching Chinese–language sources for this paper.
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Part III
Chapter 5
Religion in China’s Public Diplomacy
Towards the Belt and Road Countries
in Asia
Chow-Bing Ngeow
Since 2013, China has been actively promoting what it calls the “Belt and Road
Initiative” (BRI, originally coined as One Belt One Road), which ambitiously
seeks to revive two ancient trade routes, the overland Silk Road Economic Belt
and the Maritime Silk Road. The number of countries along these two routes is
large. Although not all countries along these routes endorse the Chinese initiative,
many countries do. During the Belt and Road Summit organized in May 2017 in
Beijing, more than thirty heads of state or government attended the Summit and
endorsed BRI.
Although heavily focused on infrastructure linkage, China actually has a more
widened concept of cooperation under BRI, in the form of what it calls the “five
connectivities”: policy coordination, infrastructure connection, trade facilitation,
financial integration, and people-to-people exchange. Together, the five connectivities constitute a comprehensive agenda in forming a long-term and sustainable
cooperative relationship between China and the BRI countries.
There is an important role for “people-to-people exchange,” or in Chinese language, minxin xiangtong (民心相通). There have been a number of cases where
Chinese overseas investment and projects, whether related to BRI or not, are not
welcome or even face active resistance from local populace. China’s image in the
BRI countries varies, from positive to negative, but overall speaking the level of
understanding of China in these countries and vice versa is very low. In this sense,
China has rightly put people-to-people exchange as one of the five key areas of connectivity. The key role of minxin xiangtong, henceforth, is about trust building and
providing a firmer and long term basis of cooperation. The greater that China is able
to achieve a higher level of mutual understanding between China and these ­countries
C.-B. Ngeow (*)
Institute of China Studies, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
e-mail: [email protected]
© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019
Md. N. Islam (ed.), Silk Road to Belt Road,
C.-B. Ngeow
at the societal or people-to-people level, presumably the higher the level of popular
acceptance of China’s initiative, and resulting in greater China’s global status and
prestige, which of course would be beneficial to China’s national interests. In other
words, “people-to-people exchange” is related to China’s “soft power” strategy,
which the Chinese government has been promoting since the turn of the twenty-first
century, through initiatives such as the Confucius Institutes and the internationalization of Chinese media (China Daily and CCTV, for example).
There are different ways to enhance people-to-people exchange. China has organized a number of social-cultural related activities, including media forum, tourism,
educational exchanges, cultural exchanges (both popular culture and high culture),
and so forth. Because there is a heavy involvement of the official side of China in
promoting these activities towards the publics of other countries, these activities can
also be understood as a form of “public diplomacy.”
Religion has so far received only relatively minor attention from Chinese
scholars and officials as one of the mechanisms of enhancing “people-to-people
exchange,” China’s soft power, or public diplomacy. This is a relatively unexamined
aspect, and is sensitive given the Chinese government’s rather guarded attitudes
towards religion. But the issue of religion under the context of BRI has to be studied. While China is atheistic or secular, the people in many countries along the Belt
and Road (especially those in Asia, which is the focus of this chapter) remain
strongly religious, or at least more spiritual or religious compared to the average
Chinese people. To enhance people-to-people exchange, the spiritual dimension
should not be overlooked.
In the following sections, I will first provide an overview of the religiousity of the
publics in the BRI countries in Asia, followed by a review of the current literature
discussing the role of religion in China’s diplomacy (or more specifically, public
diplomacy). Two particular religions, Buddhism and Islam, will be highlighted for
more discussion, before the chapter offers a reflective conclusion.
Religions in the Belt and Road Countries in Asia
Almost all countries in Asia have been included in BRI (as mentioned earlier, not all
of them endorse BRI, such as India). While the three communist states (China,
Vietnam and Loas) are officially atheistic, and while a few more countries are more
or less very secular in nature (such as Singapore and South Korea), religion remains
a very important social and political factor in the vast majority of these countries.
Using data from CIA World Facts Book, the following tables (Tables 5.1, 5.2, 5.3,
5.4, and 5.5) show that vast majority of the publics in countries from Southeast Asia
to West Asia profess to a religious faith. In contrast, people who are reportedly atheistic or without a religion appear to be a clear small minority.
Table 5.6 presents similar data for Greater China areas (Mainland China, Hong
Kong, Macao, and Taiwan), together with three countries selected because of their
overwhelming Chinese population or Confucian heritage, and we get the interesting
Religion in China’s Public Diplomacy Towards the Belt and Road Countries in Asia
Table 5.1 Southeast Asia
East Timor
Table 5.2 Religion in South
Table 5.3 Religion in
Central Asia
Dominant religion(s)
Muslim 78%
Buddhist 97%
Muslim 87.2%
Buddhist 64.7%
Muslim 61.3%
Buddhist 87.9%
Catholic 82.9%
Buddhist 33.9%, Muslim 14.3%, Catholic 18%, Hindu 5.2%,
none 16.4%
Buddhist 94.6%
Catholic 97.6%
Buddhist 7.9%, none 81.8%
Sri Lanka
Dominant religion(s)
Muslim 89.1%
Buddhist 75.3%
Hindu 79.8%
Sunni Muslim (official)
Hindu 81.3%
Muslim 96.4%
Buddhist 70.2%
Dominant religion(s)
Muslim 99.7%
Christian 92.6%
Muslim 96.9%
Orthodox 83.4%,
Muslim 70.2%
Muslim 75%
Sunni Muslim 85%
Muslim 89%
Muslim 88%
contrast that these countries are the most secular in Asia but also are the anomalies,
since in almost all other countries, religions remain overwhelmingly important.
Table 5.7 on the other hand shows that Buddhism and Islam are the two most important religions in Asia (at least in terms of the size of believers). There are a total of
28 Muslim-majority countries, followed by 7 Buddhist-majority countries.
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Table 5.4 Religion in Northeast Asia
Dominant religion(s)
Buddhist 53%, none 38.6%
Protestant 19.7%, Buddhist 15.5%, Catholic 7.9%, none 56.9%
126,451,398 Shintoism 79.2%, Buddhism 66.8% (note: total adherents exceeding
100% because many people practice both)
Table 5.5 Religion in
Western Asia/Middle East
Saudi Arabia
Dominant religion(s)
Muslim 70.3%
Muslim 90%, Christian 10%
Muslim 99.4%
Muslim 99%
Jewish 74.8%
Muslim 97.2%
Muslim 76.7%
Muslim 54% Christian 40.5%
Muslim 85.9%
Muslim 93%
Muslim 67.7%
Muslim 87%
Muslim 76%
Muslim 99.1%
Table 5.6 Religion and population in Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, together with
Singapore, Vietnam, and South Korea
Dominant religion(s)
1,379,302,771 Buddhist 18.2%, Christian 5.1%, Muslim 1.8%, unaffiliated
Buddhist 35.3%, Taoist 33.2%, Christian 3.9%, Taoist or
Confucian folk religionist approximately 10%, none or
unspecified 18.2%
Hong Kong 7,191,503
Eclectic mixture of local religions 90%, Christian 10%
Buddhist 50%, Roman Catholic 15%, none or other 35%
Buddhist 33.9%, Muslim 14.3%, Catholic 18%, Hindu 5.2%,
none 16.4%
Buddhist 7.9%, none 81.8%
South Korea 51,181,299
Protestant 19.7%, Buddhist 15.5%, Catholic 7.9%, none 56.9%
Religion in China’s Public Diplomacy Towards the Belt and Road Countries in Asia
Table 5.7 Comparison of majority religions across countries in Asia
No Dominant Religion
These data provide a clear picture to Chinese officials and scholars that to
promote “people-to-people exchange,” religion is an important factor that cannot be
easily dismissed and neglected.
Religion in China’s Public Diplomacy
The concept and coinage of the term public diplomacy originated from the United
States in 1965. An often cited explanation of the concept explains that “Public
Diplomacy…deals with the influence of public attitudes on the formation and execution of foreign policies. It encompasses dimensions of international relations
beyond traditional diplomacy; the cultivation by governments of public opinion in
other countries; the interaction of private groups and interests in one country with
another; the reporting of foreign affairs and its impact on policy; communication
between those whose job is communication, as diplomats and foreign correspondents; and the process of intercultural communications” (Cull 2006). The importance of the practice of public diplomacy is later augmented by the formulation of
the concept of “Soft Power” by Joseph Nye in early 1990s. Nye conceives Soft
Power as a kind of normative power, meaning the power to attract, to set standard,
and to persuade. While there are many ways to enhance “soft power,” clearly public
diplomacy is one of the tools to accumulate such power.
Chinese officials and scholars have embraced concepts such as “soft power” and
“public diplomacy” that originated from the United States, but usually with their
own modifications to fit into the Chinese political reality where the power of the
party-state must be factored in. Hence, Chinese scholar Zhao Kejin, in examining
the concept of public diplomacy, argues that “the traditional viewpoint (that relegated public diplomacy to marginal status) is limited by the traditional realist theory
of power politics, and fails to understand the intrinsic value and civilizational implications (of public diplomacy). Public diplomacy reflects a government’s efforts to
increase mutual understanding and exchange of different cultures, or that it shows
the social responsibility of a government to increase mutual understanding of different cultural entities; it is a form of marketing of the state, a strategy to form positive
C.-B. Ngeow
Fig. 5.1 Public diplomacy
image of a country” (Zhao 2007: 2). In this Chinese scholar’s reformulation of the
concept, there are two notable aspects. First, it has a much heavier emphasis on
government (or its supporting organizations) as the subject conducting public diplomacy, while the publics of targeted countries are the objects or recipients of public
diplomacy. In this sense, societal interactions without governmental involvement
between two countries would be seen as not exactly public diplomacy but “people-­
to-­people” diplomacy. Second, there is also this dimension of emphasizing “civilizational interaction” as though public diplomacy, while serving the national interests
of the sovereign state, also contributes to peace and harmony of the world. Figure 5.1
illustrates this understanding of public diplomacy.
Many Chinese scholars and think tanks today realize the usefulness and importance of public diplomacy. Chahar Institute, one of the most innovative foreign
policy think tanks in China, has a mission to study and apply public diplomacy.
Yunnan University established a Center of China-ASEAN Public Diplomacy.
Beijing Foreign Studies University also established a Center for Public Diplomacy,
while in Tsinghua University, the Center for International Communication Studies
has been devoted to studies of public diplomacy as well. But none of these think
tanks and centers has paid much attention to religion as a key factor in China’s public diplomacy.
Religion in China’s Public Diplomacy
The religiosity of the targeted publics and societies in the Asian countries along the
BRI henceforth is an important consideration if China wishes to exercise effective
public diplomacy, and to enhance “people-to-people exchange.” Chinese leaders
and officials have in fact been mindful of the international dimension of China’s
domestic religious issues, and sought to utilize government-supporting religious
organizations to promote China’s image internationally. Former Premier Li Peng,
for example, said that “whether we can properly handle the issues of religion will
have international ramifications. We should also on the basis of equality and friendship, proactively and correctly promote external exchanges in the religious sphere”
Religion in China’s Public Diplomacy Towards the Belt and Road Countries in Asia
(quoted in Zhonggong zhongyang wenxian yanjiushi zonghe zhengce yanjiuzu and
Guowuyuan zongjiao shiquju zhengce faguisi 1995: 192). A researcher affiliated
with the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) argues that religious
public diplomacy “publicizes China’s achievements in exchanges with others,
explains China’s policies, demonstrates China’s image, in all these functions religion diplomacy is irreplaceable. Especially Chinese religions always have the features of patriotism, kindness, service to the people, and others. Through exchanges
with foreigners, religious diplomacy shows several virtues of Chinese culture, such
as ‘he wei gui’ (harmony is upmost important) and ‘he er bu tong’ (different yet
harmonious), which are important in forming the friendly, open, civilized, tolerant
images of China” (quoted in Huang 2012: 83).
Nonetheless, the atheistic nature of the party-state has made China extremely
careful and cautious in enlisting China’s own religious organizations or forces to
help build a positive image of China. If the Chinese leaders were mindful of the
international dimension of China’s own domestic religious issues, more often than
not they were worried about so-called “foreign infiltration” that could potentially
destabilize the socio-political order maintained by the Communist Party of China
(CPC). Wang Zuo’an, the current director of SARA, wrote about how China should
guard against the systematic use of religious organizations to upset Chinese political system by western powers (quoted in Wang 2008: 78–80). In April 2016, Beijing
convened a high-level “Conference on Religious Work Affairs,” in which the theme
was to emphasize that all religions in China “must adhere to the leadership of the
CPC, and support the socialist system and socialism with Chinese characteristics”
(Xinhua 2016). In addition, the religious organizations should “merge religious
doctrines with Chinese culture, abide by Chinese laws and regulations, and devote
themselves to China’s reform and opening up drive and socialist modernization in
order to contribute to the realization of the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation”
(Ibid.) The General Secretary of CPC Xi Jinping himself spoke of upholding the
direction of “Sinicization of religions” in the Work Report delivered to the 19th
Party Congress in October 2017. The newest Regulations of Religious Affairs, just
implemented in February 2018, contain many regulations on Chinese religious
organizations’ exchanges with foreign counterparts.
However, a group of Chinese scholars and officials also advocate for greater
mobilization of China’s religions in China’s diplomatic efforts. They advocate for
“China’s religions going out” as part of China’s “cultural going out” strategy, which
in itself is also part of the overall “going out” (zou chuqu) of China’s enterprises,
students, tourist, and so forth since the twenty-first century. This group of scholars
and officials includes Zuo Xinping, director of the Institute of World Religions at
the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), Jiang Jianyong, a deputy director
of SARA, and Xu Yihua, a professor of international relations at Fudan University.
All of them reckon that in order to effectively exercise Chinese soft power and the
so-called “Chinese culture going out,” the active participation of China’s religions
is inevitable. Moreover, they also have a broader and more comprehensive view of
the role of religious diplomacy, of which religious diplomacy can go beyond public
diplomacy (meaning from Chinese government to foreign societies) and also serve
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as the basis for people-to-people diplomacy (see Fig. 5.1) (see Zuo 2013; Xu and
Zou 2014; Jiang and Xu 2015). In effect, they are pleading the Chinese government
to let China’s religions to have more autonomy and freedom in fostering ties and
exchanges with foreign counterpart without heavy involvement of and supervision
by the party-state. The Chinese government has not gone as far as what they have
advocated, but these are legitimate opinions and voices in today China’s scholarly
and policy discourses, albeit still within sensitive and restricted boundary.
rganizational Framework of Religious Public
The atheistic communist party-state recognizes five religions officially: Buddhism,
Taoism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam, and each is governed by a national
body (for instance, China Buddhism Association, China Islamic Association, etc.).
All of them are under the supervision of SARA. SARA is organizationally structured into eight departments (General Office, Policy and Law, Buddhism and
Taoism, Christianity and Catholic Church, Islam, Other Religions, Foreign Affairs,
and Personnel). The Foreign Affairs Department of SARA is the authority in charge
of external exchange activities (including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao) of China’s
domestic religious bodies and individuals (such as religious leaders, scholars,
imams, priests, monks, etc.), and is the frontline governmental body in the promotion and implementation of religious public diplomacy.
Within China, SARA and religious affairs works fall under the purview of the
United Front Work system. China’s United Front Work is a complex political work
system meant for the Chinese communists to win over friendship and support of the
non-communists (primarily inside of China, but occasionally it ventures outside of
China also), the purpose of which is to unite with any force that can be united with
(hence the name United Front). Within the context of the history of the Chinese
communists, during the revolutionary period the targets of the United Front Work
included Kuomintang (during the phases of Northern Expedition against Chinese
warlords and the Anti-Japanese War), industrial-capitalists, “national bourgeoisie,”
and intellectuals, and after the founding of the People’s Republic, the targets shifted
to include ethnic minorities, overseas Chinese, and religious institutions and organizations as well. All religions in China henceforth ultimately are organized with
Chinese communist supervision and leadership within the United Front work system (Lin and Xiao 2012: 272). The United Front Work system is overseen by the
ministerial-level Department of United Front (tongzhanbu 统战部) of the Central
Committee of the CPC, and SARA in fact has been put under the administration of
the Department of United Front since March 2018; before that it was the State
Council that oversaw SARA. The Department of United Front, in turn, has a higher-­
level coordinating body to answer to –the Leadership Small Group on United Front
Work (LSGUFW).
Religion in China’s Public Diplomacy Towards the Belt and Road Countries in Asia
Fig. 5.2 Organizational framework of China’s religious public diplomacy
On the other hand, works related to public diplomacy fall under the purview of
the Foreign Policy work system. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) is the naturally central bureaucracy in charge of implementation of foreign policy, but it also
answers to a higher body called the Central Committee on Foreign Affairs, CCFA
(before March 2018 it was called the Leadership Small Group on Foreign Affairs,
LSGFA). In terms of public diplomacy, within MFA, the Information Department of
MFA is the main organization in charge of public diplomacy, and within the
Department there is an Office of Public Diplomacy. MFA has also organized two
bodies – mostly consist of former ambassadors and diplomats –Public Diplomacy
Advisory Panel and Foreign Policy Advisory Group, to assist in its work on public
Therefore, in theory, religious public diplomacy falls under the purviews of two
work systems within Chinese bureaucracy, as illustrated in Fig. 5.2.
This organizational framework is hypothetical in nature, deduced from the
author’s understanding of China’s bureaucratic line of work, and subject to revision
if empirical evidence shows otherwise. But given the opaque nature of the Chinese
policy-making process, not much empirical evidence regarding the policy process
of China’s religious public diplomacy has emerged (what has emerged is the results
rather than the process of religious public diplomacy). This author also hypothesizes that among the two systems, the United Front system will have a more direct
and important role, as shown in the straight lines in Fig. 5.2, whereas the Foreign
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Policy Work system is more indirect, as shown in the dotted lines. This is because,
ultimately speaking, religious work is deemed the exclusive province of the United
Front and therefore the United Front should have the final say over the role of religion in China’s public diplomacy.
uddhism and Islam in China’s Public Diplomacy
Towards Countries in Asia
Among the five officially recognized religions in China, Buddhism and Islam will
have the most relevance and potential in increasing China’s positive image in the
BRI countries in Asia. Taoism and traditional Chinese folk religions (such as the
worship of the sea goddess Mazu) appeal only mostly to Chinese overseas communities, while Christianity (both Catholicism and Protestantism) has its limitations.
As Table 5.7 above illustrates, the majority of the countries in Asia are either
Muslim-majority or Buddhist-majority. In addition, a number of factors have made
Beijing more wary in enlisting the Chinese Christians in China’s public diplomacy.
These factors include the perception that Christianity is almost synonymous with
the West, the rapid rise in the number of Christians, the historical experiences and
discourse associating Christian missionaries with western imperialism, and the
highly autonomous tendencies of Chinese underground churches.
This leaves Buddhism and Islam as the two major religions that the Chinese
government can enlist and mobilize. Incidentally, these are also the two religions
that have the longest history of interaction with the Chinese civilization (Wang
2002: 304–315; Zhang 2013: 75–82). Among them the Chinese government will
have more trust in Buddhism. As the oldest imported religion, Buddhism over centuries is heavily infused into Chinese (primarily Han) culture, to the extent that
today Buddhism is probably considered a very core of the traditional (Han) Chinese
culture and an “indigenous religion,” with the exception of perhaps Tibetan
Buddhism, which remains practiced mostly by ethnic Tibetans, albeit with a growing number of adherents from the Han people too.
Islam was also imported centuries ago, at around the same time of the second
caliphate. It became a larger presence during the Mongolian Yuan dynasty.
Throughout centuries there has been a degree of partial indigenization of Islam,
especially among the Hui people. The Hui are the descendants of the Arab traders
but over centuries have become heavily assimilated, but still maintain a strong
Muslim identity. The Hui’s history with the Han majority group is not conflict-free,
but in general has been more cordial and harmonious compared to the other major
Muslim ethnic minority, the Uyghur. Historically, China also boasts several heroic
and exceptional Buddhist or Muslim individuals, such as the travelling monks Fa
Xian法显, Xuan Zhuang玄奘 and Yi Jing 义净from the Jing and Tang Dynasties,
and the Ming Dynasty Muslim admiral Zheng He 郑和. Their stories and legends
Religion in China’s Public Diplomacy Towards the Belt and Road Countries in Asia
have become useful myths for China to construct a discourse of civilizational friendship and harmony (Xuecheng 2015: 76–78, 99–100; Lee and Ngeow 2016).1
Buddhism and China’s Public Diplomacy
China is one of the largest Buddhist countries in the world in terms of the size of
believers (about 100 million). As mentioned earlier, historically Buddhism has been
integrated so well with the mainstream Chinese culture, to the extent that it has been
generally seen by Chinese as their own “indigenous” (together with Confucianism
and Taoism) culture. Within China, there are tremendous Buddhist resources (both
in terms of “hardware” such as temples, sutras, Śarīra,2 artwork, statues, etc. and
“software” such as well-respected Buddhist masters, monks and scholars, a rich and
authentic Buddhist history and culture, etc.), some of them gain fame through commercialization and tourism (such as the Shao Lin Temple). The potential for the
Chinese government to tap into these resources to enhance its image is tremendous
and well recognized by scholars and monks both within and outside of China (Zhang
2013; Huang 2012; Xuecheng 2015; Singh and Wallis 2016; Zheng 2014; Shi
Mingsheng 2015; Shi Yongxin 2015; Pucheng 2015).
With these resources, China has a variety of mechanisms to conduct Buddhist
diplomacy. Śarīra diplomacy is one of the most useful ways for China to show off
its Buddhist credence in Buddhist countries, gaining their goodwill and acceptance.
After the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, the Chinese government has
conducted Śarīra diplomacy four times in Burma/Myanmar (1955–1956, 1994,
1996, 2011), two times in Thailand (1994 and 2003), and once each for Sri Lanka
(1961) and South Korea (2005) (see Zhang 2013: 87; Huang 89–94; Xuecheng
2015: 103; Singh and Wallis 2016)3. In addition, when leaders of Buddhist majority
countries visited China, they are usually treated in the visiting programs with a visit
to temples that house Śarīra. In some (not all) of these episodes of Śarīra diplomacy,
clearly there were times the Chinese government has a larger strategic and diplomatic agenda in mind. For instance, the 1955–1956 episode in Burma and the 1961
episode in Sri Lanka were meant to consolidate China’s diplomatic gains during the
time of the Cold War. The 2011 episode in Myanmar occurred amidst the transition
from military junta towards democratic government in Myanmar, which was accompanied by a rising anti-Chinese sentiment among the Myanmar public.
In contrast, historically there has not been a comparable figure in Chinese Christianity.
Śarīra is a Sanskrit word, referring to relics of the hard body parts such as tooth or bones of
Buddha or other master monks. Śarīra are considered sacred by all Buddhist believers in the world.
Ancient historians of China recorded that there were nineteen temples in China that housed these
Śarīra but today archeologists and historians can only confirm eight temples.
Singh and Wallis (2016) however concluded that the effects of Śarīra diplomacy are somehow
limited because the Myanmar public perceive the kind of Chinese Buddhism is not quite the same
and not quite correct.
C.-B. Ngeow
Apart from Śarīra, other Buddhist paraphernalia, arts, and sutra of China are also
often used for diplomatic purposes. For instance, in 1991, the state gift given to
Thailand when the then Chinese president Yang Shangkun visited the country was a
whole canon of Dazangjing 大藏经, an important collection of Buddhist sutra.
Another often-used mechanism is the hosting and organization of international
Buddhist conferences. As early as 1956, China already organized an International
Buddhist Forum with participation from many Buddhist countries, such as Thailand.
In 1963 China organized a “Buddhist Conference for Eleven Asian Countries and
Areas.” In organizing these activities, Chinese leadership benefitted from renowned
Chinese Buddhist scholars, such as Zhao Puchu 赵朴初, who was internationally
recognized by other Buddhist scholars as well. The assistance and presence of individuals like Zhao lent credence to China to project itself as a country friendly to the
Buddhists despite being a communist party-state.
In recent years, China actively sponsors the World Buddhist Forum, which was
organized under the initiatives of the leading Buddhist monks of Mainland China,
Hong Kong and Taiwan. Since 2006 it has been held four times (April 2006 in
Hangzhou and Zhoushan,4 September 2009 in Wuxi and Taipei, April 2012 in Hong
Kong and October 2015 in Wuxi again), and in 2018 it will be held again Putian in
October. This Forum received the attendance of Buddhist scholars and monks from
more than 50 countries, but notably the Dalai Lama was not invited, and in turn
China promoted its own Tibetan Buddhist leader the Panchen Lama (Zhang 2013:
85). In addition, China also is a founding member and active participant of the
World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB), and hosted the 27th annual conference of
WFB in Baoji. However, China does not dominate the WFB and cannot prevent
other countries inviting the participation of the Dalai Lama or his followers, hence
there were a few times China refused participation due to the presence of the delegates from the Dalai Lama (Puzheng 2015: 48). Another conference is the China-­
Korea-­Japan Buddhist Friendship and Exchange Conference (called the Golden
Belt), where it serves as the platform for the Buddhist leaders and scholars of the
three countries to share experiences and enhance friendship (Puzheng 2015: 49;
Xuecheng 2015: 81–85).
The legends of Fa Xian and Xuan Zhuang have been particularly important for
China to build ties with countries in the Indian subcontinent, including non-­Buddhist
majority countries such as India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. In 1956–1957, China
sent gifts to a temple honoring Xuan Zhuang in India, including a piece of Śarīra of
Xuan Zhuang (Xuecheng 2015: 100). Because of the shared Buddhist heritage,
Beijing can legitimately claim to be one of the inheritors of this rich Buddhist civilization and participates in the international efforts to revive the legendary Buddhist
institution of higher learning, Nalandar University.
Other mechanisms include the sponsoring of building Chinese-style Buddhist
temples overseas,5 invitation of important foreign religious leaders and giving them
As a top provincial official of Zhejiang (where these cities are located) at that time, Xi Jinping
opened and attended the Forum.
China has already built one in Nepal and another in India (Shi Mingsheng 2015: 35).
Religion in China’s Public Diplomacy Towards the Belt and Road Countries in Asia
high-level reception,6 and at the more popular level, the exchange of students and
monks between China and other countries. Of course, all these exchanges would
have to be supervised by SARA.
Islam in China’s Public Diplomacy
Although Islam also has centuries of history within China, it has never successfully
been integrated into the mainstream Chinese culture as in the case of Buddhism.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that China does not have authentic and indigenous
Islamic resources. Estimations of the size of Chinese Muslim population range from
20 million to 40 million, which is relatively small in the context of Chinese population. Islam is only embraced predominantly by ethnic minorities and it never really
gained a widespread following among the Han majority. Still, Islam in China has
not disappeared and over the centuries it has long been accepted as one of the main
legitimate religions (with varying degrees of acceptability by different regimes). Its
long existence in China, relatively peaceful cohabitation with the Han majority,
partial indigenization through the emergence of Confucianized Muslim thinkers
(such as the Ming dynasty scholar Wang Daiyu 王岱舆and the Qing dynasty scholars Ma Dexin 马德新and Liu Zhi刘智), and its lack of imperialist baggage, has
made Islam relatively less suspicious (especially compared to Christianity) in the
eyes of the communist leaders, at least until the rise of the recent international terrorist threats unfortunately linked to Islam.
There are about ten ethnic minority groups that mostly follow Islam, but the
two main ethnic groups are the Hui and the Uyghur. While the Chinese party-state
keeps a very watchful (and discriminating) eye on the Uyghurs, in general it has
placed greater trust in the Hui to be ambassadors for China’s religious diplomacy
(Ngeow 2017).
The usefulness of Chinese Muslims for Chinese diplomacy was immediate clear
after the founding of the People’s Republic. As China was then being isolated by the
Western Powers, the haji (the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca) trips by Chinese
Muslims became a diplomatic opportunity for the Chinese government to reach out
to other countries that had not recognized the People’s Republic (Guo 2015: 55; Ma
2011: 505–506). Henceforth, organization of haji mission received the highest
attention and support from top governmental leaders, including Chinese Premier
Zhou Enlai. In 1952, the first Chinese Muslim haji mission was organized, but the
mission could only reach Karachi in Pakistan and failed to obtain the visa from
the Saudi consulate in Karachi. In the following two subsequent years, the mission
also failed. The breakthrough happened after the Bandung Conference in April 1955.
In 1994, during the visit by Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, the Supreme Patriach of Thailand, he
was given a high-level reception and received personally by the then top Chinese leader Jiang
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Da Pusheng 达蒲生 was a senior Chinese Muslim Ahong (Chinese Muslim term for
imam) and also a well respected Islamic scholar, and he was appointed as an Islamic
affairs advisor to Zhou Enlai when Zhou attended the Bandung Conference. Da
Pusheng managed to meet important leaders from the Muslim world, including
Ahmad Hasan al-Baquri, the Minister of Religious Affairs of Egypt, and also the
Saudi delegates (Zhongguo Yisilanjiao Xiehui 2011: 150). Three months after the
Bandung Conference, Chinese Muslim haji mission finally was able to reach Mecca
and was received by the Saudi King. The haji mission went on to visit other Muslim-­
majority countries (Egypt and Pakistan) and India, making it a quasi-diplomatic
mission for the People’s Republic, explaining to these countries the religious
­policies of the new communist government and earning goodwill for China. This
uniquely haji diplomacy was repeated in the haji missions of the subsequent years,
where the missions visited countries such as Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Libya, Tunisia,
Afghanistan and so on, and in each of this visit the mission was received by high-­
ranked government leaders of these countries (Ibid: 150). Another breakthrough
was Sino-Egyptian relations. Al-Baquri followed up the meeting with Da Pusheng
with a visit to China soon after the Bandung Conference, in May 1955. Al-Baquri’s
visit was reciprocated 2 months later, in July, by a Chinese Muslim delegation led
by Da. President Nasser of Egypt also met with the delegation, and in the following
year (1956) Egypt and China established diplomatic relations (Ibid: 151, see also
Gong 2005: 227–232; Hong and Wang 2011: 180–181).
Haji diplomacy lasted from 1955 to 1965. Beginning in 1965, due to the increasing political radicalization (including the Cultural Revolution) in China, there were
no more haji missions until October 1979. From 1980s to 2000s, Chinese government had a more flexible policy towards the organization of individual haji trips. In
2003, the Chinese government promulgated new regulations where haji trips can
only be organized and overseen by China Islamic Association. No more individual
haji trip is allowed (Zhongguo Yisilanjiao Xiehui 2006: 438–439). However, after
1979, with China no longer diplomatically isolated, there was not much need for
haji diplomacy for China to connect with the Muslim majority countries. The state-­
supervised Chinese Muslim haji missions however continued to help the Chinese
government build its image and to counter the discourses of what the Chinese government calls “religious extremists” and “separatists,” and in that sense these missions continue to have a role to play in public diplomacy (Ibid: 442).
Representing the Chinese Muslims, the China Islamic Association also has had
extensive exchanges with Muslim organizations all over the world. From 1994 to
2010, it has organized more than 140 delegations visiting foreign countries, and
from 1980 to 2010, it has also hosted more than 109 visits from delegations that
came from more than 30 countries (Zhongguo Yisilanjiao Xiehui 2011: 154–157).
Another regular international engagement is China’s participation in the activities of the Muslim World League. According to Chinese Muslim scholars, China
started engaging with the Muslim World League in 1979 through the haji mission.
In 1984, the deputy general secretary of the Muslim World League visited China,
and in 1987, the League approved of organizing a Forum on Dawah in Beijing. In
1991, the then president of China Islamic Association Shen Xiaxi for the first time
was elected to the board of the World Supreme Council for Mosques, an affiliate
Religion in China’s Public Diplomacy Towards the Belt and Road Countries in Asia
organization of the Muslim World League. The previous president of China Islamic
Association, Chen Guangyuan, also served as a committee member of the highest
coordination council of the Muslim World League. In 2010, the General Secretary
of the Muslim World League, Abdallah Ben Abdel Mohsen At-Turki, led a delegation consisting of well-known Islamic scholars visited China and was well received
by the Chinese authorities. From China’s perspective, the purpose of inviting this
delegation to visit China was to explicitly counter the influences arising from the
Muslim-based riots in Xinjiang in July 2009 (Hong and Wang 2011: 184–185). The
Xinjiang riot was a potentially very damaging event to China’s reputation in the
Muslim world. Other than the World Muslim League, the Chinese government also
invited a delegation from the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) to tour
Xinjiang in the aftermath of the Xinjiang Riot in order to convince them that the
Chinese government still respected the freedom of religion of the Muslims.
A unique mechanism of China’s Islamic diplomacy is the utilization of Muslim-­
based provinces such as Ningxia and Xinjiang to promote subnational ties (Zhang
2013: 88–89). Ningxia hosts the China-Arab States Expo and is at the forefront of
building stronger economic ties with the Arab world, leveraging on the business
skills of its sizable Hui population. At the more popular level, the Hui Muslim diaspora, and the business and trading network that this diaspora has fostered, also
would have a positive effect in terms of people-to-people diplomacy, although this
is less engineered by the state (Ngeow and Ma 2016; Ngeow 2017; Wang 2016).
omparison of Buddhism and Islam in China’s Public
In the above discussion, it is shown that China has significant Buddhist and Islamic
resources and have in the past have used these resources for China’s diplomatic
purposes. Table 5.8 summarizes what has been discussed so far.
The above discussions illustrate China’s past experiences and practices in engaging its own religious resources for diplomatic purposes. However, such practices are
still more ad hoc in nature and it has not been the case of systematically thinking
about and formulating an appropriate strategy in guiding the development of religious public diplomacy, despite the urging of scholars and officials such as Xu
Yihua and Zuo Xinping.
Concluding Thoughts
The People’s Republic of China defines itself as an atheist state, yet ironically it is
endowed with significant indigenous religious resources, which can be taped into
and mobilized to enhance China’s Belt and Road initiative. Among the major powers today, China perhaps actually has the most potential to utilize religion, as can be
seen in Table 5.9.
C.-B. Ngeow
Table 5.8 China’s public diplomacy: Buddhism and Islam compared
Abundant Buddhist cultural and religious
resources (temples, collection of sutras,
etc., legends of Xuan Zhuang and other
China often considered important site of
Buddhist teaching
Chinese branch of Buddhism considered an
important branch
Indigenous Buddhist scholars with
international recognition
South Asia (Sri Lanka) and Southeast Asia
(Myanmar and Thailand), Mongolia, and
others (Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam),
limited to within Asia
Fewer but still significant
indigenous Islamic resources
(mosques, religious schools and
institutions, legends of Chinese
Muslims such as Zheng He)
Significant Muslim minorities
Southeast Asia (Malaysia,
Indonesia, Brunei), Middle East,
Pakistan, Central Asia, larger
geographical scope within Asia and
extends beyond Asia
Śarīra Diplomacy,
Haji Diplomacy
International Buddhist conferences and
Engagements with international
Muslim-based organizations
Buddhist arts sutras as state’s gifts
Muslim minority-based provinces
Exchanges of Buddhist students and monks Chinese Muslim trading networks
Exchange of Islamic scholars and
Often stressing the importance of
Often stressing the important Buddhist
countering the propaganda of the
principles in building up of a harmonious
Xinjiang separatists
world, less focus on countering Dalai
Lama’s influence given China’s own status
as an important Buddhist country
Table 5.9 Comparison of the potentials of religious public diplomacy: United States, Russia,
India, China
Potentials to utilize religion in public diplomacy
Mostly Christian and identified as such, not much religious resources other than
Judaism and Christianity to depend on
Mostly Orthodox with significant Muslim minorities, strained relations with between
Orthodox majority and Muslim minority
Mostly Hindu with significant Muslim and Buddhist minorities, somewhat strained
relations with the Muslims
Confucian heritage a relatively secular and open doctrine. Officially atheist state with
significant indigenous religious resources, especially in Buddhism and Islam.
Strained relations with Tibetans and Uyghurs however are somewhat offset by the
presence of numerous Han Buddhists and Hui Muslims, who have better ties with the
Religion in China’s Public Diplomacy Towards the Belt and Road Countries in Asia
Most powers identify with a particular religion (the United States as Christian,
Russia as Orthodox, Japan as Shinto, and India as Hindu). China, of course, has its
own Confucian heritage but Confucianism is a far more secular and open heritage
compared to other religions, and throughout centuries China has accumulated substantial authentic religious resources. India is also comparable to China in many
respects, with its rich history being a complex process of interactions between the
Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic civilizations. And Indian government’s respect for the
freedom of religion is more genuine than the Chinese government. Yet Hinduism is
more exclusionary compared to Confucianism. Theologically and philosophically,
it is possible to create synthesis between Confucianism and the major religions, but
it is much more difficult for Hinduism. Chinese cultural heritage in that sense is a
unique advantage for China.
Nevertheless, significant challenges remain for China to fully utilize its own
indigenous religious resources to enhance China’s image and soft power. The attitudes of the Chinese government still remain very much cautious and conservative,
and Chinese domestic legislations, regulations, and policies are putting a lot more
restrictions on the development of religions. The stigma of a China not respecting
the freedom of religion will significantly undercut its image. In addition, the ongoing tightening of ideological and political control towards certain ethnic and religious minorities, such as the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, could also result in
substantial damage to China’s reputation. How China manages its own domestic
religious issues will have international implications.
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Chapter 6
Eurasian Connection via the Silk Road:
The Spread of Islam
A. Reza Hoshmand
The Silk Road is a network of trade routes that for centuries served as a cultural bridge
between the East and the West. It stretched from the Korean peninsula and Japan to the
Mediterranean Sea. Such a network represented, in some sense, a form of the global
economy that we know today. However, the ease with which goods and ideas moved
along the Silk Road was at a much slower pace than now. Nonetheless, the routes
provided China a means by which to move its highly valued silk, and other products
such as cotton, wool, glass, jade, lapis lazuli (mostly from current day Afghanistan) to
gold, silver, salt, spices, herbal medicines, to the European continent. This vast array
of networks connected China to the European continent through Central Asia as well
as India in the south and to Turkey and Italy in the west by land and by sea. Even
though these journeys were difficult, the goods and ideas that moved along the routes
were in high demand and commanded high prices. The extent and reach of the Silk
Roads on land as well as sea can be seen the following map (Map 6.1).
The term “Seidenstrassen” or “Silk Roads” was coined by the German geologist
and explorer Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877 (Tucker 2015). Beyond trade
in goods and services, the Silk Road, metaphorically speaking, has been central to
the cultural interchange that has taken place between the Europeans and Asians. Its
impact as a means by which all sorts of creative exchange between tremendously
diverse peoples and cultures has been significant (Kurin 2002a).
From a historical point view, three distinct periods could be identified as intense
period of trade on the Silk Road. First, during the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. E to 220
C.E.) which formally established the Silk Road, and trade began between China and
the Central Asia moving west to reach Rome (Mark 2014). During the reign of Liu
A. R. Hoshmand (*)
Professor of Economics and Director of General Education, Hong Kong Baptist University,
Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong SAR
e-mail: [email protected]
© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019
Md. N. Islam (ed.), Silk Road to Belt Road,
A. R. Hoshmand
Map 6.1 The extent and reach of the Silk Road. (Source: UNESCO. https://en.unesco.org/silkroad/about-silk-road)
Che, Emperor Wudi of Han Dynasty made a major move to expand the empire from
the Central Plains to the Western territories (present-day Xinjiang and Central Asia).
As the representative of the emperor, Zhang Qian went two times to the Western
Regions, and in the process the route known as the “Silk Road” was established.
The Silk Road then extended from Chang’an (today’s Xi’an, Shaanxi Province),
through Xinjiang and Central Asia, and on to the east coast of the Mediterranean
Sea (Liu 2010).
To understand how silk and other commodities had moved along this route from
China to Europe in earlier times, archeologist have found evidence of ancient
Chinese silk in excavations of Central Asian Bactria (currently the region around
Balkh and Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan) that dates back to about 500
B.C.E. Furthermore, silk strands have also been found in ancient Egypt that dates
back to about 1000 B.C.E. Some have argued that these may be silk of Indian rather
than Chinese (Kurin 2002b). Nonetheless, such findings suggest how silk has moved
from Asia to Africa, and Europe. Alexander the Great, once a ruler who controlled
lands from the Mediterranean to India in the late fourth century B.C.E, wore robes
of deep purple-dyed silk (Kurin 2002b). The second period (618–907 C.E.) is identified as another milestone on the Silk Road where the Tang Dynasty connected with
other major empires in Central Asia, Byzantium, the Arab empires of Umayyad, and
Abbasid, the Persian empire of Sasanian, and India. This is the period which coincides with the expansion of various religions including Islam into Central Asia
(Wood 2002).
The Tang dynasty was considered as one of the most prosperous empires in the
world. The prosperity was associated with how the country was unified with a strong
central government, efficient communications and wide economic and cultural contacts (The Silk Road Foundation 2018). What makes Tang dynasty different from
Eurasian Connection via the Silk Road: The Spread…
the other dynasties in China is that peace and prosperity were the driving force in
the empire. The Tang’s century old rule brought low prices and economic prosperity
as well as stabilization in a period of time that settlers were migrating in great numbers. Around the eighth century, the capital of the Tang dynasty, Ch’ang-an, meaning “long-lasting peace”, was considered to be one of the wealthiest, and most
advanced city in the world (The Silk Road Foundation 2018). The welcoming attitude of Tang dynasty toward other cultures and other people made it unique. For this
reason, Chinese life and Chinese art was influenced by outsiders during this dynasty.
Migrants from Central Asia or India congregated the streets in Ch’ang-an, settling
into a cultured and sophisticated life. The dynasty’s territory expanded, at the end of
the seventh century, to the far edges of the Middle East where trade was flourishing
due to the Silk Road.
The third period encompasses the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, when
China further expanded into Central Asia, Persia, India, and early times of modern
Europe. The Mongols who were in control of most of the Silk Road made this possible. In addition to the three time periods that trade and cultural exchanges flourished along the Silk Road, another time period of significance was the Modern Silk
Road period that continues until now. This began in the nineteenth century with the
“Great Game” – the competition between Russian and British colonial powers for
influence over Central Asia – (Kurin 2002a). Indeed, the Silk Roads have played a
critical role in trade as well as cultural exchanges that began in the Middles Ages
and have continued over the centuries. This testifies to its flexibility and adaptability
to changes in society as well as times.
What is apparent from the historical developments along the Silk Road is that
geopolitical context has played a significant role. For example, merchants from the
Roman Empire would seek alternative routes so that they could avoid Rome’s enemies the Parthians. By doing so, they took routes to the north, across the Caucasus
and over the Caspian Sea (UNESCO 2008). Such diversions into new territories
expanded the reach of the Silk Road in Central Asia.
Similarly, the Maritime trade provided another extremely important route for
China to extend its reach to Eurasia. The maritime route was used for the transportation of spices, and hence referred as the Spice Roads. Goods such as nutmeg, cloves,
cinnamon, pepper, and ginger from the Moluccas islands in Indonesia (known as the
Spice Islands), as well as a wide range of other goods were traded along the routes
from east to the west and vice versa. Additionally, precious stones, metalwork,
incense, textiles, woodwork, timber, and saffron were all traded by the merchants
travelling these routes. These goods found their way from Japan, past the Chinese
coast, through South East Asia, and past India to reach the Middle East and so to the
Mediterranean (UNESCO 2008).
Whilst the silk trade along with other products were one of the earliest catalysts
for the trade routes across Central Asia, it was a bridge between distant civilizations.
The following sections of this chapter will elaborate on the religious, cultural, and
political impact of the Silk Roads.
A. R. Hoshmand
Islam’s Move on the Silk Roads
There are varied opinions in the literature as to when Islamization of the Silk Routes
began. It is thought that Muslims initially referred to their faith as “the Arab religion” (al-din al-‘arab), and did not attempt to convert others to their faith (Islamic
History.Org 2018). However, by the eighth century, their thinking changed and
Muslims began seeking converts in broader geographical terms. In its early stages
of the spread of Islam, Muslims did not use force to compel their enemies to accept
Islam unless they were met by resistance. Interestingly, followers of other faiths
such as Christians and Jews were allowed to practice their own faith. During this
period those who converted to Islam did so as the result of exposure to a faith that
was simple and inspiring (Islamic History.Org 2018).
In the early stages of Islamic movement both class and racial distinctions were
not given much credence. However, this goal was abandoned as Islam moved
beyond the peninsula (Foltz 2010). The appeal of creating the distinction between
the ruling Muslims and those non-Muslims that had been conquered was to make
governance simple. Such distinctions provided a privileged status for Muslims
under the laws of the various Islamic states. For example, the tax policy of Omar
(634–44), the fourth Caliph of Islam, on the Christians of Syria clearly sheds light
on this ruler’s attitude towards his non-Muslim subjects:
Leave these lands, which God has granted you as booty in the hands of their inhabitants,
and impose on them a poll tax (jizya) to the extent that they can bear and divide the proceeds among the Muslims. Let them till the soil, for they know more about it and are better
at it than we are… For they are slaves to the people of the religion of Islam as long as the
religion of Islam shall prevail. (Lewis 1987)
Such treatment by the Muslim conquerors motivated non-Muslims to convert to
Islam. By doing so, they did not forego their previously held elite position economically, socially and politically. As they converted, they were allowed to rejoin the
ruling groups in their communities. An interesting outcome of the Islamic conquests
was that the Arab conquerors recognized administrative talent among those they
conquered. Since the Sassanian model of governance was highly efficient, they
adopted this model of governance for their Islamic governments and recruited the
local people to serve in high government positions, the majority of whom were
Sassanian Persians. As government officials, the newly converted Muslims, began
to press for the same rights as Arab Muslims (Liu 1998). For those non-Arab
Muslims who had no clan affiliation, their social identity in the Arab society was
unclear. This created social unrest among Arabs and non-Arabs. Such development
led to the adoption of non-Arab converts as mawla (“clients”) by Arab Muslims.
This honorary status given to the mawla attracted more converts to Islam. It was not
long until the mawalis outnumbered the Arab Muslims, and in the process a new
body of religious and political elite was formed (Lapidus 1988).
By the mid-eighth century, the western half of the Silk Route was controlled by
the Muslim, and trade became the second major factor after the spread of Islam.
Many merchants along the Silk Road recognized the benefits of converting to Islam.
Eurasian Connection via the Silk Road: The Spread…
They realized that economic cooperation and contacts among the Muslim traders
both at home and abroad were made easily. Islamic laws, and Muslim officials also
favored Muslim over non-Muslim traders (Foltz 2010).
Islamic scientific and medical advancements were also shared throughout the
Silk Road region. Islamic medical knowledge (in wound healing, urinalysis, et al.)
were shared with the Chinese Buddhist traders. Muslims also brought to India their
insights on astronomy, and shared their skepticism of the geocentric universe. The
Silk Road contributed extensively to the expansion of Islam across Europe, Asia,
and Africa through Intellectual, political, and economic means. “No other religion
in history has spread as vast and as rapidly as Islam did in this time period”
(Strickman 2012).
For the reasons stated above, the majority of people along the Silk Road converted to Islam. Prophet Muhammad, who was a family man and a merchant, was
also committed to a life of contemplation. The basic principle that guides Muslims
is the belief in one God, who is unique and merciful. Islam calls for the creation of
a society ruled by compassion, charity, and justice. These were the principles upon
which Islam moved so rapidly beyond the Arabian Peninsula. Islam’s move to
Central Asia was premised on territorial expansion and influence in the region
(Nanji and Niyozov 2002). Further consolidation of these early attempts at conquest
was continued under early Umayyad rule (661–750 CE). The Umayyad’s great
expansion was primarily military and political, not religious. Interestingly, conversion to Islam was discouraged by the rulers as they recognized the negative impact
such conversion would have on the treasury’s intake of taxes on non- Muslims
(Islamic History.Org 2018). The Umayyad used the Syrian army’s strength to create
a united empire through greater control of the conquered provinces.
Muslim rule expanded to Khorasan, and cities such as Merv and Sīstān were
used as bases for expeditions into Central Asia and northwestern India. At the same
time, the invasion of northwestern Africa had begun (Oxford Islamic Studies Online
2018). With such territorial expansions, the Umayyad Caliphate became a major
political, cultural, and scientific centers of the early medieval world.
The Abbasid Dynasty (750–1258) that succeeded the Umayyad dynasty built
their capital in Baghdad, making this Silk Road city a center of power where philosophic, scientific and literary works were cultivated. Since Baghdad was on the Silk
Road, it aided the armies of the Abbasid to move eastward and conquer new territories beyond the River Oxus (Amu Darya in northern Afghanistan). Towards the end
of the ninth century the Samanids emerged as the first of the local Muslim kingdoms
in the area. The process of conversion and Islamization of Central Asia continued
under these dynasties. As the Silk Road once again became a vital international
artery of commerce and trade, Muslim communities in the various parts of Central
Asia grew as Muslim travelers, preachers, mystics, and merchants acted as mediators of faith (Nanji and Niyozov 2002).
With various Islamic dynasties approach to expand their influence through trade,
and faith, a diverse religious landscape, among different religions and also within
the Muslim communities appeared. Interactions between the Sunni, Shia, and Sufi
Muslim groups flourished. Such charismatic Sufi leaders as Ahmad Yasawi (d.
A. R. Hoshmand
1166) and Bahauddin Naqshband (1318–89) built scholarly communities that nurtured vernacular tradition and languages (Kurin 2002a).
Muslim law, theology, culture, arts, and architecture spread across the Silk Road.
The beauty of this multidimensional world of Islam was to contribute to a broadly
based society. Such society was bound by common ethical and cultural assumptions
though differentiated in its practices and local traditions that stretched from
Afghanistan to Southeast Asia, China, and the Philippines. With such diversity of
cultures and thought, the region enjoyed the contribution of some of the greatest
scholars of Muslim science and technology.
Another branch of the Islamic faith, the Ismailis, who were the founders of Cairo
in the tenth century also spread their philosophies along the Silk Road. They along
with other Muslims brought a tradition of philosophical inquiry and scientific
knowledge across the Mediterranean to Iran and the Karakoram and the Pamirs
(Daftary 1992). One the great Ismaili poet and philosopher, Nasir Khusraw (1004–
88), on his 7-year journey along the Silk Road, traveled from Balkh across the
Middle East, North Africa, and on to his pilgrimage destination, Mecca (Hunsberger
2000). His Safarnamah (travelogue) describes in vivid detail his meetings with
famous scholars and visits to the region’s religious communities and sites.
During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, considerable political, commercial, and religious competition between kingdoms, markets, and religious groups
across Eurasia were seen. Various religions such as Buddhists, Hindus, Christians,
and Muslims all vied for followers to their faith and institutional support on the
trade routes. This led to conflicts between and among the Mongols, European kingdoms, Arab rulers, the Mamluk Turks, Hindu chiefdoms, and others. This created a
very unstable environment where some alliances were formed, and in some cases
wars were fought (Foltz 2010). At the same time, the Mongols, who had control of
vast areas bordering the edge of Russia and Eastern Europe, were able to bring
peace, through a mixture of hegemony and brutality (Kurin 2002a,b). What appears
to be contrary to their image as warriors, the Mongols were pragmatic and quite
tolerant when it came to arts and religion. Their capital Karakorum, hosted, for
example, 12 Buddhist temples, 2 mosques, and a church. Other major accomplishments of Mongols were the creation of continental postal and travelers’ rest house
systems. Kublai Khan with an open arm invited European, Chinese, Persian, and
Arab astronomers to establish and an Institute of Muslim Astronomy. Furthermore,
the Imperial Academy of Medicine, was created with the help of Middle Eastern
Muslims, Indian, and Chinese physicians. To further expand its reach, the Mongols
in 1335 sent a mission to the pope at Avignon in order to increase trade and cultural
contacts (Kurin 2002a).
Each faith has left its signature on the Silk Road in many ways whether it is in
art, music, architecture, or in traditions of learning, celebrating, and sharing. Such
cumulative resource from different traditions of knowledge and faith can certainly
be used to help build trust, reinvigorate our collective consciousness so that we can
create dialogue, and move away from the constraints and ignorance that has been a
source of turmoil and conflict in the region (Nanji and Niyozov 2002).
Eurasian Connection via the Silk Road: The Spread…
Cultural Impact
The Silk Road not only was the vehicle for trade throughout Asia and Europe where
goods such as Chinese silk, Byzantine gold, and Indian spices were traded, but it
also introduced people in various parts of the continent to new ways of thinking,
beliefs, systems of government, literary genres, musical styles, and visual forms. As
the ideas travelled on the Silk Road, artistic motifs, styles, and techniques changed
signifying the larger impact of the Silk Road (Major 2002).
The ancient Silk Road served as the cultural conduit between China and the
West. From the second century BC to the fifteenth century AD, the Silk Road served
as a “cultural bridge” among major civilizations of Europe and Asia, whether it was
the Romans, the Greeks, or the Persians. As explained by Richard Kurin (2002a) in
his article, “silk moved easily and became a vehicle of cultural creativity wherever
it went.”
Together with the economic and political exchange between the East and West,
cultural values of different civilizations provided a multicultural milieu that is evident in countries of the Silk Road region today. Cultural samples in the applied art,
architecture, wall paintings, music, dance, and theatre performances were also
exchanged between countries of the Silk Road. Examples of such intercultural
enrichment are found in the collection of Tan terracotta dancers, actors in mask, and
musical groups. The music of Eastern Turkestan and Central Asia have been popular
in China. Interestingly, music traditions of Kashgar, Bukhara, and Samarkand, and
Indian have merged with Chinese musical traditions.
The Umayyad period is often considered the formative period in Islamic art. The
motifs used by artists were those that were common at the time in the region.
However, with expansion of the Umayyad Empire to regions on the west and east,
artists adopted elements that came from the late antique classical naturalist tradition
that were developed by the Byzantines and Sassanians. Thus, a new artistic expression emerged that became distinctly Islamic in character through a process of adoption, adaptation, and creation (Yalman 2001). Artists, craftspeople and musicians
traveled throughout the region. Music of the royal courts, some of which survives,
was an important tradition developed in the countries of the region. Maqam ensembles from Azerbaijan to Xinjiang as well as Chinese and Japanese courtly music still
have a place in the lives of people along the Silk Road (Kennedy 2002). The richness of the cultural impact of the Silk Road could be seen in the Bukharan Jews
settled in Central Asia and now have migrated to the United States still celebrate
traditional weddings. Similarly, the contemporary Armenian and Chinese folk
ensembles share instruments if not a language in their music.
In addition to music and artwork, certain ceramics of the Silk Road region were
highly sought after by the Islamic elites. As trade in fine porcelain from China and
Japan flourished, Muslim merchants introduced modifications of techniques used
by the Islamic potters that decorated early (post-eighth century) tin-glazed vessels
with cobalt. Chinese potters in the late thirteenth century began to use cobalt blue
with white porcelain for decoration. This is another element of artistic adaptation on
A. R. Hoshmand
the Silk Road. Until the fifteenth century most of the Chinese blue-and-white porcelain was exported to Southeast Asia and the Middle East, where it was copied,
although not in porcelain (Major 2002).
Another aspect of the cultural impact of the Silk Road is evident in the architectural diversity of the buildings along the routes. “Architecture in general is an
expression of values and the way the people are building is a reflection of the way
they are living” (Zoksimovska 2016). Cities and urban centers developed during the
seventh and fifteenth centuries along the trade routes that passed through Central
Asia (UNESCO 2018). In each of these urban centers the cultural impact that traders left on the architecture and even the structure of cities such as Samarkand,
Bukhara and Merv are evident. Various cultures such as Arabs, and Mongols left
their architectural legacy in the form of religious buildings, bathhouses, caravanserais, palaces, as well as the brickwork, carving and ornamental designs of urban
spaces throughout Central Asia. Such rich cultural traditions and heritage still dominate the Silk Road countries of today. Given the political realities and intolerance of
religious diversity that continues in the region, some of these monuments to history
will be in danger. The case in point is the destruction of the Buddha statue in
Bamyan, Afghanistan by the Taliban.
Political Impact
Just as the religions and other cultural elements played a major role on the countries
of the Silk Road region, so did political factors. What we observe today is that with
the political transformations that have taken place in the region over the previous
decades the door for further research on the Silk Road has been opened. With the
opening of China and the collapse of the Soviet Union a new Silk Road is being
traveled. With the current initiative of the Belt and Road, a re-birth of the Silk Road
is imagined. Nowadays, researchers talk about new economic and political realities,
and how new cultural realities may be developing out of this transformation as well.
Aptly put “If oil was the new silk, and democracy the new religion, then where did
the old cultural traditions of the Silk Road stand?” (Kennedy 2002). Undoubtedly,
the twenty-first century Silk Road will have major implications as did the cultural
traditions of the old. Richthofen saw the Silk Road as a region that had served as the
crossroads of political and military influence. Today, control over the Silk Road,
particularly its Central Asian link, is as important as it was for eighteenth- century
colonial powers playing the “Great Game.” Both the Russians and the British competed for control over Afghanistan for their territorial aspirations (Kurin 2002b).
What is clear is that the game of political dominance that Western powers sought
in the nineteenth and twentieth century have taken a different tilt in the current environment. The geopolitical significance of the road has grown as a result of the
downfall of the Soviet Union and a need to achieve stable political states in the
region. The desire to find an appropriate role for religion, particularly Islam, in the
civic life of the nations of the region has been tumultuous. In recent years, the
6 Eurasian Connection via the Silk Road: The Spread…
United States has become embroiled in Central Asia, particularly in Afghanistan
where American troops have been fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and ISIS. The
political role has been extended into disputes over sovereignty in Kashmir, democracy in Iran, rights of ethnic minorities in western China, and freedom in Kazakhstan.
All of these efforts point to a new sphere of political influence and control in the
Trade expansion by the Arab merchants during the Han and Tang Dynasties opened
the door for economic growth in China as well as the region traversed. “The Silk
Road did not impact only cities of commerce, or those that were considered active
markets – it also contributed to the prosperity of cities enroute that the merchants
and commercial convoys passed” (Al Awar 2017).
The interchange of ideas and philosophies between the East and the West could
be traced back to the dynastic desires on the Silk Road. Whether it was the Chinese,
Arabs, Greeks, Persians, or the Romans, they all played a critical role in what has
transformed the current state nations. Although it was considered to be a trade route
between the east and the west, it became a cultural bridge that continues to impact
the lives of millions.
Undoubtedly, the greatest value of the Silk Road was the exchange of cultures.
Throughout its history, elements of civilization such as Art, religion, philosophy,
technology, language, science, architecture, was exchanged (Mark 2014). As one
looks at history, it becomes apparent that silk became both a component and a symbol of cultural diffusion. It was seen by the people of the East and West as a valuable
index of civilization with regard to religious ritual, kingship, artistic production, and
commercial activity. Most looked at silk as a higher thing in life. “Silk both epitomized and played a major role in the early development of what we now characterize as a global economic and cultural system” (Kurin 2002a).
Al Awar, A. (2017). Reviving the silk road and stimulating world economy. Huffington Post. The
Blog. May 25th. Retrieved from the following link: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/abdullamohammed-al-awar/reviving-the-silk-road-an_b_9989172.html. Accessed 3 Feb 2018.
Bosworth, C., & Bolshokov, O. (1997). Central Asia under the Umayyads and the early Abbasids.
In M. S. Asimov & C. Bosworth (Eds.), History and civilization of Central Asia (Vol. 4(1),
pp. 23–40). Delhi: Motilal Bamarsidass.
Clover, C., & Hornby, L. (2015). China’s great game: Road to a new empire. Financial Times,
October 13. Retrieved from the following link: https://www.ft.com/content/6e098274-587a11e5-a28b50226830d644?segid=0100320#axzz3oM5GkBSp. Accessed on 20 Feb 2018.
A. R. Hoshmand
Cornell University Library Exhibition. (2016–2017). Islam in Asia: The silk road and Islam spread.
Ithaca. Retrieved from the following link: http://guides.library.cornell.edu/IslamAsiaExhibit/
SilkRoadIslam. Accessed on 13 Feb 2018.
Daftary, F. (1992). The Isma’ilis: Their history and doctrines. New York: Cambridge University
Foltz, R. (2010). Religions of the silk road: Premodern pattern of globalization (2nd ed.).
New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Hunsberger, A. (2000). Nasir Khusraw: The Ruby of Badakhshan. London: I.B.Tauris & Ltd..
Islamic History. Org.(2018). Retrieved from the following link: http://islamichistory.org/theumayyads/. Accessed on 14 Feb 2018.
Kennedy, R. (2002). The silk road: Connecting cultures, creating trust. Washington, DC: The
Smithsonian Institution.
Kurin, R. (2002a). The silk road: Connecting people and cultures. Washington, DC: The
Smithsonian Institution.
Kurin, R. (2002b). The silk road: The making of a global cultural economy. Anthronotes, 23(1),
1–10 Museum of Natural History Publication for Educators.
Lapidus, I. M. (1988). A history of Islamic societies (p. 98). London: Cambridge University Press.
Lewis, B. (1987). Islam, from the Prophet Muhammed to the Capture of Constantinpole, Religions
and Society (Vol. II, p. 224). New York: Oxford Press.
Liu, X. (1998). Silk and religion: An exploration of material life and the thought of people, AD
600–1200 (p. 133). Delhi: Oxford India Paperbacks.
Liu, X. (2010). The silk road in world history. New York: Oxford University Press.
Major, J. (2002). The arts of the silk road. Asia Society. Retrieved from the following link: https://
asiasociety.org/arts-silk-roads. Accessed 20 Feb 2018.
Mark, J. J. (2014). Silk road. In Ancient history encyclopedia. Retrieved from the following link:
https://www.ancient.eu/. Accessed 13 Feb 2018.
Nanji, A., & Niyozov, S. (2002). The silk road: Crossroads and encounters of faiths. In C. Borden
(Ed.), The silk road: Connecting cultures, creating trust (pp. 37–43). Washington, DC: The
Smithsonian Institution.
Oxford Islamic Studies On-line. (2018). Retrieved from the following link: http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t125/e2421. Accessed on 14 Feb 2018.
Pugachenkova, G., Dani, A., Yingsheng, L. (Dani, A. H., & Yingsheng, L. (1996). Urban development and architecture. UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://en.unesco.org/silkroad/sites/
and%20architecture%20BIS.pdf. Accessed on 22 Feb 2018.
Silk Road Foundation (2018). The exoticism in tang (618–907). Retrieved from: http://www.silkroadfoundation.org/artl/tang.shtml. Accessed on 24 Feb 2018.
Strickman, T. (2012). Spread of Islam through the silk road. In Silk road: General information,
history, map. Retrieved from the following link: http://www.east-site.com/silk-road. Accessed
on 20 Jan 2018.
Tucker, J. (2015). The silk road: Central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran. London: I.B. Tauris & Ltd.
UNESCO. (2008). The silk road project- integral study of the silk roads: Roads of dialogue, 1988–
1997. UNESCO, United Nations, U CLT/CPD/DIA/2008/PI/68.
UNESCO. (2018). Silk road: Dialogue, diversity and development. Urban development and architecture. Retrieved from the following link: https://en.unesco.org/silkroad/knowledge-bank/
urban-development-and-architecture. Accessed on 28 Jan 2018.
Wood, F. (2002). The silk road: Two thousand years in the heart of Asia. Los Angeles: University
of California Los Angeles.
Yalman, S. (2001). Based on original work by Linda Komaroff. The Art of the Umayyad Period
(pp. 661–750). In Heilbrunn timeline of art history. New York: The Metropolitan Museum
of Art. 2000-. Retrieved from: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/umay/hd_umay.htm.
Accessed on 30 Jan 2018.
Zoksimovska, M. (2016). How the silk road influenced the architecture through the cities.
GoUNESCO. Retrieved from: https://www.gounesco.com/how-the-silk-road-influenced-thearchitecture-through-the-cities/. Accessed on 22 Feb 2018.
Chapter 7
From Serindia to Japan: A Sketch
of the Buddhist Library of Ximing
Monastery in the Eighth-Century
Xiang Wang
When the subject of the Buddhist libraries along the Silk Road is discussed in general terms, it is often situated within a comparative context alongside that of the
bibliophile cultures of both ancient India and medieval East Asia. Over the course
of the first millennium, massive numbers of the Indic Buddhist scriptures were
seamlessly woven into the Chinese book cult. The fact that sūtras rendered in
Chinese were so widely circulated and were regarded as authoritative replacements
for the Sanskrit originals indicates the degree to which the Buddhist sutras were
integrated into the Chinese literary context. Indeed, starting from the seventh century, the need to reproduce Buddhist texts in China in large quantities for recitation
not only made scripture-copying a profession but also gave rise to the first printing
in human history.1
When the firm edifice of Tang China (618–907) rose over East Asia, the capital
of the empire, historically known as Sui-Tang Chang’an 長安, emerged as perhaps
the greatest city in the world from the seventh to the tenth century. Located as it was
in Medieval Chang’an, the departure point of the Silk Road, the prominent Ximing
Monstery (Ximingsi 西明寺) emerged as a premier center of Buddhism and pivot
point of international cultural exchange of Asian Continent. The monastery also
appears in history as a site clearly steeped in the rich book culture of its time and
place. Many sources tell us that one salient feature of Ximing Monastery was its
renowned libraries and Buddhist bibliographies. Like a magnet, the wide-ranging
Before the emergence of the Chinese Kaibao Tripiṭaka (Kaibaozang 開寶藏, 983) and the
German Gutenberg bible (Die Gutenberg-Bibel, 1455), the classical world was known as the
golden age of manuscripts when religious bibliothecas and scriptoria flourished in great cities such
as Egyptian Alexandria, Byzantine Constantinople and Israeli Jerusalem (Thompson 1940: 315).
X. Wang (*)
General Education Office, United International College, Zhuhai, China
e-mail: [email protected]
© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019
Md. N. Islam (ed.), Silk Road to Belt Road,
X. Wang
collections at this monastery, made accessible by authoritative scriptural catalogues,
attracted Buddhist scholars as well as the general public from Japan to India (Wang
2010: 432–444).
To be sure, for the serious Buddhist practitioner, realizing one’s inherent Buddha
nature might be more significant than possessing an enormous collection of scriptures. Hence, the eminent Chinese master Daoxuan 道宣 (596–667), who as abbot
of Ximing Monastery himself presided over the temple’s enormous collection of
scriptures, reminds us, in his Liangchu qingzhong yi 量處輕重儀 (Method for the
Allocation of “Light and Heavy” Objects, T1895), that the value of the Buddha
dharma lies in practicing the teaching, not merely reading or reciting more scriptures, but the mass of the reading public of that age only cared about collecting
texts.2 The abbot’s lament here reflects the fact that the Sui-Tang period in which he
lived is remembered as the pinnacle of Buddhist literary culture, when Chinese
Buddhists not only introduced new knowledge from Serindia and Silk Road poleis
but also produced indigenous works that shaped the religion for future
The Putiyuan Library in the Eighth Century
If the famous Datang neidian lu 大唐內典錄 (Buddhist Catalogue of the Great
Tang, T2149, Neidian Catalogue) opens the curtain on Ximing library in the seventh century, it is the Putiyuan cloister (Putiyuan 菩提院) that is considered the real
bibliotheca of the eighth-century Ximing Monastery in many sources. The major
part of Ximingsi, we know, was constructed on the site of an abandoned royal residence of the Tang dynasty. Like many other imperial temples in Chang’an, it thus
preserved the features of Chinese residential architecture, built around the traditional “cloister” (Ch. yuan 院). Horiike Shunpō 崛池春峰, a scholar specializing in
Buddhist history of Nara, even argues that the national tripiṭaka on which Daoxuan
reported was well preserved in Putiyuan (Shunpō: 245–276).3 However, the first
mention of Putiyuan in Buddhist sources, is associated with the Institute of
Translation superintended by the Indian prince-monk Śubhakarasiṃha (Ch.
Shanwuwei 善無畏, 637–735), who arrived in Chang’an as a buddhist missionary
in 716. He is seen as one of the three Indian masters of the Kaiyuan period (713–
741) who transmitted the seminal tantric text Mahāvairocana-sūtra (Ch. Darijing 大
日經, Jap. Dainichikyō, T848) to the Chinese followers of esoteric Buddhism.
Liangchuqingzhong yi, T45, no. 1895, p. 842, b19-27. As indicated in the text, Daoxuan must
have paraphrased a sentence originally appeared in Pinimu jing 毘尼母經 (alt. Pinimu lun 毘尼母
論, Skt. Vinayamātṛkā-śāstra, T1463), one of the four comprehensive vinayas and the five śāstras
(Ch. silü wulun 四律五論) in the Chinese vinaya collection. T refers to the standard Buddhist
canon used by scholars of East Asian Buddhism: Taishō shinshū daizōkyō 大正新修大藏經.
A foreign example of a Bodhi Cloister (Jap.Bodaiin) was also found at the famous Japanese
Monastery Kōfukuji 興福寺, located in Nara city. See also the postscript to the Dacheng fayuan
yilin zhang 大乘法苑義林章 (T45, no.1861, p. 343, a27-b9).
7 From Serindia to Japan: A Sketch of the Buddhist Library of Ximing Monastery…
Shortly after the tantric guru arrived at Ximing Monastery, he established the institute in the Putiyuan cloister. The Chinese character yuan (cloister, Skt. ārāma)
means in this case an enclosed courtyard on temple grounds, consisting of a major
Buddha hall and numerous subordinate rooms. The Putiyuan cloister was likely one
of the thirteen huge Buddhist cloisters at Ximing Monastery mentioned by Tang
writers. The title “puti (bodhi)” was not unique in the capital city of Chang’an for
another major monastery located in Pingkang Ward (Pingkang fang 平康坊) was
known as Puti (Bodhi) Monastery. Another Chinese pilgrim Yijing 義凈 (635–713)
also informs us that Saṃghavarman 僧伽跋摩, a monk from Samarkand in Central
Asia, had carved out a figure of the buddhist deity Avalokiteśvara under the aśoka
tree (Ch. wuyoushu 無憂樹) in a “Bodhi Cloister” at Dajue Monastery (Dajuesi 大
覺寺) located in the western region.4
The extant accounts concerning the Putiyuan at Ximing Monastery are centered
on Śubhakarasiṃha, who brought loads of Sanskrit manuscripts to Chang’an and
was first housed in Xingfu Monastery (Xingfusi 興福寺). He soon moved to Ximing
Monastery and proposed to the emperor Xuanzong 玄宗 (r. 712–756) that eminent
scholars be invited to take positions in his translation office situated in Putiyuan
cloister. It was customary for Chang’an monks to attach a library to the numerous
Institutes for the Translation of Scriptures so that books of diverse editions and
manuscripts written in Indic languages became accessible to translators, scholars,
their assistants and visitors from other monasteries. Moreover, scribes could efficiently transcribe new translations and return the original texts in the library holdings. However, Śubhakarasiṃha was not able to keep his Sanskrit manuscripts in the
Putiyuan library, as he was ordered to tender the original manuscripts to the imperial
library, which, like the national monasteries, was considered an important repository for Buddhist scriptures.5 The fragmentary sources from the eighth century,
however, are not sufficient to prove that Putiyuan cloister was the same monastic
library that was earlier used by the eminent scholar Daoxuan; it is possible that the
Putiyuan collection associated with Śubhakarasiṃha’s translation office represented
the bibliographical and academic accomplishments of the Ximingsi monks in the
eighth century. An important inference drawn from the newly translated forty-­
fascicle Avataṃsaka sūtra (Ch. Sishi huayan 四十華嚴, T293, Gaṇḍa-vyuha) indicates that at least in the early eighth century the official library of Ximing Monastery
was associated with Putiyuan cloister.6
Da Tang xiyu qiufa gaoseng zhuan 大唐西域求法高僧傳, T51, no. 2066, p. 4, c15-24.
Song gaoseng zhuan 宋高僧傳, T50, no. 2061, p. 715, b9-12; Xu gujin yijing tuji 續古今譯經圖
紀, T55, no. 2152, p. 372, b2-6.
Da fanguang fo huayan jing 大方廣佛華嚴經, T10, no. 293, p. 849, a9-16; Zhenyuan xinding
shijiao mulu 貞元新定釋教目錄, T55, no. 2157, p. 894; Xu Zhenyuan shijiao lu 續貞元釋教錄,
T55, no.2158, p. 1052, a13-17; Song gaoseng zhuan, T50, no. 2061, p. 721, b15-24. In 798, the
King of Uḍa (Ch. wutu guowang 烏荼國王) presented a Sanskrit manuscript of the Āvataṃsaka
Sūtra as a gift to Dezong. Copied by the Indian king himself to pay his homage to the Chinese
emperor, the text was translated by the Indian monk Prājña and his atelier at Congfu Monastery.
The king of Uḍa is also known as the king of Odra, or Orissa. He was probably Śubhakaradeva the
first (r. 780–800), the founder of the Bhauma-kara Dynasty (Davidson 2002: 51). The Singaporean
X. Wang
Over the course of the first two centuries of the Tang, scriptural translations were
joint projects involving both scholar-monks and officials in charge of religious
affairs. The famed masters of Ximingsi were expected to engage themselves in this
process at their home monastery or other designated institutions. For instance,
between 650 and 655, the eminent monk-scholar Xuanzang 玄奘 (600–664)
recruited at least five cleric scholars from Ximingsi to join his translation atelier. In
an effort to render the seminal treatise of the Sarvāstivādins, the Abhidharma-­
mahāvibhāsā-­śāstra (Treatise of the Great Commentary on the Abhidharma, Ch.
Apidamo da piposha lun 阿毘達磨大毘婆沙論, T1545) into Chinese, the Ximing
prelates took separate positions on the translation team: initial checker (or checkers
of meaning, zhengyi 證義); editor (or binders of the composition, zhuiwen 綴文);
drafter (zhibi 執筆) and amanuensis (or scribes, bishou 筆受).7 In the tripiṭaka
described by Daoxuan in the middle of the seventh century, the Abhidharma-­
mahāvibhāsā-­śāstra was contained in twenty book cases, the exact location of
which in the early Ximing library was precisely prescribed in the Neidian Catalogue.8
On many occasions such as this, when the major locale of translation was situated
elsewhere, it was customary for the Ximing prelates to make copies of the works, so
as to enrich their own library. The eminent monk-scholar Yuanzhao 圓照 (8th c.),
who participated as an amanuensis in the new translation of the Āvataṃsaka Sūtra,
copied the scripture and took it back to Ximingsi. On this occasion, textual evidence
bears testimony to the role of the East Pavilion (dongge 東閣), situated in the
Putiyuan cloister, as the official depot of the renowned Ximing tripiṭaka:
It was the fourteenth year of Zhenyuan of the Great Tang, the lunar year of Wuyin.
Śramaṇa Yuanzhao, member of the translation atelier…copied the newly translated scripture and remedied the inadequacy of the tripiṭaka of East Pavilion in the [library] of the
Putiyuan cloister at Ximingsi.
大唐貞元十四年,歲在戊寅……翻經沙門圓照……手自書寫此新譯經, 填續西明寺菩
Reference here to the tripiṭaka of East Pavilion (donggeyiqiejing 東閣一切經)
attests to the existence of an open Buddhist canon preserved in a major Buddhist
scholar Ku Cheng-Mei 古正美 thinks that the new version of Āvataṃsaka Sūtra reflects the
Avataṃsaka Buddharāja (Ch. fowang 佛王) tradition that was associated with the cult of
Amoghapāśa (Ch. Bukong juansuo guanyin 不空羂索観音) popular in southern India. Like many
translated texts from the tradition of Indian tantrism, the submission of this scripture to the emperor
certainly assumes the political connotation of the Buddha king (Ku 2003: 325–376).
Apidamo da piposha lun 阿毗達磨大毗婆沙論 (Skt. Abhidharma-mahāvibhāṣā śāstra), T27, no.
1545, p. 4, c19-p.5, a15. See also (Forte 1976:171–176).
Datang neidian lu 大唐內典錄, T55, no. 2149, p. 311, c9-18.
Recorded in the long postscript to the narrative chapter Ru busiyi jietuo jingjie Puxian xingyuan
ping 入不思議解脫境界普賢行願品 (Chapter on the Vows of Samantabhadra) in the forty-fascicle Avataṃsaka Sūtra;see Da fangguang fo Huayanjing, T10, no. 293, p. 849, a9-16. In 755,
Buddhist prelates sent the newly-translated Avataṃsaka Sūtra to a eunuch-official Ma Chengqian 馬
承倩 for proofreading in Guangzhai Monastery (Guangzaisi 光宅寺), another centre of sūtrareplication in Chang’an; see Zhenyuan xinding shijiao mulu,T55, no. 2157, p. 771, c10-14.
From Serindia to Japan: A Sketch of the Buddhist Library of Ximing Monastery…
Table 7.1 Buddhist catalogues compiled at Ximing Monastery
1 Da Tang neidian lu 大唐內典錄 (Buddhist Catalogue of the Great
2 Da Tang zhenyuan xu kaiyuan shijiao lu 大唐貞元續開元釋教錄
(Addendum to Kaiyuan Catalogue Compiled in the Reign-era of
Zhenyuan in the Great Tang)
3 Zhenyuan xinding shijiao mulu 貞元新定釋教目錄 (A Catalogue of
[the Texts about] Buddhist Teachings, Newly Collated in the Zhenyuan
Bibilographer Date
hall at Putiyuan cloister. We are familiar with other cases of Chinese pavilions
(ge 閣) that served as monastic libraries in Chang’an. For instance, the Wenshuge
文殊閣 (Wenshuge Cloister, or Pavilion of Mañjuśri), superintended by the Indian
tantric master Amoghavajra (Bukong 不空, or Amuqubazheluo 阿目佉跋折羅, or
Bukongjin’gang 不空金剛, 705–774) in the eighth century, was the central repository of Xingshan Monastery, located in the official Institute of Sūtra Translation
(Wang 2009: 507–508).10 The selection of scriptures to strengthen the Putiyuan collection was not a random decision. Evidence suggests that the Ximing monks had
rummaged through libraries in other monasteries or even those collections located
as far as in the east capital of Luoyang for an authoritative edition (zhengben 正本),
so that they might reproduce accurate texts and take the copies back to Ximingsi.11
According to the Da Tang zhenyuan xukaiyuan shijiao lu 大唐貞元續開元釋教錄
(Addendum to Kaiyuan Catalogue Compiled in the Reign–era of Zhenyuan in the
Great Tang, T2156), a minor catalogue that was soon subsumed in the authoritative
Zhenyuan Catalogue (Zhenyuan xinding shijiao mulu 貞元新定釋教目錄, T2157,
see Table 7.1), editing and copying a new text required several stages of revision.
Textual instability in the age of manuscripts and the custom of culling excerpts from
lengthy texts must have produced numerous variant manuscript versions.
The Da Tang zhenyuan xukaiyuan shijiao lu was a Buddhist catalogue compiled
by the vinaya master Yuanzhao at Ximing Monastery in the tenth year of Zhenyuan
(794). It must have used the collection of Putiyuan cloister, suggesting by the end of
the eighth century, the size of the collection had grown to a point where a new catalogue was needed. From the 18th year of Kaiyuan (730) to 794, the four incumbent
Tang rulers (Xuanzong, Suzong, Daizong and Dezong) witnessed a large number of
new esoteric scrolls added to the monastic library shelves, the result of the efforts of
a succession of tantric masters from the Silk Road committed to introducing the
On another occasion, at the request of Amoghavajra, the emperor Daizong 代宗 (r. 762-79)
bestowed a tripiṭaka of 5050 scrolls to his daughter Master Qionghua 瓊華, who was studying
under the tutelage of Amoghavajra in the Institute for Sūtra Translation at Wenshuge; see
Daizongchao zeng sikong dabianzheng guangzhi sanzang heshang biaozhiji 代宗朝贈司空大辨
正廣智三藏和上表制集, T.52, no.2120, 839a.
For a case of selecting the authoritative edition of the Zhuan falun jing 轉法輪經 (Sutra of
Turning the Wheel of the Dharma, T109) among Buddhist libraries in Chang’an; see Kaiyuan
shijiao lu 開元釋教錄, T55, no. 2154, p. 692, b25-26.
X. Wang
Indian esoteric teachings to their Chinese followers. By 794, for fear that the collection of esoteric manuals, the newly-acquired poetic anthologies, and numerous
memorials as well as stone inscriptions were lost in the library (zangnei 藏內),
Yuanzhao “wrote down what he had seen and heard” and presented his results in the
three-fascicle Da Tang zhenyuan xukaiyuan shijiao lu.12 The short bibliography
includes nearly 200 fascicles of esoteric texts translated by monks from Central
Asia and India. In addition to the famous Vajrabodhi (Ch. Jinggangzhi 金剛智,
671–741), Amoghavajra and Prajña, the list of translators also features Ajitasena
(Ch. Azhidaxian 阿質達霰) from northern India; Dharmachandra (Ch. Fayue 法月)
of eastern India; the Kuchen master Utpalavīrya (Ch. Lianhua jingjin 蓮華精進)
and the Khotanese Śīladharma (Ch. Shiluodamo 尸羅達摩), who had generously
bequeathed Sanskrit manuscripts to their host monasteries. In addition to a variety
of religious documents collected during the Zhenyuan period, the catalogue is
replete with collections of spells (dhāraṇīs); ritual manuals (Ch. niansongfa 念誦
法, Skt. kalpa or vidhi); as well as systematic tantric works such as the Liqu jing 理
趣經 (Scripture that Transcends the Principle, Skt. Adhyartdhaśatikā-­
prajñāpāramitā-­sūtra).13 This new esoteric texts laid down a solid foundation that
established Ximingsi as another center of Chinese tantrism——a center that would
subsequently attract Japanese student monks to study in the rich Ximing library in
the ninth century.
The Zhenyuan Catalogue and Japanese Scholar-Monks
Six years after the publication of Yuanzhao’s Addendum to the Kaiyuan Catalogue,
in the fourth month of 800, the status of Ximing Monastery as the national repository of the Buddhist canon was enhanced by an edict of the emperor Dezong 德宗
(r. 779-805) ordering Yuanzhaoto produce the authoritative Zhenyuan xinding shijiao mulu 貞元新定釋教目錄 (A Catalogue of [the Texts on] Buddhist Teachings,
Newly Collated in the Zhenyuan Era, T2157) as an exemplar for sūtra replication in
the entire East Asia region (Saitō 1994: 83).14 The major part of Zhenyuan Catalogue,
titled zonglu 總錄 (general catalogue), was a more or less rehashed edition of the
prominent Kaiyuan shijiao lu 開元釋教錄 (T2054), with the addition of a special
section explaining why the catalogue was a state-sanctioned project. The second
part, entitled bielu 別錄 (explanatory bibliography), contains bibliographical listings of 269 scriptures translated by 11 scholars during the preceding 71 years.
Another feature of the catalogue is the addendum to the last chapter (fascicle 30)
Da Tang zhenyuan xukanyuan shijiao lu, T55, no. 2156, p. 766, a13-25.
For a general introduction of the esoteric texts in the catalogue, see Astley 2011:712. Liqu jing理
趣經 (Skt. Adhyartdhaśatikāprajñāpāramitā sūtra) is the abbreviated title of the Dale jin’gang
bukong zhenshi samoye jing 大樂金剛不空真實三摩耶經 (T243).
The catalogue is also known as Yuanzhao Lu 圓照錄 (Catalogue Compiled by Yuanzhao).
According to Xu Zhenyuan shijiao lu, the catalogue was finished in 799.
From Serindia to Japan: A Sketch of the Buddhist Library of Ximing Monastery…
where, under the rubric of Buruzang mulu 不入藏目錄 (Catalogue of Works
Excluded from the Tripiṭaka), 118 apocryphal texts, beginning with Miji jingang
lishi jing 密跡金剛力士經 (Sutra of the Vajra-Warrior with the Hidden Tracks) and
ending with Gaowang guanshiyin jing 高王觀世音經 (The Avalokiteśvara Sutra of
King Gao), are identified as apocryphal works.15 For a long period after its completion, the Zhenyuan Catalogue represented the classic achievement of Buddhist bibliography, the impact of which was felt across the boundaries of East Asian
Although the tantric texts listed in the preliminary Xu kaiyuan shijiao lu also
appear in Zhenyuan Catalogue, there is no specific identification of them as pertaining to a particular school or tradition. On the contrary, they are listed in subordinate
positions peripheral to those of the major scholastic traditions such as the Huayan
sect (Astley 2011:711). In contrast to Daoxuan, Yuanzhao was more flexible in his
choice of sanctioned classics, so that his catalogue incorporates a wide variety of
indigenous works by Chinese monks. With its coverage of the minute facts of translation and recension and its precise categorization of materials, the Zhenyuan
Catalogue may be said to represent the culmination of the Tang Buddhist bibliographic catalogues. With the catastrophe of the Huichang Suppression of Buddhism
(840–846), the manuscript inventory contained in the Zhenyuan Catalogue in some
sense captured the afterglow of Tang Buddhism and marked the closure of two centuries of Buddhist translations since the monumental Kaiyan Catalogue. That work,
edited by Zhisheng 智昇 (658–740) in 730 (Kaiyuan 18), may have set the standard
for Buddhist bibliography, but Yuanzhao’s catalogue, based on the comprehensive
Putiyuan library of Ximingsi at the end of the eighth century, significantly enlarged
the coverage.
Moreover, the experience of a Kashgarian lexicographer Huilin 慧琳 (737–820),
who was active in the Ximing library for some 20 years, also provides a snapshot of
the Ximing tripiṭaka around the time of the compilation of the Zhenyuan Catalogue.
Although Chinese scholar Fang Guangchang 方廣錩 argues that Huilin, instead of
being a Ximingsi prelate, was a registered monk at Xingshan Monastery (Fang
2006:282), American scholar Abe Ryūichi 阿部龍一 rightly points out the link
between Yuanzhao’s scholarship and Huilin’s Buddhist lexicon:
Based on the knowledge he had acquired from his collaboration with Prajñā, Yüan-chao
produced a concordance of the principle terms in the Mahāyana Six Pāramitā Sūtra that
provided the pronunciation and meaning of each, and, whenever appropriate, the original
term in Sanskrit. Yüan-chao’s concordance may well have inspired the compilation of a
gigantic Buddhist lexicon, the Pronunciation and Meaning of Words from the Complete
Buddhist Scriptures (I-ch’eih-ching yin-i), in one hundred fascicles, by another resident
priest of the His-ming monastery, Hui-lin (Ryūichi 1999: 117–118).
The gigantic lexicon mentioned here is Huilin’s Dazang yinyi 大藏音義 (or Yiqiejing
yinyi 一切經音義, The Sounds and Meanings [of all the words in] the Scriptures,
Zhenyuan xinding shijiao mulu, T55, no. 2157, p. 1046, b1-25. See Sho Ajari shingon mikkyō
burui sōroku 諸阿闍梨真言密教部類總錄 (or Hakke hiroku 八家秘録 [The Tantric Rituals
Collected by the Eight Masters]), T55, no. 2176, p. 1115, c19-20.
X. Wang
T2128), an important work on sanskritology and Chinese scholia (xungu 訓詁).
Huilin worked on this masterpiece between 783 and 807, based on the precious
volumes of both Buddhist and Chinese works collected at Ximing library.16 He
made use of such lexicographic classics as Zilin 字林 (Grove of Character); Zitong
字統 (Unification of Character); Shenglei 聲類 (Category of Syllables); Sancang 三
蒼 (Thee Books of Cangxie); Qieyun 切韻 (Cutting Rhymes) and Yupian 玉篇 (Jade
Chapters), along with historical works and Confucian texts readily accessible in the
Ximing collection.17 Huilin’s lexicon, which contains technical terms appearing in
one thousand two hundred and twenty texts, is central to a full understanding of the
Ximing tripiṭaka. As Chinese scholars point out, it provides a glimpse of the ever-­
changing collections of Ximing Monastery and scriptures absent in the official
Zhenyuan Catalogue. It may well serve as an index to the sanctioned canon and
extracanonical works perching on the shelves of the Ximing library.
Some of the treatises in the lexicon have been passed down to us, while others
were only recently found among the extant Dunhuang manuscripts. It is believed
that these texts, absent from the Zhenyuan Catalogue, reflect the textual diversity of
Ximing library in the early ninth century.18 According to Huilin’s biography, the
lexicon was stored in the Ximing library along with many extracanonical works
absent in the official catalogue. Not until some 40 years after its completion was the
Yiqiejing yinyi approved by the Tang government and entered into the register of the
official tripiṭaka and survived the lapse of time.19 Huilin’s marvelous achievement
even captured the attention of some Koryö monks who sought to purchase the book
during the Xiande 顯德 era (954–959) in the Later Zhou Dynasty. However, after a
century and a half, the dictionary might have dropped from circulation and they
failed to find a copy on sale in the southern province, Zhejiang. Despite the status of
the Zhenyuan Catalogue as a state-recognized Buddhist bibliography, the scope of
its influence seems to have been restricted, for a time, to Northern China and the
copies of the translated works based in it were mostly preserved in the same area
(Su 2009: 65).
If we now look eastward to explore the migration of texts from Ximing Monastery
along the maritime Silk Road to Korea and Japan, we find there a passion for
Buddhist books akin to that shown by the Chinese pilgrims who once took the arduous road to India in search of the Buddhist teachings. The dissemination of m
­ aterials
Some Chinese scholars think that the lexcon was completed in 807 (Yuanhe 2) instead of 810
(Wen 2000: 18). For a general study of Huilin’slexicon, see Yao 2003.
Zilin wascomposed by Lü Chen 呂忱 from the Jin dynasty (265–420); Qiuyun, written by Lu
Fayan 陸法言 (581-618), is a Chinese rhyme dictionary published in 601 in the Sui Dynasty. For
the impact of Yiqiejing yinyi on Chinse phonetics, see Yao (2003: 83–104).
Circumstantial evidence concerning the Buddhist tripiṭakain Chang’an during this period is also
available through the Japanese Ennin 円仁 (794–864)’s travelogue and manuscripts excavated
from Dunhuang and Turfan. When Ennin visited the puxian daochang 普賢道場 (Hall of
Samantabhadra) in the Monastery of Gold Pavilion (Jin’gesi 金閣寺) at Mount Wutai, he found a
well-decorated tripiṭaka donated by a patron from Chang’an (Reischauer 1955: 254).
The original text reads: “貯其本于西明藏中”, “see Tang jingshi Ximingsi Huilin zhuan 唐京師
西明寺慧琳傳, Song gaoseng zhuan, T50, no. 2061, p. 738, a22-b5.
7 From Serindia to Japan: A Sketch of the Buddhist Library of Ximing Monastery…
from the Buddhist collection of Ximingsi, from the ninth century, can be traced
along two lines: first, the Japanese monks in residence at the monastery, reflective
of the importance of cultural exchange between Tang China and Heian Japan; and
secondly, the textual records of special monastic collections found in various contemporaneous sources.
Starting from the eighth century, the visitors, foreign monks in particular, must
have taken an immediate liking to the rich store of manuscripts deposited in the
Ximing library during their pilgrimage in Tang China. Enjoying a great cultural
prestige in medieval Japan, Ximing Monastery had exerted a profound and far-­
reaching impact on Japanese Buddhism. Among a group of about ten Japanese
monks who took up residence at Ximingsi, Eichū, the Sanronshū 三論宗 monk who
made the voyage to Tang China in 777 (Hōki 宝亀 8), lodged in Ximingsi for 6 years
and frequented the Putiyuan library. In 805 (Enryaku 延暦 24), 5 years after
Yuanzhao completed his catalogue, Eichū returned to Japan and assumed the post of
abbot at the celebrated Bonshakuji 梵釋寺 (Monastery of Brahmā and Śakra) by the
order of Emperor Kanmu 桓武天皇 (r. 781–806).20 The library of Bonshakuji was
said to be in possession of the standard 5000-fascicle tripiṭaka brought back to
Japan in 735 (Tempyō 天平 7) by Genbō 玄昉 (d.746), a Hossōshū 法相宗 monk
who studied Yogācāra doctrine with the eminent Chinese master Zhizhou 智周
(668–723). Like other Japanese gakumonsō 學問僧 (scholar-monks), Eichū transcribed the newly-translated scriptures and presented some of them to the emperor.
The entry of the year 835 (Jōwa 承和 2) in the Shoku Nihon kōki 續日本後紀
(Continued Later Chronicle of Japan), one of the six imperially commissioned
Japanese histories, implies a connection and similarity between Zhenyuan Catalogue
and Bonshakuji mokuroku 梵釋寺目錄 (Buddhist Catalogue of Bonshakuji, Ono
1989: 154).21 The wisdom contained in the Bonshakuji collection greatly enhanced
the compilation of another important catalogue, Tōiki dentō mokuroku 東域伝灯目
録, for the latter preserves a short extract of scriptures contained in the former
(Sueki 2003: 429). We are unable to ascertain the exact sources of the lost Bonshakuji
mokuroku, but the Japanese scholar Ono Katsutoshi 小野胜年 argues that it may
contain new texts transcribed at the Putiyuan library by Eichū (Ono 1994: 83).
The Ximingsi cloister where Eichū resided was subsequently occupied by the
great Japanese master Kūkai 空海 (774–835), who sailed for China in the sixth
month of 804 (Enryaku 23) and arrived at Chang’an by the end of that year. He
vowed to travel to China to study the Buddhist tantras that had puzzled him in
Japan. After the official Japanese envoy started home for Japan, Kūkai alone
remained behind in Ximingsi in order to learn more about the Mahāvairocana-­
sūtra, which had been translated into Chinese in the 720 s and brought to Japan by
Bonshakuji was established by Emperor Kammu initially as the Shitennōji 四天王寺 (Monastery
of Four Mahārājās) for the posthumous happiness of the former Emperor Tenji 天智天皇 (r. 668–
671) in 786 (Enryaku 延暦 5). Nine years later, the monastery was renamed Bonshakuji.
See also Fozutongji 佛祖統紀, T49, no. 2035, p. 399, a26-28; For a popular novel based on the
life story of Genbō, see Matsumoto 1980.
X. Wang
Genbō.22 We may reasonably infer that with a copy of the Zhenyuan Catalogue in
hand, Kūkai had made use of the Ximing tripiṭaka of Putiyuan, where he could
exchange ideas with Yuanzhao and call on the eminent Buddhist teachers of the
capital. It was at Ximing Monastery that he came into contact with masters capable
of reading Buddhist Sanskrit. Abe Ryūichi summarizes Kūkai’s activity at Ximingsi
this way:
Upon his arrival in 805 at the His-ming monastery, Kūkai must therefore have had immediate access to teachers and materials for his study of Sanskrit, mantra, and Esoteric Buddhist
texts in general. Kūkai was the first Japanese pilgrim to bring Yüan-chao’s Chen-yüan
Catalogue to Japan, for example. And because the collection of Buddhist scriptures that had
been assembled in Japan was based on Chih-sheng’s 730 K’ai-yüan Catalogue, Kūkai’s
access to the Chen-yüan Catalogue made it possible for him to identify and import texts
hitherto unavailable in Japan (Abe 1999: 118).
It seems after meeting with Yuanzhao, Kūkai came to be aware of the Sanskrit pundit Prajñā, with whom Yuanzhao had carried out many translation projects. It was
even possible that Prajñā was residing at Ximing Monastery during Kūkai’s visit. It
is likely that, before Kūkai decided to have a meeting with his renowned master
Huiguo at Qinglong Monastery, he received three Sanskrit manuscripts of the newly
translated Āvataṃsaka Sūtra and Scripture of the Six Pāramitā of Mahāyāna passed
from his Sanskrit teacher Prajñā, who told him:
I was born in Kashmir and was initiated into Buddhism while still young and went on a pilgrimage all over India. With the pledge to transmit the torch of the Dharma, I came to China.
I wish to sail for Japan, but circumstances do not allow me to fulfill my intention. Take with
you the new Avataṃsaka Sūtra and the Șaṭ-Pāramitā Sutra, both of which I have translated,
and these Sanskrit manuscripts. I sincerely hope that these will help create conditions [in
which to propagate Buddhism] so that people will be saved (Yoshito 1972: 149).23
Richard Bowring claims that although Kūkai was probably not the inventor of
Japanese kana 仮名 (Japanese syllabaries), there can be no doubt that the knowledge of the Sanskrit syllabary (Skt. siddham or Ch. xitan 悉昙) that he gained in
China played a major part in the development of the Japanese kana scripts during
the course of the ninth century (Bowring 2005: 137). Abe Ryūichi thinks that the Six
Pāramitā of Mahāyāna that Kūkai introduced to Japan in 806 provided him with the
critical theoretical underpinning for defining Esoteric Teaching (mikkyō 密教) as a
category distinct from the Exoteric Teaching (kengyō 显教, Abe 1999: 117). With
the help of Takashinano Tōnari 高階遠成 (756-818), the judge and senior secretary
of Dazaifu (Dazai daikan 大宰大監), Kūkai submitted some of the manuscripts that
he collected at Ximing Monastery, including the compositions by Yuanzhao, to
Emperor Saga 嵯峨天皇 (r. 809–823).24 In addition to the new translations of
[Go]shōrai mokuroku 禦請來目錄, T55, no. 2161, p. 1065, a10-17. The catalogue is also known
as the Jō shōrai kyōtō mokurokuhyō 新請来經等目錄表 (A Memorial Presenting a List of Newly
Imported Sūtras and Other Items), see also Bowring 2005: 136.
[Go]shōrai mokuroku, T55, no. 2161, p. 1065, c8-13. See also Yoshinori 1999: 177.
[Go]shōrai mokuroku, T55, no. 2161, p. 1060, c5-18. On the interaction between Kūkai and
Yuanzhao, see Yoritomi 1980: 183-206. For a discussion of Takashinano Tōnari 高階遠成 in relation to Kūkai’s trip to Tang China, see Takeuchi (2006: 285–288).
From Serindia to Japan: A Sketch of the Buddhist Library of Ximing Monastery…
e­ soteric Buddhism and some traditional doctrinal treatises, the texts that he imported
to Japan also contain scriptures of the two maṇḍalas, siddham texts and the pictorial
presentations of the sacred assembly of tantric deities. Among the 216 scriptures,
two of them are concerned with Yuanzhao’s bibliographical works: Zhenyuan
Catalogue and Zhenyuan xinfan yijing tuji 貞元新翻譯經圖記 (The Illustrated
Record of the Newly Translated Scriptures During the Zhenyuan Era). Looking into
the famous Sanjūjō sasshi 三十帖冊子 (Thirty Volumes of Buddhist Teachings,
c.805), the calligraphical transcription of tantric texts collected by Kūkai, also
reveals several scriptures associated with Ximing library, including the new translations of the Scripture for Humane Kings, Avataṃsaka Sūtra, Șaṭ-Pāramitā Sutra
Āryadhāraṇīśvararāja-sūtra; Dhāraṇī for Safeguarding the Nation, the Realm and
the Chief of State, T997). These scriptures are popularly known as the state-­
protecting sūtras (Ch. huguo jingdian 護國經典) of that time. According to Ono
Katsutoshi, these texts were all copied by Kūkai in his residence at Ximingsi
(Momoi 1999: 21–30).
In the middle of the Tang dynasty, Buddhist collections at Ximing Monastery took
on more importance, attracting the most talented translators and compilers from the
small countries of the Silk Road to manage the multiplying manuscripts. This essay
presents a many-faceted image of the Putiyuan library, the collections and the attendant scriptural catalogues that coexisted at Ximing Monastery. From the eighth to
the early ninth century, the Putiyuan library bore witness to multiple international
projects of scriptural transmission, including the Chinese translation of Indian esoteric literature that attracted generations of Japanese dharma seekers to cross the
ocean. The original Buddhist texts in Sanskrit and other Central Asian languages,
translated into Chinese by a multitude of Buddhist travellers along the Silk Road,
eventually trickled its way to Japan.
On the bases of these collections, the Buddhist exegetes at Ximing Monastery
produced a new standard sūtra catalogue of the Zhenyuan period employed in the
subsequent years, as criteria for monastic collections all over the east end of the
maritime Silk Road. Before the Huichang suppression of Buddhism, this remarkable catalogue represented not only the highest achievement in Buddhist bibliography, but also a testimony to the build-up of the monastic collections in China
between 700 and 800. Though Buddhist scholars and Chinese bibliographers
accorded great importance to the Kaiyuan Shijiaolu, the value and impact of the
Zhenyuan Catalogue cannot be ignored. After the Zhenyuan Catalogue was
­transmitted to Japan, it became the benchmark buddhist bibliography on which
some regional temples in the fledging political entity began to build up their
X. Wang
In summary, Ximing Monasery is an excellent point of departure for the investigation of a number of topics of Buddhist manuscript culture along the Silk Road,
including monastic collection, Buddhist bibliography and the rich history of international exchanges between Serindia, Tang China and medieval Japan. The ancient
connection and network forged by the intrepid explorers and Buddhist missionaries
of antiquity are currently rejuvenating as the blueprint of the Belt Road Initiative
unfolds itself. In spite of the progress made by Buddhist studies scholars to investigate the intercultural linkage within the belt road countries, however, the field of
Buddhist libraries as the cultural nexus across Asia is still in its infancy, with all the
questions posed from the perspectives of material culture, knowledge exchange and
codicology yet to be properly explored.
Primary Sources
Apidamo da piposha lun 阿毗達磨大毗婆沙論. (n.d.). T27, no. 1545.
Da fanguang fo huayan jing 大方廣佛華嚴經. (n.d.). T10, no. 293.
Da Tang neidian lu 大唐內典錄. (n.d.). T55, no. 2149.
Da Tang xiyu qiufa gaoseng zhuan 大唐西域求法高僧傳. (n.d.). T51, no. 2066.
Da Tang zhenyuan xukaiyuan shijiao lu 大唐貞元續開元釋教錄. (n.d.). T55, no. 2156.
Dacheng fayuan yilin zhang 大乘法苑義林章. (n.d.). T45, no. 1861.
Daizong chao zeng sikong dabianzheng guangzhi sanzang heshang biaozhiji 代宗朝贈司空大辨
正廣智三藏和上表制集. (n.d.). T52, no. 2120.
Fozu tongji 佛祖統紀. (n.d.). T49, no. 2035.
Kaiyuan shijiao lu 開元釋教錄. (n.d.). T55, no. 2154.
Sho Ajari shingon mikkyō burui sōroku 諸阿闍梨真言密教部類總錄. (n.d.). T55, no. 2176.
Song gaoseng zhuan 宋高僧傳. (n.d.). T50, no. 2061.
Xu gujin yijing tuji 續古今譯經圖紀. (n.d.). T55, no. 2152.
Xu Zhenyuan shijiao lu 續貞元釋教錄. (n.d.). T55, no. 2158.
Zhenyuan xinding shijiao mulu 貞元新定釋教目錄. (n.d.). T55, no. 2157.
Secondary Sources
Abe, R. (1999). The weaving of mantra: Kūkai and the construction of Esoteric Buddhist discourse. New York: Columbia University Press.
Astley, I. (2011). Esoteric Buddhism, material culture, and catalogues in East Asia. In Esoteric
Buddhism and the Tantras in East Asia (pp. 709–718). Leiden: Brill.
Bowring, J. (2005). The Religious Traditions of Japan, 500–1600. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge
University Press.
Davidson, R. M. (2002). Indian esoteric buddhism: A social history of the tantric movement.
New York: Columbia University Press.
Fang, Guangchang 方廣錩. (2006). Zhongguo xieben dazang jing yanjiu 中國寫本大藏經研究.
Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe.
7 From Serindia to Japan: A Sketch of the Buddhist Library of Ximing Monastery…
Forte, A. (1976). Political propaganda and ideology in China at the end of the seventh century:
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Part IV
Socio-cultural Dynamics
Chapter 8
China’s Soft Power: Culturalisation Along
the Belt Road Corridors
Khun Eng Kuah
The Belt Road Initiative initiated by Xi Jinping has led to an amazing flurry of
activities. Within the business and the scholarly world, most attention are focussed
on the economic and financial benefits that BRI will bring to the region. Bankers,
financiers and the various states have gone overdrive to ensure that they locked
themselves into this BRI and benefitted from the perceived economic benefits that
filtered down in the form of trading, finance and industrial development as a result
of infrastructure development.
Scholars have focussed and derived models of financial and economic gains as a
result of this development. Political scientists and International Relations experts on
the other hand have cautioned on the political hegemony of Chinese influence on the
countries along the BRI corridors. Research are only beginning to surface on the
cultural impact of the BRI on the people.
This paper will formulate a model for understanding cultural flows that will
determine interactions and connectivity that will result in the formation of imagined
communities along shared interests rather than nation-state boundaries. We argue
that the Chinese state and through its various institutions used two key elements –
education and philanthropy – to further its global reach along the BRI. One result is
the creation of cultural basins that defy nation-state boundaries. This inevitably will
lead to the development of what Hobsbawn and Ranger called a shared invented
tradition. In the final analysis, this formation of cultural basins and invented tradition could be seen as a conscious action by China to exert its soft power beyond the
K. E. Kuah (*)
School of Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Singapore
© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019
Md. N. Islam (ed.), Silk Road to Belt Road,
K. E. Kuah
economic landscape. At the same time, this will further open China to the global
world in a variety of ways.
Legacy of Silk Road to Belt Road Initiative Corridors
Within a short span of 40 years since the Open Door Policy in 1978, China has
moved out of its Communist isolation and emerged as a global power in all aspects
of development. It will only be a matter of time before she becomes a superpower,
rivalling the US and the rest of the world in terms of its military, economic and social
cultural might. While the rest of the world quibbled over economic, finance, international relations and global values that include democracy, justice, rights and freedom,
China seized initiatives and engaged in global diplomacy that targeted the slow
developing economies by providing financial support and aids to these countries.
Along with the financial and philanthropic support also flows in the cultural and
social influence. In recent years, with its economic might and a strong leadership
team under Xi Jinping, it developed alternatives systems to rival its western competitors as well as establishing institutions of cultural and Chinese language learning as
part of China’s ascendance on a global stage. As it is now, we will see China as the
Global East rising to challenge the Global West. The term global East refers to the
rise of various East Asian powers, notably South Korea, Japan and specifically China,
in economic, political and cultural strengths and its influence in global world. This
has led scholars to argue that these financial and philanthropic actions are China’s
attempts to engage the world with its soft power and as Nye wrote, this is smart
power that will bring countries to agree with the actions of China (Nye 2008).
China as a key Global East player is not new to the game. Since the first and
second centuries, China was already a global player through its movements along
the overland and maritime Silk Road. The early dynastic leaders established tributary states and controlled vessel states as far as the South Seas through their maritime might. The expansion of the Silk Road westward was an overland route to
reach the communities westward of China. It was a reflection of China’s outward
policy of reaching communities beyond its border. The early movements were for
expanding its political reach and trading. To a large extent, this early dynastic
expansion led to economic and cultural expansion outwards.
The overland Silk Route and Zheng He’s maritime pursuit could be seen as part
of this broader pursuit to advance early China’s ambition to reach out to the world
beyond its own border in trade and significantly, in geopolitical expansion. Historical
accounts on the trading success of these two routes have been plentiful. Along these
routes, the early Chinese established contact points, trading posts and set up families
that enabled them to plant and spread the Chinese culture. The Silk Route was overreaching and impacted the Eurasian landscape and the communities along this region.
It also covered the ancient tea trade route which moved along two corridors. The
first is the Tea Horse Ancient Route (chama gudao 茶马古道) that moved along the
Kunming to Lhasa in Tibet corridor. The second is the Tribute Tea Ancient Route
(gongcha gudao 贡茶古道) that connected Kunming to Beijing in the north and the
China’s Soft Power: Culturalisation Along the Belt Road Corridors
Map 8.1 The ancient Tea-Horse routes (chama gudao 茶马古道). (Source: http://
www.chinauniquetour.com/html/all/2012810/arts-7317.html, accessed 17/2/2018)
Southeast Asian countries of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia along the Southern corridor. Along these routes, the traders in caravan traded tea with horses and interacted
with the various cultural groups such as the Musuo, Naxi and Islamic groups which
were later inducted as part of China’s ethnic minorities1 (Map 8.1).
Along these routes were not only trading connectivity, there were also religious
and cultural connectivity and transmission along the way. These ancient trade routes
were also migrational routes. Movements of traders, intellectuals, workers and others led to Confucian ideology, Chinese language, cultural and religious practices
moving out from China while Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and Arabic languages and
cultures moved into China through these routes (Benite 2014; Jones-Leaning and
Pratt 2012). Along the Silk Route, the spread of Islam and Buddhism was especially
prominent (Elverskog 2010). For examples, the skill of ceramic pottery making and
Chinese ink calligraphy art were passed along these trade routes and picked up by
the ethnic groups. Hybridised designs that embedded Islamic art and Arabic scripts
were incorporated into these wares and were transacted along these routes (See
Photos 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, and 8.4). The convergence of different groups of people and
Yang Jingqian, Hu Haoming, Ling Wenfeng. (2013). The Social View along Chama Ancient
Route. Shanghai: World Book Publishing (Cha ma gu dao feng qing lu, Shanghai shi jie tu shu chu
ban gong si). [杨静茜, 胡皓明, 凌文锋. (2013). 茶马古道风情录. 上海市: 上海世界图书出版
K. E. Kuah
Photo 8.1 Chinese blue and white ceramic brush pots with Arabic writings on them. (Photo taken
from the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia – Photo by author)
Photo 8.2 Big ceramic
plate with Chinese motif
and Arabic writings on it.
(Photo taken from the
Islamic Arts Museum
Malaysia – Photo by
China’s Soft Power: Culturalisation Along the Belt Road Corridors
Photo 8.3 Arabic writings in Chinese scroll. (Photo taken from the Islamic Arts Museum
Malaysia – Photo by author)
Photo 8.4 Chinese brush painting of a vase with Chinese
and Arabic writing on it. (Photo taken from the Islamic Arts
Museum Malaysia – Photo by author)
K. E. Kuah
communities along these routes led to the emergence of cultural intermixing and
intercultural marriages, diversities of languages, religions and cultures, resulting in
the growth of new cultural basins and hybridised cultures along the ancient trade
routes that straddle geopolitically within China and the regions where the traders
were from (Mezzavilla et al. 2014).
Reasons for Reinventing Belt and Road
Xi Jinping’s BRI could be seen as a successor of this historical trend to expand its
global reach as China seeks to define its global role taking the form of the Global
East in the twenty-first century. Irrespective of whether it was the Silk Route or the
present BRI, its central focus has been on the trade, political and cultural expansion.
The BRI through the infrastructure connections is predicted to bring various strands
of connectivity into and out of China as it positions itself as the Global East, radiating out to Southeast Asia, Eurasia, Africa and Latin America. Along these various
corridors, China seeks to reach deeper into Europe and beyond. This wide ranging
connectivity inevitably will touch on the life and the cultures of the communities
and individuals along the BR corridors.
This reinvention of the BR has its roots in Xi Jinping’s political and economic
reformist ideology and his desire to realise the China Dream. At the same time, it is
to consolidate his power as one of the greatest helmsman in Communist China and
a world leader on global stage. The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party
of China has witnessed the consolidation of Xi Jinping’s power base. It has also
seen a movement towards a more centralised rule and control in all areas: policies,
finance and economics, politics and ideology. The goal is to develop socialism with
Chinese characteristics, achieve socialist modernisation and for China to play an
active role in the international arena. This push for the Xi Jinping Thoughts has
gained currency and is included in the Chinese party’s constitution after the conclusion of the 19th Congress Meeting.
The Xi Jinping Thought (习近平思想) on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics
for a New Era is seen as a push towards the realisation of the “China Dream” (zhongguo meng 中国梦). The China Dream propagated by Xi in 2013 laid out a grand
vision that incorporates a set of national ideals and values, to be matched by personal aspirations and achievements. It is a move targeting the Chinese Y, Z generations and the millennials. Through policies and structural changes, Xi’s China
Dream aims at the integration of national with individual aspirations where the
focus on national achievements (modernisation, urbanisation and national wealth
growth) is equally matched by the ability of individuals to achieve their personal
goal in both wealth attainment and well-being. The dream will enable individuals to
attain their personal dream and yet support the Chinese state in its pursuit to create
a socio-economic structure that will enable China more just and equitable and yet
attain national prosperity. It is a move aims at achieving the material base of the
country through “Two 100s”. The first is to become a moderately wealthy nation,
China’s Soft Power: Culturalisation Along the Belt Road Corridors
Table 8.1 China’s income inequality and Gini coefficient
A. China’s Gini Coefficient (2003 - 2012)
B. Disposable income of the top 20% over that
of the bottom 20% of the income distribution
Source: National Bureau of Statistics, http://china.org.cn/business/2013-01/19/content_27736462.
htm, accessed 9/11/2018
xiaokang society (xiaokang shehui 小康社会)with a functional middle class where
the Chinese population will enjoy economic and material well-being and the population attained a GDP of USD $10,000 by 2020. This will in effect double its 2010
GDP. Under this vision, Xi and his team work towards China becoming 70% urbanized by 2030. And ultimately, it aims to achieve a developed nation status by 2049
as China reaches its 100th anniversary of communism (NPC 2016).
However, growth in China today is uneven and there is widening inequality.
China thus is working towards eradicating poverty through economic restructuring
and urbanisation. But this rapid economic growth, especially in the major cities of
Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and others have also exacerbated and widened the
wealth inequality gap between the urban-rural divide (Li and Wan 2015). The gini
coefficient in 2016 reached 0.465 and 1% of its population owns 33% of its total
wealth (Table 8.1).
Hence, there is the urgency of the Chinese state to tackle the following issues.
One key issue is the need to tackle internal economic and social inequality through
various strategies. The first is by offering opportunities for the Mainland Chinese to
engage in the rapid economic developments by creating greater employment opportunities, support of entrepreneurship, technological innovation and the like. It also
includes providing opportunities for moving to the urban areas, rapid urbanisation
and moving beyond its own borders. The second is to promote philanthropic activities and alleviate poverty in the rural and interior areas through its non-profit arm,
the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (zhongguo fuping jijing hui 中国扶贫
基金会). This is especially crucial as China wants to eradicate poverty by 2030.
The second key issue is tackling its demography. The huge population and especially in the rural interior where there are less economic opportunities for the villagers has created much pressure in these regions and social discontent from the
villagers. Increasing protest actions have attested to the precarious rural situation
and the need to address issues of lack of opportunity and social inequality. Inequality
has been exacerbated by the ageing population (Chen et al. 2017). For the last
30–40 years, the Chinese government has embarked on the urbanisation process
K. E. Kuah
(chengshi hua, 城市化) of the rural interior in its attempt to elevate the Chinese
population out of rural poverty, so that the population could move into middle class
and enjoy the life of a middle class of a developed nation. It identified certain township and emigrant villages and hometowns (qiaoxiang, 侨乡) as potential growth
nodes to propel development in the interior.
The third key issue is China’s physical space. Its population of 1.4 billion leads
to overcrowding despite its reasonable large land size. At the same time, after years
of “one child” policy, China has a huge ageing population that needs to be taken
care of. In 2016, there is 10.8% of Chinese over the age of 65 years (16.7% over the
age of 60 or more) (https://www.statista.com/statistics/251524/population-distribution-by-age-group-in-china/, accessed 19/2/2018). China’s population, like many
developed countries, is entering the hyper-ageing group and it posed a great problem for its younger age group to support it.
Compounding this problem is not only the narrow base of the young population,
but among the urban youth population, many of them and the graduates, have found
it hard to find suitable jobs that commensurate with their qualification. This has led
to the rise of a precarious class of youth who with their technological savviness
could easily mobilise social actions on and offline. This is a group that the state
needs to address urgently to prevent disillusionment and social discontent.
The large ageing population, precarious urban youths, social inequality and the
widening income gap have mandated government actions. Creating economic
opportunities both within domestic and international spaces become imperative for
China to address its economic problems as well as its desire to be a Global East
power on the world stage. The numerous policies that include economic restructuring, industrialization, a move towards high technology and foreign investments are
some strategies adopted to further its economic development progress. Along with
this is the Belt and Road strategy in creating socio-economic and cultural spaces
that straddle across geopolitical boundary where its population could legitimately
utilise such spaces for their own use and self-actualisation. I termed such spaces as
“collaborative territorial” spaces. In the twenty-first century, unlike in the early centuries, political conquest and annexation through military forces is non-feasible.
Creating nodes of connectivity in the form of collaborative territorial basins to provide opportunities for the Chinese population to engage in socio-economic activities is one strategy. The Belt-Road strategy speaks to this.
As such, this conscious attempt by President Xi Jinping and his team underlies
the proposition of the structural continuity from the Silk Route to the present BRI,
attesting to the reinvention of this trade-cultural tradition as outlined by Hobsbawn
and Ranger (1983). Belt Road corridors as the reinvented tradition of the ancient
Silk Route differed in several ways from the latter in that it is initiated by the State
and Chinese central government, more expansive, structured and managed.
China’s Soft Power: Culturalisation Along the Belt Road Corridors
reating “Collaborative Territorial” Space
Through Infrastructure Development
Public works and the development of infrastructure are regarded as crucial in
China’s socio-economic transformation from a transition economy to a developed
economy that would facilitate rapid urbanisation (chengshi hua 城市化) and its
move onto the world stage. This has been articulated since 1978 from the time when
China embarked on the Open Door Policy to the recent speech delivered by Xi
Jinping during 13th National Congress meeting. This has enabled the leadership and
state to consolidate and expand its power. Establishing relational networks are
instrumental for China’s quest to expand outwards. The 1978 Open Door Policy
could be seen as the first stage and widely regarded as successful in bringing China
out of Socialism and integrating it into the global economy. The BRI could thus be
regarded as a second stage development strategy for contemporary China to intensify its engagement with the global world on its terms through reinventing, utlising
and expanding the old Silk Road.
As China moves to be the Global East, it is no longer contended with only taking
orders from the Global West in all areas of development. It wants to move along on
its own terms and it wants to lead. Creating a new path and establishing an alternative global framework becomes a strategy to enable it to take ownership and leadership of not only development within its own border, but crucially on a global stage.
The BRI by Xi Jinping is a formidable strategy and constitutes an important social
cultural capital for China to take leadership in development and directly contest
with the Global West in all aspects: economic, international relations, cultural, environmental and philanthropy. China also initiated the establishment of the Asia
Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) that provides funding and enables the operationalisation of the BRI and hastens China’s globalisation and bringing countries
along the corridors into its alternative economic framework (Map 8.2).
The primary strategy is to establish economic corridors from China outwards
through the Eurasia land route and the maritime corridors. At the same time, the
BRI could be seen as a framework that goes beyond the economics. It is much
grander and wider in scope. Like the earlier Silk Road, the connectivity is also multiple fold. This time, trade goes beyond just the overland route but also expands over
the maritime seascape. The BRI involved 65 countries: East Asia, West Asia, South
Asia, Middle Asia, CIS and Mid-East Europe. In April 2017, over 100 countries and
organisations have joined this initiative. There are six corridors that will connect
various parts of Asia to China:
New Eurasia Land Bridge Corridor
China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor
China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor
Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor
China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor (Map 8.3, Table 8.2)
K. E. Kuah
Map 8.2 China’s silk road and one belt one road. (https://rightways.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/
feeb4-belt-road.jpg?w=780, accessed 24/10/2017)
Map 8.3 Belt and road initiative: six economic corridors. (Source: The Belt Road Initiative,
hktdc_IXOK715S_en(2).pdf., p. 2, accessed 18/5/2018)
8 China’s Soft Power: Culturalisation Along the Belt Road Corridors
Table 8.2 Countries along 6 BRI corridors
East Asia
West Asia
South Asia
Sri Lanka
Saudi Arabia
Middle Asia
Mid-East Europe
Czech Rep
Bosnia &
Source: https://walizahid.com/2015/10/chinas-world-reshaping-belt-and-road-initiative/, accessed
It is estimated that BRI will involve around 4.4 billion people (approximately
62%) of world population along the 6 corridors. In terms of economic benefits, it is
estimated that the cost of infrastructure development for the developing nations
along the BR corridors to be completed by 2030 is 26 trillion dollars, with China
pledging 1 trillion dollars. The various types of infrastructure to be developed along
these corridors include (i) finance, (ii) energy, (iii) transportation, (iv) heavy industry, (v) housing and construction and (vi) communications. It is estimated that
through these developments, an estimation of 160,000 jobs would be created and an
estimated profit of 1 billion dollars and tax revenue would be made (https://walizahid.com/2015/10/chinas-world-reshaping-belt-and-road-initiative/,
24/10/2017). While it encourages trade flows, there are also large scale human and
cultural flows along the various corridors. For example, China has a huge FDI in the
African economy totalling around $60 billion. This includes investment in mining,
rail-road, port, dam and telecommunication development. As such, it encourages
migration of mainland Chinese to other parts of the world where Mainland firms
have sent their Chinese professionals and workers to manage and work the various
industries that they have set up. Following this migration trend, other mainland
Chinese took advantages and set up stores and restaurants to cater to the needs of
these Chinese professionals and workers, leading to the growth of Chinese communities along the BR corridors.
K. E. Kuah
The economic advantages in terms of infrastructure development, investment
and opportunities, job creations and other economic opportunities along the BR corridors have led to support and participation by developed and developing countries.
However, several European countries and the US have perceived this economic
framework as China’s attempt at economic and cultural hegemony and refused to
endorse it. They argued that while BRI focussed on infrastructure development, it is
not of mutual benefits to the recipient countries. Instead, it is the case where Chinese
companies would bring Chinese skilled labour to the countries where China has
promised assistance in infrastructure development and that it benefitted China more
than the receiving countries and viewed it as China’s economic imperialism.
Collaborative Cultural Basins and Network Connectivity
In addition to the economic dimension, China is also working on the cultural connectivity, expanding the Chinese culture and reshaping its image to the global world.
Cultural connectivity along the BR corridors is a managed affair. In attempting to
structure the Global East and its relationship in the global world according to its
own terms, China has employed two familiar cultural strategies used by the Global
West. They are the use of philanthropy in the form of foreign and humanitarian aids
and education to bring Chinese culture to the outside world and foreign students to
China. In short, China aims to establish integrated cultural basins that will ultimately bring China out to the global world and the global world into China based on
its own terms.
Use of Philanthropy
Foreign Aids
In using the term philanthropy, I look at China’s employment of foreign and humanitarian aids to the developing world. Foreign aids cover complete projects, goods and
materials, technical cooperation, human resource development cooperation, medical
assistance, emergency humanitarian aid, volunteer programs, and debt relief (https://
www.brookings.edu/opinions/chinas-aid-to-africa-monster-or-messiah/, accessed
21/2/2018). Under the OECD definition, foreign aids provided by OECD countries
fall into various categories. One of this is concessional funding, ODA (official development assistance) defined as funding for the promotion of welfare and economic
development of the recipient countries (https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/chinas-aid-to-africa-monster-or-messiah/;
developmentassistancedefinitionandcoverage.htm, accessed 21/2/2018).2 China, as
For a comprehensive discussion on this, see “China Global Development Footprint” by AidData,
a Research Lab by College of William and Mary, accessed 22/2/2018.
China’s Soft Power: Culturalisation Along the Belt Road Corridors
a non OECD country does not need to abide by the OECD regulatory framework.
While China contributes to the official recognised concessional funding (ODA), it is
able to work outside the OECD regulatory framework and has established two other
categories of funding that some OECD country members viewed as irregular funding. The two categories of funding are “other official flows” (OOF) and “vague
official finance” (vague OF) (http://aiddata.org/china, accessed 22/2/2018). Many
have argued that a large part of these foreign aids focus on infrastructure development in the recipient countries. Although China has provided foreign aid since the
1950s, it is only at the turn of the twenty-first century that it begins to seriously focus
on foreign aid as reaching out to the global world (China’s Foreign Aid, Information
Office of the State Council, People’s Republic of China April 2011, Beijing, accessed
22/2/2018). From the mid 2000, it has also increased its humanitarian aids and this
was done through United Nations agencies and NGOs (http://www.europarl.europa.
22/2/2018). From 2000 to 2014, China spent USD350 billion in foreign aids to 140
developing countries, about half of which goes to the African continent. The rest
goes to Russia, Cuba, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. The priority of Chinese aid is to
Asia, Africa and South America (https://www.forbes.com/sites/ralphjennings/2017/12/22/china-is-giving-more-foreign-aid-than-it-gets/#77cf99c84f35,
accessed 22/2/2018).
Development aids to Africa is wide-ranging and support agriculture, education,
transportation, energy, communications, health and education. Critics have argued
that this has resulted in dissatisfaction and suspicion and much criticism of China’s
foreign aid provision as a pretext of its hegemonic expansionist ambition. Others
queried the value of China’s foreign aid, arguing that while the aid was not detrimental to the economic growth of the recipient countries, it did not result in the
projected growth (Table 8.3).
Majority of these recipients of Chinese concessional funding (ODA) and Chinese
other official flows (OOF) lies along the Belt and Road corridors. Below is a list of
the top recipients (Table 8.4).
Humanitarian Aids
From 2011 onwards, China has increased its humanitarian aids to those countries
affected by natural disasters. The White Paper on China’s Foreign Aid issued in
April 2011 and updated in 2014 outlined China’s desire to contribute actively in
terms of foreign aids to the global community (White Paper on China’s Foreign Aid
2011, 2014). There are three primary factors that affect China’s aid contribution to
the affected countries. These are the severity of the crisis situation; the needs of the
host country and the bilateral relationship between China and the recipient country.
In 2004, the Chinese government established a response mechanism for the international emergency humanitarian relief and aid system (rendao zhuyi jinji jiuxai
nuanzhu yinji jizhi 人道主义紧急救灾援助应急机制). Under this system, the government worked closely with the military to provide rapid delivery of humanitarian
K. E. Kuah
Table 8.3 Sectoral distribution of concessional loans from China (at end of 2009)
Source: China’s Foreign Aid Information Office of the State Council, People’s Republic of China
April 2011, Beijing, p. 6
aids to countries in distress. For example, the Ministry of Commerce worked
together with the military where the former provides coordination and funding management while the military is responsible for bringing in supplies and organising
rescue teams for the overseas relief missions. Through the years, other government
agencies also joined the rescue efforts. For example, the National Health and Family
Planning send medical teams to assist in the Ebola crisis in 2004, the Ministry of
Civil Affairs provided assistance in post disaster resilient building. Increasingly,
China not only provide emergence relief and supplies, but are now also providing
skills for post disaster reconstruction and capacity building.
8 China’s Soft Power: Culturalisation Along the Belt Road Corridors
Table 8.4 Top recipients of Chinese aids
Top 10 recipients of Chinese ODA
Cuba ($6.7 billion)
Cote d’Ivoire ($4.0 billion)
Ethiopia ($3.7 billion)
Zimbabwe ($3.6 billion)
Cameroon ($3.4 billion)
Nigeria ($3.1 billion)
Tanzania ($3.0 billion)
Cambodia ($3.0 billion)
Sri Lanka ($2.8 billion)
Ghana ($2.5 billion)
Top 10 recipients of Chinese OOF
Russia ($36.6 billion)
Pakistan ($16.3 billion)
Angola ($13.4 billion)
Laos ($11.0 billion)
Venezuela ($10.8 billion)
Turkmenistan ($10.1 billion)
Ecuador ($9.7 billion)
Brazil ($8.5 billion)
Sri Lanka ($8.2 billion)
Kazakstan ($6.7 billion)
Source: Data from Dreher et al. (2017)
In 2004–2005, China contributed USD462 million to the Indian Ocean tsunami
victims and disaster reconstruction. In 2011, it contributed around USD80 million
to African countries (Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya) to assist victims of
severe drought, the Ebola virus outbreak in 2004 and the Nepal Earthquake. The
primary focus of humanitarian aids is for natural disasters that include flooding,
drought, earthquake, and typhoons. It contributed medical staff and rescue teams,
material and good supplies and cash aids. (UNDP, Issue Brief No. 9, 2015: China
Humanitarian Aid, http://www.cn.undp.org/content/china/en/home/library/southsouth-cooperation/issue-brief%2D%2Dchina-s-humanitarian-aid.html, accessed
22/2/2018). The material aid is in the form of tents, blankets, emergency lights,
generators, fuel oil, food, medicine and water filters (Ministry of Commerce, PRC,
China’s Foreign Aid 2014).
Since this period, China has also increasingly engaged the Chinese NGO sector
in aid delivery. The China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation and Chinese Red
Cross are two government backed NGOs (GONGO) that have expanded their overseas relief efforts. For example, since 2005, China Foundation for Poverty
Alleviation, through its International Development Department has provided aids to
numerous countries in North Asia (North Korea), Southeast Asia and Africa (http://
en.cfpa.org.cn/index.php?file=article&cmd=list&cid=12, accessed 21/5/2018). In
addition, it also partnered UNDP and other UN agencies in reaching out to the
disaster victims and for post-crisis reconstruction (European Parliament Think
Tank, 2016, “China’s humanitarian aid policy and practice” (http://www.europarl.
EPRS_ATA (2016)582037_EN(4).pdf, accessed 26/2/2018).
Despite its move to delink aid provision with central government’s involvement, it
is evident that bilateral relationship often plays a key role in the amount of aid China
is willing to contribute to the recipient countries. One example is the criticism of
China’s miniscule aid contribution of USD2 million to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan
that many saw as China’s anger over the territorial sea disputes with the Philippines
ATA(2016)582037; EPRS_ATA (2016)582037_EN(4).pdf, accessed 26/2/2018).
K. E. Kuah
Despite this, it is certain that China’s humanitarian aids will grow rapidly and it will
continue to be governed by China’s bilateral agreements and its interests. At the same
time, the Chinese state will loosen its control and pass it on to their nominated
Chinese NGOs to perform its tasks as well as working more closely with UN agencies in order to accrue more legitimacy on the global stage.
Education is another area of soft power China is increasingly using to connect to
Southeast Asia, Eurasia, Africa, Latin America and the Western world. The rapid
establishment of Confucius Institutes as centres of Chinese language and culture is
one strategy to engage these countries in cultural interaction and connectivity. Very
recently, China is also engaging its universities to establish branch campuses along
the BR corridors. This is a strategy aimed at introducing Cultural China to these
Confucius Institutes
Confucius Institutes was first established in 2004 by the Chinese government with
the aim of promoting and supporting Chinese language teaching and spreading
Chinese culture to the rest of the world. In its constitution, it states that:
Confucius Institutes devote themselves to satisfying the demands of people from different
countries and regions in the world who learn the Chinese language, to enhancing understanding of the Chinese language and culture by these peoples, to strengthening educational
and cultural exchange and cooperation between China and other countries, to deepening
friendly relationships with other nations, to promoting the development of multi-­culturalism,
and to construct a harmonious world” (Confucius Institute, http://english.hanban.org/
node_7880.htm, accessed 4/3/2018).
It is affiliated to the Ministry of Education of the PRC and run by the Chinese
Language Bureau, Hanban (汉办). In addition to Confucius Institutes, the Hanban
also supports the establishment of Confucius Classrooms. Today, there are 525
Confucian Institutes (CI) and 501 Confucian Classrooms in the 5 continents. In
Asia, there are 118 CI, 54 in Africa, 161 in America, 173 in Europe and 19 in
Confucius Institutes are established in partnership with institutes of higher education and foreign universities could apply to establish a Confucius Institute on their
campuses. Confucius classrooms are established in partnership with secondary
schools where students would learn Chinese language and various types of Chinese
culture (http://english.hanban.org/node_10971.htm, accessed 4/3/2018). Confucius
Institutes worldwide offered over 9000 courses and have a combined enrolment of
over 260,000 students. They also staged over 7500 cultural activities globally (http://
english.hanban.org/node_10971.htm, accessed 7/3/2018).
China’s Soft Power: Culturalisation Along the Belt Road Corridors
Countries in Asia and Africa embraced the opportunities to establish Confucius
Institutes and classrooms and enabled their students to learn Chinese language and
culture in order to interact with the mainland Chinese and China for economic,
political and social relationship. This is even more so with the establishment of the
BR trade corridors where the ability to speak Mandarin and understand Chinese
culture and values are seen as assets that will open door for these countries to engage
in deeper trading and social political relationship with China. At the individual levels, those with these attributes see themselves as possessing social capital that will
enhance their employability. Likewise, within China, foreign languages are taught
at university level and students are also learning various foreign languages to facilitate them hopping onto the BRI train.
Chinese government and universities also open their doors and offer scholarships for students from these countries to study in China. One key group of students
are from Africa. The number of African students studying in China in 2017 is
around 50,000, which made China the second top destination for African students
behind France and ahead of US and UK. China, through the agreement signed at the
2000 Forum of China-Africa Cooperation, has pledged 30,000 scholarship for
African students by 2018 and is seen to be achieving this goal. Besides, there are
also self-­paying African students who come to study primarily the Chinese language and engineering degree courses. Another key characteristic is that most of
these African students are from East Africa while the Anglophone West Africans go
to France and the western world (Quartz Africa, https://qz.com/1017926/china-hasovertaken-the-us-and-uk-as-the-top-destination-for-anglophone-african-students/,
accessed 5/3/2018).
In fact, as early as 2009, Chinese government has already been focussing on
Africa and started the 20 Plus 20 Project that brought together 20 top Chinese universities to partner 20 African universities. Under this project, both Chinese and
African universities engaged in research collaboration, faculty exchanges and curricula sharing. This has led to the translation of two classical Chinese works into
Arabic and two Arabic classics into Chinese language by Peking University (http://
english.pku.edu.cn/News_Events/News/Media/10069.htm, accessed 5/3/2018).
While Asia and Africa embraced this opportunity, critics in America, Europe and
Oceania adopted the cold war mentality and were suspicious of this China’s move.
They argued that China is using the education approach as soft power to influence
these countries. The National Association of Scholars, a right-leaning US educational campaign group advocated that universities discontinued the Confucius
Institute on their university campuses. Likewise, American Association of University
Professors (AAUP) accused the Confucius Institutes of ignoring academic freedom
and that China was using this platform to further its own global agenda. The AAUP
argued that Confucius Institutes were under Hanban which is a state agency chaired
by a Politburo member and the vice-premier of PRC. (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/
news/worldnews/asia/china/10907971/US-professors-urge-Western-universitiesto-end-ties-to-Chinas-Confucius-Institutes.html, accessed 5/3/2018). By this argument, Confucius Institutes are therefore regarded as government mouthpiece rather
than independent educational institution. This is especially so when the language
K. E. Kuah
teachers send to the institutes were selected by Hanban and Hanban provided the
teaching materials to be used at the institutes. They thus asked universities to cancel
or renegotiate their agreements with Confucius Institutes. Such pressure led to some
universities in the US and Europe to discontinue the operation of Confucius
Institutes on the campuses of the University of Chicago, Pennsylvania State
University, Stockholm University and Lyon University (https://ig.ft.com/confuciusinstitutes/, accessed 5/3/2018).
Majority of the universities have resisted such pressure and continued to allow
Confucius Institutes to function on their campuses as they viewed Confucius
Institutes as providing opportunities for students to learn Mandarin, understand
Chinese culture and provide students with opportunities for exchanges to mainland
Chinese universities. All these will ultimately provide the students with an understanding of Chinese society and hence, will enable them to become more employable with corporations now increasingly engaging with China. At the same time,
they also look at such cultural exchanges as significant in providing a cultural platform to build bridges and understand China.
Chinese Universities Overseas Branch Campuses
The first full-fledged branch campus Xiamen University Malaysia opened its door
to students in 2016. Earlier on in 2012, Soochow University established a small
branch campus in Vientiane, Laos while Shanghai’s Tongji University opened its
branch campus in Italy’s Florence in 2014 which offers short courses in architecture, fashion, art and design. In 2017, Peking University bought a nineteenth century manor in Oxford and will open its HSBC Business School at Oxford in
September 2018, with the aim of attracting Chinese, British and European students
(https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/07/going-global-china-exports-softpower-with-first-large-scale-university-in-malaysia, accessed 28/2/2018).
In the Xiamen University Malaysia (XMUM) model, student recruitment is targeted not only at the local students and international students, but significantly at
mainland Chinese students studying at this campus. For a start, the relatively low
tuition fee of Malaysian ringgit 22,000 for an international university education
makes it attraction to both local, Mainland Chinese and international students as
compared to other foreign branch campuses that charged double what XMUM is
offering. Second, it has attractive merit-based scholarship for students with good
academic results. A third advantage is that parents and students perceived a degree
from XMUM will open doors for the graduates who could find employments more
readily not only in Malaysia, but in China and Singapore as the students would have
better command of the Chinese language as well as the guanxi networks that the
university possessed to help the students in the job market. This is particularly so as
Malaysia is considered an important node and wants to be a key player along the
Southeast Asian Belt and Road corridor.
China’s Soft Power: Culturalisation Along the Belt Road Corridors
In this model, XMUM starts by recruiting local Malaysian Chinese students,
mainland Chinese students and other international students. It is aiming to recruit
local Malay students in the near future. This will be no problem given that its curriculum is taught in English language. By September 2017, it has recruited 969
mainland Chinese students from 20 Chinese provinces based on the Chinese gaokao
results whereas there are only 55 international students from 14 countries, primarily
from Southeast Asia, Indian sub-continent and Central Asia. Together with its 2018
intake, half of its total student population of 2650 comes from mainland China
(http://www.xmu.edu.my/e3/e8/c16257a320488/page.htm, accessed 1/3/2018).
In yet another model of exporting Chinese students to its own overseas campus, Dalian University of Foreign Languages in China has plan to establish a
branch campus in Tokyo with the objective of providing mainland Chinese students with an avenue to learn Japanese language, culture and society. It signed an
agreement with the Tokyo-based Sendagaya Japanese Institute to provide mainland Chinese students in the Japanese language and culture training. These students upon completion of the programme for 1–2 years would be able to transfer
into a Japanese university to complete their degree (https://asia.nikkei.com/LifeArts/Education/Dalian-university-taps-Japan-connection-to-open-Tokyocampus, accessed 1/3/2018).
In 2017, a dual degree Master programme between Tsinghua University and
University of Washington that draws on Tsinghua University’s strength on computer
science and entrepreneurship and University of Washington’s strength in its innovation hub was established. This dual degree Master degree programme called Global
Innovation Exchange (GIX) focuses on “project-based learning” and is based in
Seattle. This programme is provided with USD40 million dollars fund by Microsoft
(Foreign Policy, http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/08/10/chinese-universities-comingto-a-neighborhood-near-you/, accessed 5/3/2018).
This proliferation of overseas campuses is not a coincidence. It is closely tied to
the Chinese leadership desire to use its soft power to engage and expand its presence
on the global stage. In a speech by President Xi Jinping, he has called for the transformation of universities to be “stronghold of Communist party rule” (The Guardian
International Edition, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/apr/06/chineseuniversity-to-open-in-oxford-despite-ideological-crackdown-at-home,
5/3/2018). It is also a way for the Chinese universities to catch up with their western
counterparts who have been establishing overseas campus in Asia and China at a
rapid rate in the last two decades. At the same time, internal rivalry among mainland
Chinese universities vying for higher ranking, hence translated into bigger budget
for the university, has also meant that some universities are looking to establishing
branch campus and becoming “global” to boost their status within and outside
mainland China.
K. E. Kuah
he Impact of Soft Power Within the BR Collaborative
Cultural Basins and Networks
Nye in his work on soft power stated “Soft power is the ability to affect others to
obtain the outcomes one wants through attraction rather than coercion payment. A
country’s soft power rests on its resources of culture, values and policies” (Nye
2008: 94). To Nye, it is persuasion and “rests on the ability to shape the preferences
of others” (Nye 2008: 95). Culture, values and policies are intangible assets that
Nye sees as crucial to provide legitimacy and moral authority in the reach of soft
power to other nations. China is now shaping the world through the use of different
sets of soft power and its impact will be felt far and wide. The following are the
predictable impacts.
Development of a Hybridized Material Culture
The use of philanthropy in the form of foreign aids and humanitarian aids will result
in the following impacts. Foreign aids come in the form of infrastructure development along the six corridors, either through direct foreign investments or collaborative investment opportunities through partnership with the states along the corridors.
Global institutions like the AIIB, World Bank, UN and global financial, logistic and
manufacturing corporations are involved in this. More significantly, it also brings in
large state-owned and private mainland Chinese corporations out of China into
areas along the six corridors. Along with this is the increasing flow of mainland
Chinese into these regions to take advantage of the trading, manufacturing and other
economic linkages. The resultant creation of collaborative territorial space will
inevitably help to stretch Chinese influence as mainland Chinese communities will
grow along these corridors and where cultural intermingling and interaction takes
place. This will also ultimately led to the development of a hybridized material culture. The shape and form will likely take the form of hybridized foodway, clothing,
popular culture and creolized Chinese language especially as more people along the
infrastructure corridors picked up a bazaar form of Chinese language.
Development of a Varieties of Chinese Diasporic Communities
The creation of the cultural basins will also encourage movements of Chinese along
these corridors. There are various groups of Chinese who would want to be part of
this development. Since the early years of the 1978 Open Door Policy, there continues to be unequal development between the coastal cities and the rural interior. The
six corridors provide them with opportunities to go beyond China’s border. As such,
it opens up a new avenue for them not only to work as migrant workers, but to establish small scale businesses along the corridors. It will also attract talented professionals who are attracted to the opportunities of these regions. In the foreseeable
future, it will also lead to the establishment of Chinese diasporic communities along
these corridors.
China’s Soft Power: Culturalisation Along the Belt Road Corridors
Within these diasporic communities, there are three possible scenarios. One is
the establishment of a transient community where the traders, workers and professionals are there on a temporary basis and where they travel between their home and
the diasporic community for work purposes only. There is a second group who have
set up businesses and decided to live there on a relatively long term semi-permanent
expatriate basis. By semi-permanent basis, it is meant that they continue to hold on
to Chinese nationality and citizenship and hence, they are there for work as expatriates in a global setting. The third group are those who have decided to relocate and
become permanent members of the diasporic community and have also become
permanent residents and citizens of their adopted country. Those who have decided
to become citizens of the adopted country do so for the following reasons. First, the
countries are likely to be part of the developed world, primarily those in the Western
world and the developed Asian countries. Many continue to see the developed western world as desirable for the following reasons. They embrace certain universal
values such as democratic ideals, freedom of worship and expression, equality and
the like. They also feel that the English language education system is more globally
acceptable and for those with children, the education system is less stressful than
that in China.
Second, they see great potentials in those developing countries and where they
are likely to become very successful. Third, having attained wealth, some might
consider lifestyle as important for migration purposes. China has become highly
competitive and mainland Chinese are increasingly leading an extremely stressful
lifestyle. A place for relaxation with a slower pace of life has now become an important consideration for moving out of China. Even among this group, many might
only opt to consider these places as their home and continue to retain the mainland
Chinese citizenship. A fourth factor is transnational marriages when mainland
Chinese marry the local men or women and decided to make the local community
their matrimonial home. This is particularly so for inter-cultural marriages that
results in the formation of a hybridized community as akin to the Chinese men during the nineteenth century who married local indigenous Batak women in the f­ ormer
British Straits Settlement of Malaya and Singapore that resulted in the formation of
the Straits Peranakan community. Today, cross-cultural marriages and the formation
of hybridized communities could be found within China as well as outside in Africa
and beyond. The “Chocolate City” in Guangzhou city is a testimony of this cultural
hybridization (Li et al. 2012; Ma 2011; Marsh 2014).
These varieties of Chinese diasporic communities are likely to retain strong ties
with their hometown and the mainland Chinese society. The fact that China is now
a global power has meant that the mainland Chinese, irrespective of their status and
wealth in Mainland China, are now looked at by the rest of the world, both the
developed and developing worlds, with envy and to a certain degree respect. They
are seen as wealthy Chinese with strong economic and purchasing power and are
court after whenever they go. From setting up factories, financial institutions to
purchasing of real estates and consumer products, they are considered as the number one purchaser.
K. E. Kuah
Such a status comes with a cost. As such, they are both liked and disliked. It is
thus not surprising that tensions have amounted and China and mainland Chinese
will need to become not only politically and economically sensitive, but significantly culturally sensitive in order that their reach of soft powers into these regions
do not backfire with undue consequences. As it stands today, critics have viewed the
BRI as China’s expansionist policy and part of neo-colonialism. For the African
countries that have been affected by China’s massive investment into infrastructure
and natural resources, there have been great dissatisfaction over it. It was argued
that such investment did not translate into much needed jobs for the local communities and that it artificially pushed up the prices of agricultural commodities that
impacted greatly on the local economy and affected the African people.
It is thus imperative that the Chinese residing in the communities along the BRI
corridors take initiative to reach out to the local communities and not cloistered
themselves within the Chinese community alone, leading to the development of
ethnic enclaves and thus resentment of the host communities.
Development of Cultural Tourism
One expected consequence of the BRI is the movement of people along the corridors not only for economic pursuits but also cultural tourism. BRI corridors will
certainly enhance the porosity of national state borders whose local government and
people also view cultural tourism as an important economic activity. Undoubtedly,
there are profits to be made in this economic arena. But equally significant will be
the cultural exchanges that these different groups of people come into contact with
one another that will be beneficial to them. However, cultural tourism also brings
about negative impact where local cultures are exoticized and commoditized for
tourist consumption. In this case, there are possibilities of conflicts and tensions that
result from mass consumption of cultural tourism. The fear of cultural dilution and
the abuse of local communities are factors that all nations along the BRI corridors
need to be aware of when they open up their doors for cultural tourism to take place.
Likewise, tourists that travel along the corridors would need to be culturally sensitive when engaging with local residents and communities. Will these communities
along the BRI corridors able to do so, only time will tell. But, in the meantime,
individuals, agencies and nations involved in this will need to establish policies and
frameworks that will enable cultural tourism to take place and at the same time,
protect the affected communities and populous.
From the early Silk Road to the present Belt and Road Initiative, there is a consistent
pattern of China wanting to reach out to the world irrespective of its ideological and
political formation. During the early centuries, the Silk Road provided a natural
China’s Soft Power: Culturalisation Along the Belt Road Corridors
watershed for various types of economic and cultural interactions to take place.
Today, Chinese leadership again has a felt need for China to be a global player. The
BRI is probably the most important initiative to enable China to concretely established itself on the world stage. Its dealings with over 65 countries and its involvement at state, corporation or individual levels into the various countries ensures that
China has a presence in these countries. It is this creation of the collaborative territorial space that will enable the formation of cultural basins and networks to be
created and encourages the flows and interaction of people along the corridors. And
it is this that will firmly established China as a global superpower in the twenty-first
century. This brings us to the last point where Confucius said that a desirable gentleman is one who is versed with both military and literary might (wenwu shuangquan
文武双全) – the greatest accolade that could be conferred on. And not forgetting Xi
Jinping, the great architect of the BRI, who will want to be remembered in history
as one of the greatest leader in modern Chinese history and a global statesman.
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migration patterns. BMCGenetics, 15(131), 5–21.
Ministry of Commerce, People’s Republic of China. China Aid 2014. http://english.mofcom.gov.
cn/article/zt_foreignaid/. Accessed 18/5/2018.
Ministry of Commerce, People’s Republic of China (PRC). China’s Foreign Aid 2014. http://english.mofcom.gov.cn/article/zt_foreignaid/. Accessed 18/5/2018.
China’s Soft Power: Culturalisation Along the Belt Road Corridors
NPC. (2016). National People’s Congress of China. China’s NPC approves 13th five year plan.
Nye, J. S. J. (2008). Public diplomacy and soft power. The Annals of the American Academy of
Political and Social Science, 616, 94–109.
Quartz Africa. China has overtaken the US and UK as the top destination for anglophone African
students. 30/6/2017. https://qz.com/1017926/china-has-overtaken-the-us-and-uk-as-the-topdestination-for-anglophone-african-students/. Accessed 5/3/2018.
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Accessed 22/2/2018.
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China_Summary.pdf. Accessed 10/7/2018.
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Accessed 10/7/2018.
Chapter 9
Conflict Management Under International
and Cross-Cultural Contexts:
Opportunities in the Belt and Road
Charles T. L. Leung
After the economic reform for the past four decades, the People’s Republic of China
(China) is generally no longer a developing country. It has become one of the primary stakeholders of the world economy. According to the World Bank figures in
2017 (Gray 2017), China was the second biggest economy contributed 14.84%,
which was equivalent to US$11 trillion, to the world economy. The official statistical report of China (National Bureau of Statistics of China 2018) also indicated that
the national economy has achieved significant development, which exceeded original estimation. The report further predicted that the outlook of the economic and
societal development in China should be consolidating and promising. Apart from
the domestic growth, Chinese government is trying to proactively contribute global
development by the Belt and Road (BRI). The BRI has been proposed by the
President Xi Jingping since 2013, and the number of countries and regions involved
in it is more than 70 (‘Profiles’ 2018). The latest significant achievements related to
the BRI can be summarized as follows (Liu 2018): (1) China has signed 16 free
trade agreements, which included 24 countries and regions; (2) the Asian infrastructure Investment Bank has 84 members nowadays, and it has invested US$4.22 billion in 24 projects; and (3) the Silk Road Fund has committed to invest US$ 7
billion for 17 construction projects building infrastructure along the countries and
regions of the BRI.
The BRI is not only an initiative of economic development fostering trading and
financial exchanges, but also a mission to foster the exchanges of social and cultural
lives of the countries and regions involved. According to the official information of
the BRI (‘About’ 2018), the BRI is a framework of building mutual political trust,
C. T. L. Leung (*)
Social Work and Social Administration Program, United International College,
Zhuhai, China
e-mail: [email protected]
© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019
Md. N. Islam (ed.), Silk Road to Belt Road,
C. T. L. Leung
economic integration, and cultural inclusiveness amongst the countries and regions
involved. In order to accomplish the mission, the BRI declared to uphold eight
requirements, which included to effectively promote concerted coordination as well
as people-to-people bond.
It will be full of challenges, however, to accomplish the mission. For examples,
more and more commercial disputes related to those infrastructure and construction
projects of the BRI would be identified. Civil and community quarrels, such as
cross-border family and labor issues, will foresee if the ambitions of the BRI become
a reality. Although the imagination of mutual benefit is promoted (Xinhui News
Agency 2018a, b), counter discourse to the international cooperation of the BRI is
also observed (Gabriel 2018; Zaidi 2017).
Despite the emergence of diversified conflicts aforementioned, a review of the
literature has shown that few studies have conducted to understand the issue. As of
February 2018, by searching five different databases related to the field of social
sciences and legal studies (ScienceDirect, JSTOR, ABI/INFORM, EBSCO, Google
Scholar) with the search terms ‘international’ (or ‘cross cultural’) and ‘conflict
management’,1 the result only ranged from 11 to 71 records. The result indicates a
knowledge gap of the BRI in this area of study. This chapter therefore aims to
explore how a holistic system to manage the conflicts along the BRI can be formulated. The following paragraphs firstly overview significant practices of managing
commercial and other conflicts in the world. Existing limitations of international
conflict management are then summarized. Next, current developments of conflict
management under the BRI are introduced. The potential of building a holistic system of conflict management along the BRI is also assessed. Practical issues and
existing limitations of implementing the initiatives of conflict management under
the current situation is finally discussed.
Significant Practices of Conflict Management
There are different initiatives of international/cross-cultural conflict management
introduced below, and the author categorized them into commercial and non-­
commercial. It is mainly because the BRI is primarily perceived as an economic
activity. However, this is the arguments of this chapter that potential conflicts under
the BRI should be diversified; all of them are also needed to be well managed for
implementing the BRI well. The non-commercial examples below not only enrich
the understanding on what various conflicts going to be handled, but also reframe
the scope on how the conflicts could be managed. It is a reminder that the author has
not exhausted all of the possibilities, but intends to reveal typical examples for
The notion of conflict management in this writing connotates similar ideas (e.g. conflict resolution and dispute resolution) using across disciplines (e.g. legal studies and social work). The rationale of using the notion is to highlight the importance of holistic and comprehensive
9 Conflict Management Under International and Cross-Cultural Contexts…
stimulating new ideas to design a conflict management system being useful and
effective in the complex contexts of the BRI.
Commercial Conflict Management
The most classical method to settle international disputes should be utilizing international courts and appellate bodies. Because of the boundary of jurisdiction in
every country, various international courts have been formed for different issues.
This kind of court is formed either by the collaboration between nations, or under
the authority of some international organization. In relation to commercial and trade
dispute, the dispute settlement system of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is
the most representative in the world. According to the official information of WTO,
the Dispute Settlement Body is responsible to settle the disputes between WTO
members. It “has authority to establish dispute settlement panels, refer matters to
arbitration, adopt panel, Appellate Body and arbitration reports, maintain surveillance over the implementation of recommendations and rulings contained in such
reports, and authorize suspension of concessions in the event of non-compliance
with those recommendations and rulings” (WTO 2018b). If the panel’s ruling is not
accepted, the procedure of appeal will be applied. The appeal is heard by three
members of a seven-member Appellate Body, which can uphold, modify or reverse
the panel’s legal findings and conclusions (WTO 2018a). Generally speaking, the
time of dispute settlement under the WTO system is around a year. Extra 3 months
will be required if appeal is made (WTO 2018c). The details are further summarized
in the Table 9.1 below.
Arbitration is a mainstream to resolve cross-border commercial conflicts supported by international efforts nowadays. United Nations Commission on
International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) has proposed a set of arbitration rules to
specify the arbitral process in a comprehensive way (UNCITRAL 1976, 2010,
2013). An international arbitration award can be enforceable in most of the c­ ountries
Table 9.1 The settlement
mechanism of trade dispute
in the WTO
60 days
45 days
6 months
3 weeks
60 days
Consultation, mediation, etc.
Panel set up and panelists appointed
Final panel report to parties
Final panel report to WTO members
Dispute Settlement Body adopts
report (if no appeal)
Total = 12 months (Without appeal)
60–90 days
Appeal report
30 days
Dispute Settlement Body adopts
appeals report
Total = 15 months (With appeal)
Source: WTO (2018c)
C. T. L. Leung
because of New York Convention, which is an initiative of United Nations to ensure
the award same as the domestic one (UNCITRAL 1958). Unlike the WTO system,
dispute parties can freely choose the arbitration centers in the countries endorsed
New York Convention. The parties can also choose their arbitration professional
and venue with relatively flexible and timely procedures, and the process is strictly
confidential. Nonetheless, there are two limitations of the international arbitration.
First, an arbitration award is final conclusion of the dispute; it is not subject to
appeal. Second, the enforcement of New York Convention in China is not absolutely
certain (Teoh 2017).
Cross-border mediation is an alternative method of dispute settlement being promoted in recent years. Apart from the advantages of arbitration, mediation would be
a more cost efficient method to settle any dispute in amicable style. There is no
authority to settle the dispute in the process of meditation, but a mediation professional to facilitate both parties in a dispute to negotiate with each other for a mediated settlement agreement. As the settlement agreement of mediation is a kind of
contract, it can only be enforced within a particular jurisdiction. No worldwide
arrangement, like New York Convention, has been developed to enforce any mediation agreements across jurisdictions yet. Nonetheless, the China Council for the
Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT)/China Chamber of International
Commerce (CCOIC) Mediation Center has commenced its cooperation with the
mediation bodies in Hong Kong (MHJMC 2017b) and Singapore (Herbert Smith
Freehills 2017) trying to settle those cross-border disputes arising out the BRI.
In the context of European Union (EU), a directive has issued since 2008 to promote the use of mediation and ensure a sound connection between mediation and
judicial proceedings across its member states (European Commission 2016a).
Nonetheless, evaluation findings of the directive (European Commission 2016b)
concluded that the extents of the impact across EU’s member states varied because
of different development level of their mediation systems. Difficulties concerning
the functioning of respective national mediation systems in practice are mainly
related to the adversarial tradition prevailing in the member states, low level of
awareness of the significance of mediation, and the functioning of quality control
mechanisms (e.g. training). The EU’s initiative is still inspiring for the discussion
because its coverage is not only commercial disputes but also non-commercial
aspects like family issues.
Non-commercial Conflict Management
Unlike commercial conflict, interests need not be the focus of non-commercial dispute; considerations of human right protection and relationship restoration can also
become the main issue for settlement. Family mediation is a typical example of
non-commercial conflict management. Before the economic development and collaboration between China and the countries along the BRI are being promoted,
cross-border marriage has become a social phenomenon commonly discussed in the
Conflict Management Under International and Cross-Cultural Contexts…
media (e.g. Zhang 2016) and academia (e.g. Su 2013). As a result, how to manage
those family conflicts across the countries should be one of the agenda for designing
the conflict management mechanisms under the BRI. Apart from the EU’s initiative
aforementioned, the International Social Service (ISS), an international Non-­
Governmental Organizations (NGO) established in 1924, has also been developing
a family mediation program on a global scale since 2000 (ISS 2014a). According to
the official information of ISS (ISS 2014b), this international program aims at
resolving family conflicts across border and countries. The issues of mediation
mainly include how the relationship between the children and both of the parents
can be maintained, as well as protect the children’s well-being in accordance with
their rights as given in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Conflict management can become more complex when the issues of protecting
interests, ensuring cost-effectiveness, and maintaining relationship tightened
together. The BRI is internationalizing the employment relationship between China
and the countries along the Belt and Road. For example, while the headquarters of
the infrastructure construction projects based in China, their delegates and the
employees are generally working in other respective countries. If any labour dispute
occurs, it will become a cross-border conflict. The individuals should be powerless
to settle their conflict with an international employer, and those international convention and declaration (International Labour Organization 1998, 2017) related to
the right to collective bargaining has not been fully executed around the globe yet.
If the BRI is managed to become an international cooperation for mutual gains, this
will not only be fostering commercial and financial development but also building
‘a community with shared future for mankind’ (Zhou 2018). Consequently, the
design of conflict management mechanisms under the BRI needs to facilitate an
consensus building in which a sense of reciprocal and shared companion ought to
be upheld. Although these ideas need not be the core issues of commercial disputes,
the experiences of African countries using the concepts of restorative justice to
recover their indigenous justice practice and various conflicts within and among the
countries illustrated an implication: For example, restorative justice upholds the
features of re-establishing sense of justice through renewed value consensus, shared
membership, and empowerment (Wenzel et al. 2008: 379–380). All these features
should be useful to complement a formulation of the conflict management mechanisms under the complex contexts of the BRI.
In summary, a review of the foregoing practices reveals a reminder that conflict
managing is never straight-forward, especially under the complex contexts of the
BRI. The review also illustrates that twofold dimension should be considered:
Technically speaking, although some regional attempts, especially the initiatives of
cross-border commercial mediation have been observed, neither international
authority nor convention has yet been well-established for managing various kinds
of conflict especially under the BRI. Furthermore, even those existing conflict management methods could be used, the issues of cost efficiency (e.g. year-long duration of dispute settlement through WTO, and the cost of hiring an qualified arbitrator)
would be another concern. A more efficient way with reasonable cost should be
proposed. Conceptually speaking, the practices of conflict management reviewed
C. T. L. Leung
are dominated by authoritative and confrontational style. These are not preferable in
theory (Ruble and Thomas 1976). In addition, each of the foregoing initiatives for
both commercial and non-commercial conflicts has its own specific function; they
are now generally implemented in a scattered way in different countries and regions.
It is therefore a challenge on how to synthesize the advantages of all these initiatives
together for building a holistic system of conflict management in the BRI.
urrent Development of the Conflict Management
Mechanisms Under the BRI
Existing limitation and challenge of conflict management under the BRI have actually been recognized by the governmental and professional bodies supporting the
development of the BRI. The initiatives identified in the literature as well as according to the author’s direct experiences are summarized in the following paragraphs.
First of all, official efforts of China to formulate integrative system have been
observed. The first Belt and Road International Commercial Court-Connected
Mediation Center was inaugurated in Shenzhen in January 2018 (China Foreign-­
Related Commercial Trial 2018). The center is a specialized organization of the
Shenzhen Qianhai Cooperation Zone People’s Court (Qianhai Court) connecting
the uses of litigation and mediation together to settle the commercial disputes along
the BRI. According to the guidance of Qianhai Court, the use of mediation before
litigation can enhance the cost-effectiveness; the time of dispute resolution should
be less than 30 days in general (Qianhai Court 2017b). At present, Qianhai Court
has jurisdiction over all first-instance foreign, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan
cases within the jurisdiction of Shenzhen with the amount 50 million yuan at most
(Qianhai Court 2017c). The court also appointed the people’s assessors2 from Hong
Kong to support the related litigation. This initiative aims to enhance the judicial
credibility by considering the viewpoints of the assessors, who are living in a social-­
cultural system different from the mainland China (Qianhai Court 2017a). According
to the latest opinions of the President Xi, Jingping, the Supreme People’s Court of
China will further set up international commercial courts in Xi’an and Beijing
respectively to settle various commercial disputes along the BRI (Asia Times 2018).
In addition, based on the study of Wang and his colleagues (Wang 2017; Wang et al.
2017), they have proposed a dispute resolution mechanism in which a procedure of
appeal should be included for the settlement of international commercial disputes.
Professional bodies in China and overseas proactively foster the uses and development of innovative approaches for the BRI. CCPIT/CCOIC Mediation Center
claims that it has been the first and the largest professional mediation organization
in China including 42 sub-centers (‘Introduction’ 2018). The center has been
The system of people’s assessors is a juridical arrangement similar with the jury system in other
countries. It aims to ensure citizens’ participation to promote judicial justice. Please refer to the
URL for the details: http://www.npc.gov.cn/englishnpc/Law/2007-12/13/content_1384084.htm.
Conflict Management Under International and Cross-Cultural Contexts…
d­ edicated in promoting the uses of mediation for international commercial dispute
resolution. As aforementioned, the center is eager to establish partnership and cooperation agreement with Hong Kong, Singapore, and even other countries for managing the commercial conflicts along the BRI (‘Introduction’ 2018). It also keeps
inviting the dispute resolution experts coming from various countries to be the panel
members. In this case, more opportunities could be provided for the experts to handle international disputes; the users of dispute resolution could also be more feasible to choose the expert, who is familiar with their legal and cultural background.
With the collaboration between CCPIT/CCOIC and Hong Kong Mediation
Centre, the Mainland – Hong Kong Joint Mediation Center (MHJMC) has been
established trying to support the settlement of cross-border commercial disputes
through a development of a brand-new “Cross-border Dispute Resolution
Mechanism”. Under the mechanism (MHJMC 2017c), a mixed use of mediation
and arbitration can be achieved by issuing an arbitration award based on the mutually signed mediation settlement agreement. Furthermore, relevant arbitration
institution(s) will be arranged by the MHJMC to ensure the enforceability. In fact,
the service of linking mediation and arbitration is also being provided by other
mediation centre in China; an online system supporting the operation can even be
found (e.g. BnR International Commercial Mediation Center n.d.). The most innovative initiative of the mechanism proposed by MHJMC, however, is an invention
of the new role of dispute resolution advocate.
The creation of dispute resolution advocate can rationalize the division of labour
in conflict management. Unlike the typical role of legal professionals to support
their clients for winning a lawsuit, the duty of dispute resolution advocate is “to
present the party’s position, needs and interests in both adversarial and non-­
adversarial ways” (MHJMC 2017a). Therefore, dispute resolution advocate can
play significant role to prevent the conflict of interest of any attorney to foster any
client tending to use confrontational methods, like litigation or arbitration, to settle
the dispute.
The significance of the role of the advocate is not only enriching technical support for the conflict management, but also fostering a holistic settlement of the dispute parties by considering both rational and emotional issues. According to the
official information of MHJMC (Ibid, MHJMC 2017a), a number of tasks are necessarily to be handled by an advocate: (1) elaborating a dispute case, which is on
behalf of the dispute party’s interests, to the stakeholders including but not limited
to the other party, the mediator, and the arbitrator; (2) seeking for mutually-­agreeable
resolution as well as providing recommendation, assistance and support for the
party in stressful and unusual situations; (3) demonstrating the competency of mastering the details of a case so as to provide professional opinions to the emerging
situations on time; and (4) ensuring the resolution of cross-border dispute with
enforceability. In addition, compared with the use of international arbitration for an
award, various needs of a dispute party (e.g. interest, cost-effectiveness, relationship, and sense of justice) can be well articulated throughout the process so as to
formulate a more timely and amicable strategies (e.g. using mediation only; mediation first and then litigation in the mainland China, or the mixed use of mediation
C. T. L. Leung
and arbitration) to settle the dispute. Furthermore, the cost for using the advocacy
service plus the combination of mediation and arbitration is much less than the
mainstream method. Please see Table 9.2 below for an illustration (Ibid, MHJMC
2017a, c).
he Potential of the Current Development
for Advancement
Technically speaking, foregoing initiatives have provided an infrastructure to
develop a holistic system of conflict management under the BRI. According to the
litigation guidance of Qianhai Court, civil cases related to foreign, Hong Kong,
Macau, and Taiwan could also be litigated (Qianhai 2017d). The types of civil case
accepted by Qianhai Court include but not limit to marital (Qianhai 2017e) and
labor contract (Qianhai 2017f) disputes. If the appointment of people’s assessors
can further include the foreigners coming from the countries along the BRI, it will
certainly enhance a credibility of the litigation in handling of both civil and commercial disputes. In fact, because of the endeavors of the professional bodies promoting the mixed uses of arbitration and mediation, the dispute resolution experts
coming from various countries and regions have been providing professional services for their clients (e.g. ‘Find an arbitrator’ 2017; MHJMC 2017d). However, the
parties involved in a non-commercial dispute may not able to afford the cost of
hiring the professionals.
More importantly, the infrastructure has not been exemplified how international
mechanisms for managing non-commercial conflicts can be developed along the
BRI. A review of those official documents and bilateral documents of the BRI reaffirm a fact that economic development is the core concern of the BRI (Belt and
Road Portal 2018). Even the issues of promoting social development and environmental protection were mentioned (Wu 2017), no clear and explicit suggestions on
how those potential conflict along the BRI can be jointly managed by the countries
involved. Of course, the foregoing initiatives of resolving commercial disputes are
mainly developed by the official organizations as well as the professional bodies in
Table 9.2 A comparison between the cost of using the services of MHJMC and arbitration
Amount in
<= 100,000
<= 500,000
<= 1 million
<= 5 million
<= 10 million
Budget for the services of
Budget for arbitration
Source: MHJMC (2017a, c)
Note: The amounts above are calculated in HKD; 7.8 HKD ≈1USD
Amount saved
Conflict Management Under International and Cross-Cultural Contexts…
China. The challenge of building non-commercial conflict mechanisms should be
overcome by deliberated collaboration across jurisdictional areas. For example,
both positive and negative experiences of the EU (European Commission 2016a, b)
promoting the uses of mediation as well as ensuring a sound connection between
mediation and judicial proceedings across their member states, would be a good
reference for the regions and countries along the BRI.
This chapter aims at exploring a promising way to develop a holistic conflict management system along the BRI. Based on the discussion aforementioned, potential
conflicts along the BRI is not only related to those interests in commercial dispute,
but also the issues of protecting human right, cultivating harmonious relationships
across those counties and regions involved in the BRI, and even maintaining a sustainable development between economy and ecology. Therefore, rather than a pure
economic initiative, the very mission of developing the communities with mutual
political trust, economic integration, and cultural inclusiveness along the BRI (Ibid,
‘About’ 2018) has to be always upheld.
The experiences of EU promoting cross-border civil and commercial mediation
always remind us that it is really difficult to manage international conflict. It is
because of the socio-cultural diversity across its member states, as well as the different extent of readiness utilizing the initiatives of conflict management. The case
of China government revealed in this chapter, however, has illustrated its determination developing various mechanisms of conflict management along the BRI. In
addition, numerous regional and international professional bodies of arbitration and
mediation are also managed to foster the uses of cross-border dispute resolution
services. This would be significant force to support final collaboration of developing
international policies formulating a holistic system of conflict management alone
the BRI someday.
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Chapter 10
Cultural Contestations and Social
Integration: What Guangdong-Hong
Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Can Learn
from the Experiences of Malaysia
and Singapore?
H. C. J. Wong and S. L. Fung
ormation of the Guangdong: Hong Kong: Macao
Greater Bay
In March 2017, the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced the “development of a
city cluster in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GD-HK-MO
Greater Bay” which is part of China’s urbanization strategy. The 56,500 km2 Greater
Bay Area – covering roughly 1% of the country’s land area and 5% of the population – includes Hong Kong, Macao and nine cities in Guangdong province. The nine
are namely the central cities: Guangzhou, Foshan and Zhaoqing, the eastern shore
cities: Shenzhen, Dongguan and Huizhou, and finally the western shore cities:
Zhuhai, Zhongshan and Jiangmen. Eastern and western shores meant to be the two
sides of Pearl River Delta (Map 10.1).
Efforts have been made by the provincial government to group the nine cities
into three sub-regions of economic integration led respectively by Guangzhou,
Shenzhen and Zhuhai by means of bilateral agreements among the city governments
(Chan 2017). The GD-HK-MO Greater Bay Concept has grown out of the older
demarcation of the Pearl River Delta (PRD). The PRD is in turn a functioning concept that has grown in dimension and intensity through a long history of civilization.
To residents and firms in the PRD there are no visible barriers to mark the boundarH. C. J. Wong (*)
Director of Student Affairs Office and Professor of Social Work and Social Administration,
United International College, Zhuhai, China
e-mail: [email protected]
S. L. Fung
Chinese Language Center, United International College, Zhuhai, China
© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019
Md. N. Islam (ed.), Silk Road to Belt Road,
H. C. J. Wong and S. L. Fung
Map 10.1 Performance of traditional industries in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater
Bay Area
ies of the nine constituent cities. The city boundaries though historical, are arbitrary.
Even some of these boundaries are not historical, for example Zhuhai and Zhongshan
both belongs to the city of Xiangshan. Foshan, on the other hand is part of the city
of Nanhai, which is now reduced to an administrative district of the former. In any
case, for the residents of PRD, the region is increasingly becoming a single metropolitan “space” – economically, socially and soon even for government policies and
However the division between Hong Kong and Macao and the other nine cities is
a different story. Hong Kong has been carved out of the territory by the British as
their colony for 99 years. Macao on the other hand was ruled by the Portuguese
administration which humbly does not consider it a colony (Chan 2017). Many
years of separation from the Mainland has left undeletable marks of western cultures which nowadays interestingly become showcases of cultural heritage. The cultural footprints however is not as important as system differences particularly in the
case of Hong Kong which Milton Friedman has coined as the world most vivid and
last example of free economies. Part colonial, part capitalist and part modernist,
forms a society of Hong Kong which visitors from mainland and people of Hong
Kong immediately, mutually and painfully find their gaps in beliefs, habits and
10 Cultural Contestations and Social Integration: What Guangdong-Hong…
ocial Division an Obstacle for Economic Synergies
for City Clusters
Promoted by the Central Government, the Internet Plus Action Plan aims to add the
power of Internet with traditional industries in order to fuel economic growth.
Traditional industries in the GD-HK-MO Greater Bay of course are among the first
targets of the Action, including those industries in Hong Kong and Macao which
enjoyed rather prestigious brands but suffered from extremely outdated marketing
and distribution methods. The GD-HK-MO Greater Bay in terms of Economic size
is smaller than that of the New York Metropolitan Area and the Greater Tokyo Area,
but bigger than that of the San Francisco Bay Area. In terms of Population size the
GD-HK-MO Greater Bay is larger than all other three areas with a total of 6.6
The GD-HK-MO Greater Bay is expected “to surpass the Tokyo Bay Area or San
Francisco Bay Area in ten years (by 2030), if the cities in the region can leverage
their strengths, streamline their coordination mechanism and speed up the economy
integration,” said Dr. Tse Kwok-leung, who currently serves as head of Economics
and Policy Research at the Bank of China (Hong Kong) Limited. Since late 1970s,
many Hong Kong companies have relocated their factories to mainland China, particularly in the Guangdong province (Tse 2017). However, due to the increasing
labor cost in mainland China, nowadays this kind of cooperation model between
Hong Kong and Guangdong has already been outdated,” commented Dr. Tse. “The
governments in the region should therefore come up with new solutions for the
regional industry division so as to build a sustainable integrated economy in the
However can this Grand policy be realized rather than becoming a piece of
paper? Would it become a Plan for dreams or a Dream for plans? In the past four
decades the two sides of the borders have become more divided instead of more
How can such trends be reversed?
The Breakthrough Magazine of Hong Kong interviewed 1100 young people
aged 14–29, from Sep 2014 to June 2015 (Lau 2002). Results show that the average
points out of 10 for
1. Identifying themselves as HK citizens is 8;
2. Identifying themselves as Chinese citizens is 5.2 for young adults and 3.8 for
high school students; and
3. Seventy percent considered that HK citizenship is not being respected in China
Another survey conducted by the Federation of Kowloon Associations in 2014
shows that among 1000 telephone interview respondents aged 15 0 35, 35.2% of
them will not consider going to school in Mainland while 32.5% will not work in
Mainland (Table 10.1).
H. C. J. Wong and S. L. Fung
Table 10.1 Attitudes toward
Mainland among HK young
people (n = 1000)
Will consider studying in Mainland 32.6%
Will consider working in Mainland 45.1%
A third survey conducted by CUHK, from August 28 to September 27, 2014
interviewed 1001 young people aged 18–29, who do not have working experience
in China mainland, revealed that among the respondents
1. 64.7% do not want to work in mainland because of “reasons related social conditions in mainland” and because they
2. “cannot adjusted to daily living in mainland” (CUHK 2014).
To draw conclusion from the results of above surveys it indicates that the majority of young people the younger the more do not identify themselves as Chinese and
their intention to work in Mainland is low. They consider working in Mainland is
not desirable, not because of monetary reasons but because of perceived social
adjustment difficulties. We would sat these are only their perceptions of the social
environment of Mainland since most of them have never been resided in China for
a considerable long period of time.
Li and Zhuang (2018) of the Shenzhen University in reviewing the above social
phenomena, suggested that on one hand the HKSAR government should improve
on their Youth Policy, to better satisfy the needs of Hong Kong younger generation.
On the other hand he also urges the China Central government to provide full citizen
rights to Hong Kong residents.
A city cluster is not simply grouping together a bunch of cities which are geographically close to each other. To become a City Cluster there must be free flow of
resources towards efficiency, improved the connectivity of infrastructure, complete
industrial chains and shared public services that enable a close bond among the cities. Working in coordination will help bring out the scale effect, aggregation effect
and synergy effect of the city cluster.
Such synergy effects should be created in the following six areas (Wu 2017; You
Technological innovation;
Infrastructure, interconnection and interworking, and
Unfortunately, while economic synergies are still out of sight, in recent years
social disintegration across borders between PRD and Hong Kong continues to
grow, and to a lesser extent between PRD and Macao. Can PRD answer to the needs
and live up to the aspirations of young people from Hong Kong for better social
10 Cultural Contestations and Social Integration: What Guangdong-Hong…
conditions and more Hong Kong and Macao people friendly life styles? It is both an
economic and social issue; perhaps first economic and then social matter.
ocial Gaps Between PRD and SARs: A Reality or
The social gaps between PDR and the two Special Administrative Zones (SAZs)
would have been widened if the balance of economic developments continues to be
lopsided favoring the island city of Hong Kong. No one can ever imagine Shenzhen
can overtake Hong Kong in terms of economic weights when the latter was returned
to the Mainland in 1997. It takes Shenzhen only less than 20 years to do so in terms
of GDP and prospect.
To provide more substantive evidence, we have collected data of six cities,
including Hong Kong, Macao, Shenzhen, Dongguan, Foshan and Zhuhai, in the
past 2 years based on the Social Indicators System employed by the Macao SAR
government. It is presented in the following table (Table 10.2):
Table 10.2 Major Social Indicators (2015) of 6 cities in GD Greater Bay Area
Economic indicators
1.1 Population
1.2 GDP (CYN) per capita
(World Bank 2016)
Income World Bank
1.3 Median monthly
Dongguan Foshan
7.5 M
1.63 M
8.25 M
7.4 M
12.5 M
Health and medicine
2.1 Life expectancy
2.2 Doctors/1000 persons 1.8
2.3 Hospital beds/1000
2.4 Health expenditure % 12.1%
of GDP
3.1 Public expenditure on 3.3%
Education (% of GDP) (2015)
H. C. J. Wong and S. L. Fung
In comparing the hard data, it is more logical to compare Shenzhen or Dongguan
with Hong Kong, Zhuhai with Macao, based on their population size. There are
several observations:
1. In terms of GDP per capita Macao ranks the best. However it may not mean the
average citizens can enjoy a decent income;
2. More important is to look at Median Monthly Income for example that of Hong
Kong is CNY 8505 which is no longer highest in the region. It has been overtaken by Macao records CNY 11,700 per month;
3. Again looking at the median monthly income Shenzhen ranks third and Zhuhai,
surprisingly, ranks fourth. If we take into account of basic consumer price living
in Zhuhai might be even more affordable;
4. Hong Kong people always have the impression that health services across the
boundary are not up to world standard. However the life expectancy of Shenzhen
and Zhuhai are even longer than that of Hong Kong. Macao is not privileged with
world class health services but its life expectancy has the highest score, though
it is appropriate to say the differences among these cities are not significant cause
the lowest being Foshan is still very high at 79.62;
5. It is more difficult to compare qualities and standards of education. We can only
tell when there is more information.
At the moment we have seen some changing trends, for example a reversed flow
of students crossing the borders to fulfill their education needs. All along many
children travel every day from Shenzhen to Hong Kong. Also there are though lesser
than the case in Hong Kong Mainland children travels to Macao for schooling.
Many among them in the earliest stage are children of Hong Kong or Macao residents living across borders. What we want to take into account is the reverse direction. For example in 2016, there are altogether 13,000 Hong Kong residents studying
in colleges of Mainland. There are 8000 more of them studied in Guangdong and
2000 more in Fujian province. They even have to compete for these university
places say in 2017, there were 2568 applicants from Hong Kong and Macao to compete for 1391 Mainland higher education places. Subjects most favored naturally
are those which are more advanced in Mainland such as Chinese medicine, logistic
management, Internet applications and a wide variety of languages.
It is appropriate to suggest that the social and economic gaps between PPD cities
and the two SARs are indeed closing instead of widening. The poor impressions
towards PRD cities lingering in the minds of the young people of the SARs, Hong
Kong in particular, are based on outdated information and misled orientations.
However these outdated impressions continue to hinder the healthy formation of the
City Cluster.
10 Cultural Contestations and Social Integration: What Guangdong-Hong…
Social Dialogue Model from Concepts to Policies
As early as 1995, at the UN World Summit for Social Development held in
Copenhagen, the Social Integration Model was proposed to face the challenges of
diversities within or between peoples. According to the Summit, “social integration
is a process, dynamic and guided by agreed principles in which all members of a
society can participate in dialogue to achieve and maintain peaceful, or harmonious
a Chinese terminology, social relations” (United Nations 1995a). Social integration
cannot be coerced or forced. Social integration, first studied by Park and Burgess,
evolved as a concept from that of assimilation which is considered as “a process of
interpenetration and fusion in which persons and groups acquire the memories, sentiments, and attitude of other persons and groups and, by sharing their experience
and history, are incorporated with them in a common cultural life (Park and Burgess
1969, 1921).
The Social Development Summit focused on forming and mending conditions of
social disintegration – social fragmentation, exclusion and polarization. By expanding and strengthening conditions of social integration – emphasizing coexistence,
collaboration and cohesion, we can move toward a safe, stable and just society.
The Social Dialogue Model, also referred as the Dialogue in the Social Integration
Process Model (D-SIP), suggests that there are six Stages of social relations, the
first three belongs to the Formative stages of fragmentation, exclusion and polarization. On the other hand there are another three stages of coexistence, collaboration
and cohesion, classified as the Expansive stages. The descriptions of provided by
the report of the Summit, various stages are listed in the following:
1. Fragmentation arises in situations of abuse, armed conflict, and social breakdown i.e. social relations disintegrate (most profoundly at the psychological
level) giving rise to healing;
2. Exclusion arises where there is neglect or oppression i.e. social relations are
asymmetric giving rise to inclusion strategies that build self-help and
3. Polarization arises when groups can mobilize i.e. social relations are hostile,
combative (most profoundly at the level of religious/ethnic identity) giving rise to
4. Coexistence – arises with tolerance of difference i.e. social relations revolve on
civic dialogue;
5. Collaboration – arises with a widening sense of socio-economic justice i.e.
social relations lead to participatory development planning, and
6. Cohesion – arises with peace-culture i.e. social relations support discovery/creation of shared meaning and values.
The D-SIP Model of six stages provides us a framework to “visualize the dynamics of peace and conflict” as well as “to identify where they are now, and where they
wish to be” (United Nations 1995) (Fig. 10.1).
H. C. J. Wong and S. L. Fung
To achieve social cohesion, the social dialogue model lays out the method, Reflective
Participatory Dialogue:
1) Dialogue is defined as the intention to seek mutual understanding and mutual
accommodation on an issue or situation through inquiry and learning leading that
can lead to consensus in decision-making;
2) Participatory dialogue is defined as a process that provides people with safe space
and opportunity to engage in communication and action based on rights and
3) Reflective Participatory Dialogue is defined as thinking in complete ways that
leads to tolerance and understanding of diverse worldviews and interests (United
Nations, 1995).
Fig. 10.1 Dialogue in the Social Integration Process (D-SIP), UN DESA 1995
Table 10.3 Domains of
social integration process
Social relations dicotomy
From exclusion to collaboration
From polarization to coexistence
From fragmentation to cohesion
The D-SIP model suggests that social integration should be achieved in three
domains –namely psychocultural, socio-economic and socio-political (Table 10.3).
To summarize, harmonious social relation is the ultimate objective or ends of the
D-SIP, dialogue is the means to achieve such social harmony and social integration
refers to the entire process of dialogue which covers three domains in which social
relations are shifted from exclusion, polarization and fragmentation to collaboration, coexistence and cohesion.
Social Integration Lessons from Singapore
The report “Social Cohesion, Addressing Social Divide in Europe and Asia” published jointly by Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung and European Union, highlighted the
progress of Social Cohesion in Singapore, Malaysia and China (Hofmeister and
Rueppel 2014). The second chapter is written by Nurhidayah Hassan and Yeo Lay
Hwee, titled “social Cohesion in Singapore – Challenges and Policy Response” The
third chapter is titled “Social Cohesion in Malaysia”, submitted by Helen Ting Mu
Hong. The fourth chapter, devoted to the progress in China, is the work of Qian
Jiwei, with the theme of “Social Cohesion and Equalization of Basic Public services
in China: Achievements and Future Challenges”.
We understand that China has made significant achievements through the emphasis on equal provision of public services to urban to rural areas, to the rich and more
important the poor. Nevertheless the discussion of equalization of public services
10 Cultural Contestations and Social Integration: What Guangdong-Hong…
may not be applicable when we talk about the integration between the PRD cities
and Hong Kong and Macao SARs. On the other hand both Singapore and Malaysia
are multi-cultural societies. Both countries have managed to achieve high degree of
social cohesion without turning into a welfare state or becoming an egalitarian society. How can they maintain social integration and rapid economic growth at the
same time in the existence of considerable social inequities, is what interested the
Greater GD-HK-Macao Bay policy makers?
Singapore is characterized by huge number of immigrants and income disparities, and a deliberate policy for integrating immigrants (Global-is-Asian 2017).
Singapore has a population of 74.1% Chinese, 13.4% Malay, 9.1% Indians, and
3.2% Others (Department of Statistics 2011). Under the CMIO (Chinese, Malay,
Indian and others) model Singapore government adopts the bilingual policy whereby
students are required to learn English in school as the working language, used in
administration, business and education, and have their respective “mother tongue”
as the other language (Tan and Ng 2011). Nurhidayah Hassan and Yeo Lay Hwee
suggested that “Singapore has managed masterfully to prevent the crisis of social
divides by reacting properly through various policy responses” (Nurhidayah and
Yeo 2014). Meanwhile Helen Ting Mu Hong discusses the key developments in
Malaysia with regard to social inclusion, social capital and social mobility. She
shows how the three social policies help to hold the peoples together (Ting 2014).
Since 2009, Singapore established the National Integration Council (NIC) to
encourage locals and immigrants to interact on four platforms Community, Schools,
Media and Workplace. The Council runs socialisation and educational activities to
encourage understanding and integration among the various communities (National
Integration Council 2010).
Formed within each housing estate, Resident Committees (RCs) altogether 572
of them today, are obliged “to promote neighbourliness, racial harmony and community cohesiveness amongst residents” (People’s Association 2009).
At a later stage the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) 14 was implemented to ensure
that no ethnic enclaves were formed (HDB 2013) in order to enable integration and
racial harmony. All these initiatives have been developed by the government in a bid
to boost the society’s bridging social capital.
Reacting to the getting more complex demands, in 2013, the Singapore government started the project “Our Singapore Conversation” (OSC). Over 47,000
Singaporeans were involved in multiple dialogue sessions over a period of less than
a year. These dialogues centered on nation-building themes such as building a caring and compassionate society, providing affordable healthcare and equal opportunities for Singaporeans (Ng 2013). While some were skeptical about the OSC other
believe that it is nevertheless a positive starting point and useful to “building a
framework of “accepted values and institutions” (Fenger 2012) that is within reach
of every member of society.
In response to the latest parliamentary question “whether there is a widening
class divide amongst the population” raised by Mr. Seah Kian Peng: Grace Fu,
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, quoting the other Minister for Social
and Family Development, stressed that steps have been taken by the government in
H. C. J. Wong and S. L. Fung
reducing economic disparity and emphasized the importance of social integration.
Further she drew reference to a study conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies
(IPS) on Social Capital in Singapore. Results showed that when respondents were
asked to name different kinds of people who make up their social network, a good
deal of social mixing. The study also found a fair amount of racial and religious
diversity in people’s social networks. It noted that respondents and their neighbors
helped each other with house matters, while workplace ties were an important
source of social companionship, inter-ethnic contact, and inter-nationality ties.
Seemingly Singapore government has tried hard to push for social capital and social
mobility as the corner stones to avoid further social divide.
Social Integration Lessons from Malaysia
The Federation of Malaysia rises in the past two decades to an upper middle income
economy (USD10, 265 income per capita) with GDP growth averaged 5%, part of
the “East Asian Miracle” coined by World Bank. Rapid economic growth was attributed to the implementation of its affirmative action policy known as the New
Economic Policy (NEP) from 1970 to 1990. The NEP was controversial and criticized for its race-based approach instead of needs-based. Ironically Malaysia is
capable of attaining “high human development” and considered a successful case of
social integration (United Nations Development Programme 2016).
In 2013, the total population in Malaysia is estimated at 29.7 million, out of
which 2.4 million are foreigners. Citizens comprise of 54.9% Malays, 24% Chinese,
7.3% Indians, 13% indigenous peoples, and others (EPU 2013: 5). Numerous
minority groups of indigenous people in the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak,
are referred to as Bumiputera (literally means Sons of the Soil).
Helen Ting Mu Hung also in the report “Social Cohesion, Addressing Social
Divide in Europe and Asia”, revealed that the NEP was actually “an ever-expanding
range of policies and strategies” to create better paid employment and redistribute
ownership of capital and assets in favor of the Bumiputera. Moreover it was paralleled by the Islamisation Policy implemented by Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir during the 1980s. How then can Social Integration be achieved?
In the first place the NEP provided general education for all youth, bringing the
Malays on par with Chinese and Indian ethnicity and interestingly there are more
secondary students among girls than boys. Secondly the race-based policy has successfully reduced poverty rate, 49.3% in 1970 to 16.5% in 1990 (Malaysia Prime
Minister’s Department Economic Planning Unit 2004). It reached as low as 1.2% in
2012 to show that poverty was eliminated though to a lesser extent in Sarawak
(2.4%), Kelantan (2.7%) and Sabah (7.8%). Interethnic gaps in income have narrowed significantly as in 2009, the income disparity ratio between Bumiputera and
Chinese, was reduced to 1:1.38; and Indians, to 1:1.10 (Malaysia 2010: 147).
However income disparity is not narrowing as Gini-coefficient remained high at
0.431 in 2012 (Malaysia EPU 2013a). Anyway, a “Social Mobility Effect” particularly between ethnicity was evident.
10 Cultural Contestations and Social Integration: What Guangdong-Hong…
In terms of Social Inclusion and Social Capital Malaysia has a long way to go.
More and more non-Malay parents are sending their children to Mandarin- or Tamil-­
medium primary school. While the Bumiputera is contended with their national
school environment, even the government thinks that their schools have been
hijacked by the Islamic orientation.
The rate of mixed marriage is low in peninsular Malaysia, particularly between
Muslims and people from other faiths, while in Sabah and Sarawak it is more common. In a poll conducted by Merdeka Centre among 2000 Malaysians in 2006, 97%
agreed that interethnic interaction was important to maintain peace, stability,
national unity, and preventing chaos or conflicts. In the same poll, however, less
than half of the Malay and Chinese respondents said that they trust someone from
the other ethnic groups. Interethnic trust is low, even though most people have some
interethnic friends (Merdeka Center for Opinion Research 2006).
Cultural Contestations and Social Integration
In the above descriptions we find that both Singapore and Malaysia are facing severe
challenge of multi-ethnicity, multi-religious beliefs and multi-cultural habits of
population. They “manage” to maintain social collaboration and at the same time
economic progress, however with entirely different approaches. Singapore has
emphasized national unity with its language policy. It has devoted a lot of efforts to
create community harmony by promoting inter-ethnic interactions and activities.
On the contrary Malaysia has adopted a radical race-based policies favoring
Bumiputera. Severe racial conflicts were avoided first due to the peaceful characters
of all ethnicities involved, and more importantly because of continued economic
prosperity and upward social mobility. In short, Malaysia is benefited from the continuous expanding economy and the “upward social mobility” its economic growth
has created. Meanwhile in the case of Singapore where “social mobility” has slowed
down, social dialogue activities were employed to enhance social cohesion. Social
mobility here doesn’t mean only moving up the social ladder of an individual but
also higher Social Quality of Life.
Considering the synergies between the PRD and the two SARs, the Chinese government can learn from the practices of Singapore and Malaysia for example that:
1. Social integration can still be maintained even within wide cultural and social
gaps, if Social Mobility or Improvements of Social Qualities of Life is present;
2. Social Capital particularly developed through trust, friendship and marriage, is
very important to the cultivation of social harmony; and
3. Government leadership is necessary and vital in preventing cultural confrontations and enhancing mutual co-existence; and
4. Social Integration in turn will further economic growth and strengthen national
H. C. J. Wong and S. L. Fung
In formulating their social equalitarian or social preferential policies, the former in
the case of Singapore and the latter of Malaysia, existence of Chinese Diaspora in
both countries is for sure a major political concern. Some sociologists described the
phenomenon of many social unrests in recent years happened in the west as well as
South East Asian countries, as a kind of social contestation in reaction to “Global
Modernity”, in contrast to traditional cultural contestations between Chinese
Diaspora with local people in South East Asian countries. This is an incomplete
understanding of social contestations (Bringel and Domingues 2015).
Antje Wiener, suggested that “inter-national relations also need to be understood
as inter-cultural relations.” When people meet their counterparts of different culture,
since they have different life and cultural experiences, they may not shared the same
norms and clashes about norms are to be expected. Wiener identifies four typical
modes of contestation: arbitration (in courts), deliberation (in international organizations and reginimes), contention (in societal protest) and justification (in epistemic communities) (Wiener 2014). In each of these typical contexts, while other
modes are likely to be present, one mode of contestation is expected to be dominant.
Contestation can be regarded as “a social practice that objects to what is considered
appropriate to the specific social situations” or in “International” or “Inter-Nations”
relations, the full range of social practices discursively raised explicitly or latently
as disapproval of norms.
Wiener inspired by “public philosophy in a new key” (Tully 2009), in the book A
Theory of Contestation, on top of the “Normativity Premise” and the “Diversity
Premise”, advances the concept of “cultural cosmopolitanism” as the third thinking
tool as part of the theory of contestation. Wiener also suggested that the Cycle of
Contestations will go through stages of “Cultural Validation in the Micro Level,
Social Recognition in the Meso Level and then Formal Validation in the Macro
To summarize, Global Modernity and Social Integration can be achieved hand in
hand while contestations as social practices is part of the processes contributive
rather than disruptive to the economic and social developmental goals. While negotiating between the Normativity Premise and Diversity Premise, Cultural
Cosmopolitanism should be cultivated as an important motivational force.
Social Integration and Social Qualities of Life
for GD-HK-Macao Greater Bay
There are good reasons for the Central Government of China to promote the Greater
Bay concept at this point in time. We can tell that the needs for synergy in areas of
finance, innovations particularly related to information technologies, industries and
infra structures of roads and communications, are all rising. A major obstacle to full
integration lies in the perceived social division. Responding to these challenges, city
governments of the PRD should consider employing Cultural Cosmopolitanism in
particular the social capital strategies.
10 Cultural Contestations and Social Integration: What Guangdong-Hong…
Social capital is widely viewed as a prerequisite to social cohesion (Spoonley
et al. 2005, 93). Briefly, social capital can be defined as “the resources that people
have potential access to from being connected to others possessing those resources”
(Chua 2010, 3). These social resources come from relations such as marriage ties,
family connections, alumni networks and so on. Social capital can only be gained
when there is trust between people, who are then committed to sharing resources in
common endeavours (Putnam 1995). Trust is necessary for a cohesive society
(Nurhidayah and Yeo 2014).
Unavoidably, the Greater GD-HK_Macao Bay City Cluster formation faces
many difficulties in reality, such as:
1. Cities in PRD have entered to a new phase of economic development which
utilize not only the financial capital of Hong Kong and Macao as in the past four
decades but also their human capital. Many Chinese enterprises are now expanding worldwide. They need professional staff like accountants, lawyers, designers, advertisers and architects to serve their overseas bases all over the world.
The most ready supply of professional human resources of course can come
from Hong Kong and Macao;
2. The narcissistic and self-exclusive culture among part of Hong Kong people particularly among some younger generation is blocking the way for better flow of
talents. Hong Kong has to be fully integrated with Guangdong to raise its competitiveness, however it is not recognized by many Hong Kong people;
3. The economic slow down of Hong Kong has stopped the processes of upward
social mobility. On the other hand Gini-coefficient of Hong Kong scored record
high at 0.539, as compared to 0,45 of 1981. Rising wealth gap has led to the radicalization of young people in Hong Kong and such Polarization trend obviously
is not desirable for the Metropolitan as well as for China; (Hong Kong Census
and Statistics Department 2016) (Fig. 10.2)
Fig. 10.2 Social Indicators Index (The Hong Kong Council of Social Service)
H. C. J. Wong and S. L. Fung
The Hong Kong Council of Social Service Social Indicators Index
How can move forward with these social challenges? Full economic and social
development is the only answer.
At present, among the whole areas of PRD and the two SARs, RMB and HKD
are used exchangeably and use of digital money will further enhance economic
integration. Regarding telecommunication, China Mobile and Unicom are commonly used by frequent travelers. What is needed is further remove telecommunication barriers by promoting the use of a Super Apps like the Wechat. However it
seems that the concern is more on the social side instead of economic fronts.
Social Qualities of Life, which in a broader sense refer to the sense of well being
and in a narrower sense the presence of basic social security provisions and reasonably good standard of living, is what PRD should demonstrate to the world its
achievement and advancement (Abbott and Wallace 2012). Social Qualities of Life
should include the provision of safe and comfortable housing conditions, quality
and high level of free education, comprehensive and affordable healthcare and
finally the guarantee of basic living subsistence after retirement from work. Actions
to improve Social Qualities of Life of the City Clusters include:
1. The Guangdong Provincial Government has already announced a very aggressive scheme to attract more Hong Kong and Macao students to attend colleges in
PRD. This is to create Social Mobility for the young people in the two SARs;
2. In accordance of the Social Dialogue Model, the PRD cities should enhance
dialogue between residents of PRD and SARs, making use of the family, work,
alumni and other social ties, based on the principles of Social Capital;
3. Inter-cities activities should be encouraged and even financed by the GD
Provincial Government. Revitalized historical, cultural and ecological tourism
may become a good tool for better Social Collaboration. Other new platform
may be mass entertainment facilities like Aquariums, Zoos and Arts Centers and
entertainment activities like Pop singing and Marathons. Inter college events
including debates and competitions should be a good platform for Social
4. Cross boundaries social services in education, health and medicine, care for
older people, housing and child care should be promoted with similar performance standards. This will enhance Social Cohesion;
5. PRD cities need to devote more resources to upgrade its Social Qualities of Life
covering a wide range of services from cradle to grave, in order to attract young
professionals across boundaries;
6. Using the thinking tool of Social Cosmopolitanism, the GZ – HK – Macao
Greater Bay should be synergized in terms of common values and beliefs.
Technological and Social Innovations are most useful to shape a common way of
lives. In Malaysia for example the use of mobile phones and internet have contributed to more open politics and end of race-based affirmative actions. New
10 Cultural Contestations and Social Integration: What Guangdong-Hong…
Media, social media in particular, will become the platform and channel for
modern social contestations and help spread the new Public Philosophy;
7. Finally the whole province of Guangdong has to become fully globalized and
modernized but not at the expense of cultural heritages. To achieve its goal of
outperforming the San Francisco Bay, the GD-HK-Macao Greater Bay must as
it had in history and as it is going to be, established itself as a socially admired
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Hofmeister, W., & Rueppel, P. (2014). Social cohesion, addressing social divide in Europe and
Asia. Singapore: Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung and European Union.
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of poverty reduction, growth and racial harmony. Scaling Up Poverty Reduction: A Global
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& expectations. March, 2006. Extracted from: http://www.merdeka.org/pages/02_research.
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from: https://www.nationalintegrationcouncil.org.sg/docs/default-source/handbooks-and-publications/home-for-new-singapore-citizens-eng.pdf?sfvrsn=427f819b_2
Ng, J. Y. (2013, July 15). Our Singapore conversation themes identified, dialogue to continue.
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Chapter 11
Foreign Language Learning Beyond
English: The Opportunities of One Belt,
One Road (OBOR) Initiative
Luis Miguel Dos Santos
Background of the Study
Learning, understanding, and speaking a foreign language is vital in the procedure
of globalization. In 2013, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China,
Mr. Xi, Jinping has announced the innovative and inter-continental engagement,
named One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative for the purpose of economic, educational, social, technological, material and constructional connections and developments among countries in Asia, Asia-Pacific, Europe, South Asia, Oceania and
Southeastern Asia. In the contemporary society, learning a foreign language usually
refers to English language learning or sometimes Spanish language learning in
North America. According to Kennedy (2018), Spanish, French, Italian, German
and Japanese are among the top-five selection within the United Kingdom. In order
to increase the overall interests and create opportunities for foreigners to engage
with Chinese cultures, 137 Confucius Institutes and 131 Confucius Chinese-­
language learning courses have been announced in more than 50 OBOR countries
as of early 2017. Currently, nearly 500 thousand students are learning the Chinese
language as their foreign language (Wong 2017).
However, even if the numbers of Chinese language learners are significantly
increased within this decade, English, Spanish, and French are still considered as
the targeted and most interested foreign languages within the eastern and western
hemisphere. According to a report by Modern Language Association of America
about the enrollment rate for foreign language learning within higher education
institutions of Fall 2013 semester, Spanish was the most famous foreign language in
the United States (790,756), French (197,757) was the second, American Sign
Language (109,577) was the third, German (86,700) was the fourth, Italian (71,285)
was the fifth, Japanese (66,740) was the sixth. Chinese (61,055) was the seventh,
L. M. Dos Santos (*)
Educator, Macao Sar, China
© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019
Md. N. Islam (ed.), Silk Road to Belt Road,
L. M. Dos Santos
Foreign Language Learning in the United States
Spanish French
German Italian Japanese Chinese Arabic
Foreign Language Learning in the United States
Fig. 11.1 The foreign language learning in the United States (2015)
Arabic (32,286) was the eighth, Latin (27,192) was the ninth, and Russian (21,962)
was the tenth (Goldberg et al. 2015). The detailed information may follow from
Fig. 11.1. Another fact about Chinese language learning is that since the Chinese
language is a less commonly learned foreign language compared with English and
Spanish, learners may not able to interact with other Chinese language speakers
beyond the classroom environment.
Given the above facts, the researcher would like to understand why language
learners decide to study Chinese as a foreign language instead of other famous
Purpose of This Study
In fact, people understand the advantages of acquiring a foreign language, the reasons why learners select to learn a particular language varies from people to people.
Interest and career opportunity are two of the strongest motivations influencing the
learning process (Gardner 1985, 2001). Scholars also suggested that learners tend
to seek knowledge which is important for their career and personal advancement
and interests. However, the motivation of learning is a complex decision than an
ideal and causal decision and feeling (Dornyei 1994, 1998, 2001). By investigating
what directs the learners to seek knowledge in Chinese language, teachers and
school administrators can understand and better improve their programs and assist
facilitate the most appropriate of the learning experience in order to satisfy the
11 Foreign Language Learning Beyond English: The Opportunities of One Belt, One…
demands of both learners and prospective employers. The primary purpose of this
study is to examine the reasons and motivational elements for taking the Chinese
language at the postsecondary level within the OBOR regions. Understanding
learners’ goals, motivations, and behaviors that direct them to learn may have a
significant influence on students’ enrollment, retention, and program development
(Dos Santos and Lo 2018).
The qualitative research data and result may provide meaningful recommendations for policymakers, school administrators, students, and teachers to prepare further Chinese language learning and higher education programs for citizens within
and outside of the OBOR countries (Dos Santos 2018b). As there are only a few
journal articles and books concerned about Chinese language learning within the
OBOR countries, this article may serve as one of the first research and recommendations within this area.
Theoretical Framework
Social cognitive career theory (SCCT) posits that individuals develop their career
goals within a social-cultural background that is influenced by the opportunity
structure, such as career opportunities, social-economic background, and social-­
cultural influence (Lent et al. 1994; Lent and Brown 1996). Although SCCT is a
career-oriented theory on career perspective that discusses the ways individuals
understand their career and job interests, set their purpose, and persist in the working environment, the SCCT could satisfy the direction about selecting a foreign
language for learning purpose as well (Lent et al. 2010). Therefore, the employment
of this theoretical framework is appropriated (Dos Santos 2018a).
Motivation strongly impacts learners’ behaviors, decision, and retention.
Identifying about learners’ motivation provide new ideas as to what Chinese language learners expect and how they employ their expectations for their purposes
and goals. Therefore, this study is guided by a research question:
Why do language learners decide to enroll in Chinese as a Foreign Language course
instead of other popular foreign languages in their living community?
This study was conducted using a qualitative research method to explore what motivates foreign language learners to decide to learn Chinese as a Foreign Language.
According to Merriam (2009), qualitative researchers are interested in seeking the
knowledge, background, and understanding how people describe their experience,
how participants construct their society, and what motivates their lived experiences.
The researcher conducted one online interview with each participant for the purpose
L. M. Dos Santos
of data collection (Creswell 2007). A qualitative research design allows the researchers to induce a large number of interview data, voice messages, and written transcripts into meaningful themes and answer the research question (Tang and Dos
Santos 2017).
Inductive Approach
Thomas (2006) refers that general inductive approach (GIA) is one of the most
famous tools for qualitative researchers to induct and establish meaningful themes.
Unlike other projects with particular sites, background, and locations, this study
tends to interview participants from different locations in Asia, Africa, and Oceania.
As no particular methodologies may be appropriately employed, the GIA may serve
perfectly within this study.
A snowball sampling strategy (Creswell 2007) was employed to invite ten Chinese
language learners who decide to study Chinese as their foreign language for a qualitative online interview. As the researcher is not currently teaching any of the Chinese
as a Foreign Language classrooms but with several connections with the teachers,
the researcher decided to seek the language teachers who may refer potential participants for this study. The participants’ demographic information, such as name
and enrolled schools were gathered and reported under a pseudonym. The participants were all above the age of 18 and were not considered as vulnerable people.
The detailed demographic may refer to Table 11.1.
Table 11.1 Demographic information of participants
South Africa
New Zealand
New Zealand
Status (student)
International relations
11 Foreign Language Learning Beyond English: The Opportunities of One Belt, One…
Interview Language Usage
All participants were invited to participate in an online interview section (Creswell
2007). They were allowed to express their thoughts and understanding in either
English or Chinese. First, several of the participants had reached the advanced level
of Chinese, they are always encouraged to share their answers in Chinese. Second,
some of the ideas and particular terms are only available in Chinese, thus, answering
and expressing in Chinese may have a better understanding of the answer.
Data Collection
Data information was collected through online interview with 10 Chinese as a
Foreign Language learners at postsecondary institutions. To ensure the collection of
rich data (Merriam 2009), the researcher designed a set of open-ended and semi-­
structured protocol with interview questions. Each interview commonly lasted
approximately 60–90 min (Seidman 1991, 2006).
The open coding strategy (Merriam 2009) or the first-level coding procedure
(Saldaña 2013) was employed to induct all the interview transcript into 20 themes.
Data must be reduced further (Thomas 2006). Therefore, the axial coding or the
second-level coding procedure was employed in order to create less than six meaningful themes.
Protection of Human Subjects and Data Storage
The protection of human subjects is vital to this research study (Creswell 2007).
One of the main concerns is the protection of participants’ identities and data information. As such, the researcher made every effort to protect the identities of all
participants by assigning pseudonyms. In addition to the pseudonym issue, data
information of this study may contain sensitive information as well. In order to
avoid any misunderstanding and risks, all the data information of this study were
stored on a password-protected computer within a locked cabinet. The researcher
was the only person who had the access to these items.
Although the details and lived stories of each participant were not the same, similar
concepts, ideas and understanding were identified within this study. Also, the
results presented several core concepts reflecting on how cultural, social, and
L. M. Dos Santos
Table 11.2 Themes based on participants’ data information
The career
Adam ✓
Benny ✓
Charles ✓
Denise ✓
Fatima ✓
Helen ✓
The economic development
of China
The interest of Chinese and East
Asian cultures
economic elements could affect the motivations and self-knowledge of individuals
(Lent et al. 1994). The findings, as illustrated below, are classified into three
themes: (1) The career opportunities; (2) The economic development of China; (3)
The interest of Chinese and East Asian cultures. Table 11.2 showed the themes of
The Career Opportunities
The perspective of self-efficacy beliefs is adapted from Bandura’s self-efficacy theory (1977). Bandura (1977) suggested that self-efficacy beliefs are strongly connected to the behaviors of individuals as “people’s level of motivation, affective
states, and actions are based more on what they believe than on what is objectively
true” (p. 2). Therefore, the decision of learning a particular foreign language may or
may not be impacted by objective facts but by their personal understanding. Beyond
the development Bandura’s theory, Lent et al. (1994) suggested that the decision of
individuals may be highly influenced by three elements, including career opportunities, social-economic background, and social-cultural based on their SCCT. The
findings of this study perfectly echoed with the theoretical framework with SCCT
to outline all the themes and directions (Bandura 1986).
All ten participants except for one similarly reported that the career opportunities
is one of the main factors that contribute to their motivation of learning Chinese as
a Foreign Language. In fact, none of the participants’ second-learned language is
Chinese during their K-12 period but decided to study an additional language
(Chinese) for any potential and further career enhancements. These foreign language learners believed that besides the United States, China will become the most
influenced economic factor in their homeland.
11 Foreign Language Learning Beyond English: The Opportunities of One Belt, One…
hinese Language, Culture, and Business Are
an Important Part of Their Country
Several participants expressed that Chinese language, culture, and people are a part
of their daily life within the country and community. According to Adam, “We used
to have a large number of Chinese residents in Java around 40 years ago. Even most
of them returned back to China or gone to other surrounding countries, I still think
Chinese have a strong impact on our community.” Charles also shared a similar situation in Singapore, “There are many Chinese-Singaporean in the country. Chinese
people and Chinese language are important to our daily life.” Benny also shared,
“The government leaders are originally from China as well. Now, Chinese companies decided to invest in our country too. In all fields.” Ella added, “My grandparents came from China 70 years ago. We enjoy Chinese food, Chinese TV programs
and Chinese culture in Malaysia. I would like to pick up my career so I decided to
learn Chinese.”
The Chinese Government and Company Investment
Several participants expressed that Chinese and its related commercial activities
increase the career opportunities in their country and community. According to
Chinese company invested a great number of transportation stations, educational institutions, and healthcare centers in South Africa. Many young adults and students believe
China can provide bright opportunities outside of Africa. Also, Chinese government and
companies also encourage us to come to China for career development. Therefore, not only
me but all of my best friends learn Chinese as a Foreign Language too.
Gill, Helen, and Jason expressed that tourism and hospitality bring career opportunities into their country. Gill said, “We have groups of Chinese and Asian visitors
to Auckland every other hour. The entire Auckland is ready for this unexpected
opportunities.” Helen also added, “I studied marketing for an undergraduate degree.
Now, I am learning Chinese to increase my overall skills and abilities to satisfy the
Chinese customers.” Jason expressed, “Chinese visitors are all around Seoul and
Busan. Many young kids, adults, housewives, and professionals learn the Chinese
language in order to enter the hospitality and service industries.”
The Economic Development of China
In 2010, China has become the second largest GDP country behind the United
States. Within these two to three decades, China has invested resources in the various field, including education, financial sector, culture, science, and international
L. M. Dos Santos
affairs. After 20 years of investments, most of the fields have been developed and
ranked as one of the leading sectors in the world. In return on the investment, China
is assisting a large number of developing countries for foundational establishments,
health caring and education etc. Within the interviews and conversations, the
researcher identified with two directions about the economic development of China
within this theme, including (1) Internal economic development for foreigners to
China; (2) External economic supporting for foreign countries.
I nternal Economic Development for Foreigners
to China
Adam, Benny, Charles, and Fatima advocated that funding and opportunities are
available to foreigners to enter China. Adam expressed that educational opportunities are available, said, “There are many scholarships, diplomacy, and international
affairs opportunities available in China due to economic development.” Benny also
I used to think Singapore was the commercial and financial center in Asia. But I was wrong.
In last several years, Hong Kong and Shanghai both established the financial agreements
which allow the largest stock exchanging activity in the Far East. I would like to enjoy this
remarkable market in Asia so I have to learn Chinese.
Charles has paid attention to the educational and science researching opportunities for foreigners, shared,
In Singapore, we only have less than 10 researched oriented universities and institutions.
Even the funding is enough to cover a reasonable amount of researchers, the admission
process and acceptance are still considered as highly selective. For the case in China, the
Chinese government always encourages both domestic and foreign young researchers for
all types of research projects with scholarships. Therefore, I want to enter China with communicative skills in the Mandarin language.
Fatima believed that China is the headquarters of foundational establishments.
She always emphasized that if she can receive a scholarship for the doctoral degree,
she can contribute the knowledge back to her homeland, said:
Chinese government assisted my homeland to build up a lot of health care center, transportation system, building, educational institutions etc. Three years ago, my university has an
agreement with several Chinese universities for the Ph.D. opportunities. I want to receive
the scholarship and come to China for learning. As the scholarship also covers the living
costs with a stipend, so I can continue with my life in China.
External Economic Supporting for Foreign Countries
Denise, Ella, Gill, and Helen have different perspectives and scopes about the economic development of China. All these participants did not have any motivations to
move into China. However, all of them believe Chinese economic development may
11 Foreign Language Learning Beyond English: The Opportunities of One Belt, One…
assist their local, regional and national growth within their home country. As China
is the second strongest economic bodies in the world, all of four participants would
like to become the coordinators and the bridges between their home country and
China. Denise shared,
After I completed my undergraduate degree, I am able to speak English, Japanese and
Chinese which are very useful in Far East region. In addition to a Singaporean, I also want
to become the international connector among Japan, China, and Singapore. My homeland
needs more tri-lingual professionals at the national level. And I am ready.
Ella also shared a similar idea about becoming the coordinator and bridge
between her home country and China, said,
Malaysia is one of the countries within the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative. In the
future, the culture, science and commercial interactions between Malaysia and China will
increase dramatically. Also, people and international affairs will increase too. So working
in between as a connector is important.
On the other hand, Gill and Helen always advocated that Chinese companies,
Chinese people, and its related business encourage the development of tourism in
their home country. None of these two participants have the ideas to come to China
but like to serve as the connectors between their home country and China in the field
of service management and tourism. Gill shared,
As a professional worker in the government agency, I believe New Zealand should build up
strong connections to countries around the Asia-Pacific region. We used to have a strong
connection with Australia only. But now, China could be the keystone. If I can serve as the
bridge between China and Auckland city, I believe it could be a good start for all New
Helen shared some ideas about her family business at the personal level instead
of national level, said,
I always welcome and encourage Chinese and Asian visitors to our city and our company.
My family business highly relies on tourism. Chinese tourists are one of the biggest non-­
Australian tourists in my homeland. If I can speak the language effectively, I am able to
introduce and share the cultures and customs of New Zealand for Chinese visitors.
The Interest of Chinese and East Asian Cultures
As advocated by Gardner (1985), the decision of learning a knowledge, particularly
foreign language is driven by individuals’ personal interests. Unlike other European
cultures which may have interconnections within each other, Chinese cultures are
unique and outstanding among both eastern and western cultures in general. In addition to the Chinese language, Chinese cultures, customs, and traditional practices
are also remarkable experiences to foreigners who encounter it at the first time.
Marital Art Influences Four male participants, Adam, Benny, Ivan, and Jason
shared similar ideas about the personal interests in martial art influences their
L. M. Dos Santos
decision of learning Chinese language and culture at the postsecondary level. Adam
believed a martial art movie star positively influence his decision of learning Chinese
as his foreign language, said,
During my young age, my parents like to watch the movie with Bruce Lee. This is the first
Chinese person I knew in my life. I also like to clothing and the sound of the spoken language. So once I had a chance, I started my Chinese language learning path immediately.
Like Adam, Benny also shared a similar background, said,
Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan are two of the most famous movie stars in Singapore. Many kids
and teenagers like to fight like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. As an active and naughty young
boy, I always played and learned martial art during my leisure time after school. I always
want to understand the Chinese language movies and TV programs with Jackie Chan. So,
learning the language could be the easiest key to communicate with Chinese people.
Both Ivan and Jason were not influenced by any human being, but cartoon characters. Ivan and Jason are addicted to martial art anime and cartoon program called
Kung Fu Panda. Ivan shared,
Watching cartoon and anime programs is my life-long hobby. Besides the Japanese cartoons, I think the cartoon Kung Fu Panda is very interesting. I personally like animals and
martial art. So this cartoon combines both elements into a program allowing me to enjoy the
Chinese traditional practice as a whole. It sounds crazy, but this makes me learn Chinese at
my university.
Jason also added similar ideas about how cartoon programs influence his decision, said, “Kung Fu Panda shared several traditional practice and language that I
felt very interesting. Besides watching the English version, I want to see if I can
pick up some interesting slangs and slogans in the Chinese language instead?”
Influence of Fine Art and Cultures Four male participants expressed the influences of movie stars and cartoon programs, Denise, Fatima, and Helen believed
Chinese cultures and Chinese fine arts are some elements to influence their decision.
Denise believed,
I first encountered Chinese culture, Chinese fine art, and Chinese calligraphy when I started
my Japanese undergraduate degree at university. I did not realize that Japanese Kanji characters were originally from China. As a Japanese language undergraduate student, I like to
seek additional knowledge about Chinese language and culture.
Helen started her interests in the Chinese language due to her interests in Chinese
food culture, shared,
I am a vegetarian and my family also runs a vegetarian restaurant. There are not much selections in the western cuisine for vegetarians. However, Chinese cuisine has a lot of i­ nteresting
foods, such as Tofu, and soy sauce etc. In order to seek more traditional Chinese food, I
would enter the Chinese market with the appropriate level of the language.
Fatima, as a professional engineer, is highly attracted by the traditional Chinese
architecture and buildings, particularly the historical establishments, shared,
11 Foreign Language Learning Beyond English: The Opportunities of One Belt, One…
I think the history and architecture of the Forbidden City, temples and modern buildings in
Shanghai are absolutely amazing for me as an African. So I want to go to China to learn
these amazing knowledge for the purpose to upgrade my home nation. Also, the Chinese
characters are also amazing. Before I started my Chinese lectures, I do not realize that each
character represents one story and background.
This section discusses the results of this study designed to address the following
research question:
Why do language learners decide to enroll in Chinese as a Foreign Language course
instead of other popular foreign languages in their living community?
Under the guidance of SCCT (Lent et al. 1994), this study explores how cultural,
social, and economic elements influence the selection of foreign language learning
for a group of postsecondary students who are living in the OBOR initiative countries. Scholars advocated that a decision of learning a particular knowledge is influenced by various factors, such as economic, opportunities etc. Lent et al. (1994)
further suggested that individuals tend to rely on models who are in situations are
similar to theirs.
In this study, the researcher discovered that foreign language learners tended to
select Chinese as their foreign language due to three reasons, including (1) the
career opportunities; (2) the economic development; and (3) the interest of Chinese
East Asian cultures. First, it is worth to note that the Chinese economic development
has been rapidly grown within the past decade. Such economic growth does not
only expand within China and greater China region, but also the entire Asia, Asia-­
Pacific, Europe, South Asia, Oceania and Southeastern Asia under the One Belt,
One Road (OBOR) initiative. Due to the sponsorships, career opportunities related
to Chinese businesses and companies are widely available to foreigners as Chinese
organizations may need local professionals to operate in the host countries (Fallon
2015). In the other words, such career opportunities cannot only be found in China
but also international locations.
Second, besides Chinese businesses and companies, due to the economic growth,
Chinese government and organizations sponsor a large number of foundational
establishments, scholarships, educational institutions, healthcare centers etc. to a
great number of developing countries. In addition, the Chinese tourism becomes
one of the hottest topics and opportunities for One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative countries and regions to expand its business directions (Du 2016). In order to
better satisfy with the standard for these Chinese opportunities, an upper-level
Chinese communicative skill is essential.
Third, the traditional Chinese cultures, practices, and customs are also attractive
to a number of participants. Unlike other European countries which may share the
same original cultures, Chinese cultures, practices, and customs have its unique
L. M. Dos Santos
characteristics. A number of East Asian countries developed its own architecture,
calligraphy, writing system, religion, and fine art under the influences of Chinese
cultures. Therefore, in order to gain a better understanding of the East Asian background, the Chinese language could be an appropriate starting point. In addition,
Chinese Kung Fu, the Forbidden City, and Chinese folk stories are also unique
experiences to foreigners to encounter with China (Huang 2016). The above-­
mentioned evidence highly increasing the overall interests of selecting Chinese as
their foreign language.
Recommendation for Readers
Based on the current findings, the researcher may suggest five points to advocate
and encourage the development of Chinese as a foreign language teaching and
First, Chinese colleges and universities should continue to sponsor students to
become Chinese as a foreign language teacher. Currently, in mainland China, Hong
Kong, and Macau, the idea of teacher education and teacher preparation programs
highly focus on the training of K-12 teaching and learning. Usually, when students
completed their teacher preparation programs within the K-12 curriculum, they tend
to stay within their communities instead of international locations. Such practices
and directions may not able to satisfy the shortage of Chinese as a foreign language
teachers in the international locations (Dos Santos 2016, 2017a).
Second, the Chinese government should encourage students to learn the foreign
language beyond the English language. Currently in China, learning a foreign language usually means English language learning. However, when most of the Chinese
as a foreign language teachers can only speak English as their additional language,
this practice cannot expand the international markets where English is not their
primary language, such as Bangladesh, Cambodia etc. Therefore, in order to ask
foreigners and learners within the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, Chinese
people should expand their own perspective from English as a foreign language to
numerous of languages other than English.
Third, the basic language acquisition curriculum should be tailored-made based
on the linguistic system of the host countries (Dos Santos 2017b). Currently, there
are more than 140 different language families, such as Austronesian (Chinese
Mandarin/Putonghua), Indo-European (most of the European languages) etc. As
each language family may not share similar language pronunciation and linguistic
systems, individuals may find it hard to acquire the Chinese language without an
appropriate and tailored-made curriculum.
Fourth, teaching Chinese for Specific Purpose. In the English language teaching
field, besides English language teaching, there are still several particular fields, such
as Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), Teaching English as
a Foreign Language (TEFL), English for Academic Purpose (EAP), and English for
Specific Purpose (ESP). Besides the fields of teaching and learning, there are still
11 Foreign Language Learning Beyond English: The Opportunities of One Belt, One…
several English language teaching qualifications available via well-known agencies,
such as CertTESOL, DipTESOL, Diploma in English Language Teaching
Management (DELTM), Teaching Young Learners Extension Certificate (TYLEC),
Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CELTA), and
Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (DELTA) etc. In
order to respond to the demands of Chinese language teaching and learning, such
fields and qualifications should be established as soon as possible.
Fifth, coordination and connections with the Confucius Institutes (Gil 2009).
Confucius Institute is the milestone for Chinese language teaching and learning at
various international locations beyond the borders of One Belt, One Road (OBOR)
initiative. In order to satisfy the shortage of Chinese language teachers, training
within China is one of the solutions. However, training with local students, learners
and teachers within the host countries and regions should be considered as a sustainable solution in order to overcome the language family and linguistic barriers.
Therefore, the directors and administrators of each Confucius Institute should
establish training agreements with local colleges and universities for Chinese language teaching and learning training programs for local prospective teachers.
imitation, Recommendation for Future Research
and Conclusion
Every research must have its own limitation. For this study, the limitation mainly
relies on the number of participants and locations. First, as of early 2018, One Belt,
One Road (OBOR) initiative has more than 70 countries and regions (members).
However, as this qualitative research cannot invite all participants to the whole list
of membership, some targeted countries and regions can only be invited. Second,
the researcher can only invite participants with an advanced level of either Chinese
or English for interviews. Therefore, non-Chinese and non-English speakers were
unable to be invited.
Recommendation for Future Research
Based on the current limitation of this study, future scholars and researchers may
follow the pattern and research design of this study for further mixed-method
research projects. One potential project could be a mixed-method researcher with
questionnaires and surveys with all Chinese as a foreign language learners in all
One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative locations. Another potential research project
could focus on the perspective of language learning from Chinese language teachers
L. M. Dos Santos
at the international locations. Such potential directions should not limit to teachers
and students, but also local employers who may have the potential to hire these
Chinese language graduates from colleges and universities.
In conclusion, the economic development and growth have taken China into a milestone at the international stage. In order to pick up this remarkable opportunity, the
appropriate level of Chinese language must be essential to perform businesses, commercial, cultures, customs, education, and STEM activities in China and other
Chinese related countries and regions. The One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative
provides a unique opportunity for membered countries and regions to join these
economic pathways for outstanding development within the twenty-first century.
Last but not least, Chinese as a foreign language teaching and learning should not
be limited to a small group of learners and students, but also all residents who are
currently living within the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative.
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Part V
Chapter 12
Ensuring Social and Environmental
Sustainability of the Belt and Road
Initiative in Cambodia Based
on Experiences from China
Pheakkdey Nguon and Yuvaktep Vann
With an investment of USD 8 trillion until 2049 and spanning 72 countries in Africa,
Asia and Europe, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the biggest infrastructure
program in the world.1 Launched in September 2013 by the Chinese President Xi
Jinping, the BRI aims to enhance policy coordination, improve regional connectivity, facilitate trade liberalization and economic integration, ease financial integration, and enhance cultural and scientific technical exchange.2 Developed by the
National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China,3
the BRI Action Plan encourages Chinese companies, financiers and provincial
authorities to develop their own BRI projects, possibly in collaboration with foreign
investors. However, it should be noted that the Action Plan does not provide any
information regarding the specific BRI countries, projects nor implementation
mechanisms. According to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, more than 7000 BRI
projects were contracted in 2017, of which 34% are investments in transportation
sector such as rails, roads, ports and others.4 Investment in transportation projects,
if done in a sustainable and participatory manner, can deliver economic and social
benefits to millions of people while minimizing environmental and social risks. This
is where Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) comes into the picture.
WWF (2017).
Normile (2017).
NDRC (National Development and Reform Commission) of People’s Republic of China (2015).
MOFCOM (2017).
P. Nguon (*)
Cambodia 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Research Center (CMSRRC), Department of
International Studies, Royal University of Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Y. Vann
Royal University of Law and Economics, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019
Md. N. Islam (ed.), Silk Road to Belt Road,
P. Nguon and Y. Vann
Practiced in more than 100 countries for the last 50 years, EIA is a project management tool that examines and documents the potential environmental and social
impacts of a proposed project, while at the same time considers and proposes alternatives to prevent or mitigate any perceived negative impacts.5 Studies on this topic
often suggest that adequate and meaningful public participation in the EIA process
is crucial in ensuring that projects deliver their benefits while minimizing potential
harms.6 These studies also found that public participation in EIA processes often
result in other ancillary benefits including public education, awareness, trust and
therefore support for the project as well as enhancing governmental transparency
and accountability.7 Given these benefits, governments in developed and developing
countries have put in place various legal frameworks to ensure that EIA are conducted for investment/development projects. Despite its popularity and the existence of national legislation and international guidelines on EIA, some degrees of
environmental degradation and social unrest continue to be significant in developing countries as the result of development and/ or investment projects, particularly
those that focus on natural resources, land acquisition, and resettlement of local
communities particularly those that are most vulnerable such as women and indigenous people8.
In this context, this paper endeavors to identify ways in which effective public
participation could be enhanced in infrastructure development projects that are connected to the BRI. In other words, this research aims to provide policy recommendations on conditions that need to be in place to ensure the social and environmental
sustainability of infrastructural construction projects that are linked to the BRI. As
previous studies have found, without adequate and meaningful public participation,
the EIA process lacks the key social component that makes it an effective tool. To
explore this question, we empirically compared the experiences from the on-going
development of the Beijing-Daxing International Airport with the upcoming construction of the Koh Kong International Airport. Theoretically, this study engaged
with literature on procedural obligations,9 while methodologically, it used qualitative comparative analysis which included key methods such as semi-structured key
informant interviews and extended archival research. This paper makes the central
argument that a robust EIA process where the public is meaningfully and effectively
engaged remains a crucial step toward achieving the goals of meeting economic
development and mitigating environmental impacts. This is largely feasible if the
state, through its legal instruments, adopts a more open, representative and participatory process in its approval of large scale development projects, such as those that
are being realized through the BRI.
Moorman and Ge (2007), Momtaz (2002).
Alshuwaikhat (2005), Glucker et al. (2013).
Abaza (2000).
Alshuwaikhat (2005), Briffett (1999).
Knox (2016).
12 Ensuring Social and Environmental Sustainability of the Belt and Road Initiative…
ublic Participation, Procedural Obligations
and Environmental Impact Assessment
Much of the literature on public participation in environmental decision-making
and planning often credited their origin to the Aarhus Convention10 (Convention on
Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to
Justice in Environmental Matters, dated June 1998). Article 6 of the Aarhus
Convention stipulates that “the public concerned shall be informed, either by public
notice or individually as appropriate, early in an environmental decision-making
procedure, and in an adequate, timely and effective manner”. Public participation
procedures shall include sufficient time allowing the concerned public “to prepare
and participate effectively during the environmental decision-making”.11 Within the
framework of national law, the concerned public must have access to all relevant
information on the proposed activities including, among others, a description of
environmental impacts, measures to prevent or mitigate the effects, a non-technical
summary of documents, and main alternatives.12 Public participation can be in the
form of written or oral comments, and the outcomes of public participation shall be
taken into account.13 All decisions shall be made public, along with the reasons and
considerations on which the decision is based. Additional to providing for public
participation in decision-making on specific projects, the Aarhus Convention promotes public participation in the preparation of environmental plans, programs,
policies, and regulations. It should be noted that neither China nor Cambodia is a
signatory of the Aarhus Convention.
Prior to the Aarhus Convention, another international framework that established
the legal background for public participation in environmental management was the
Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (also known as Agenda 21,
dated June 1992).14 Agenda 21 was a significant achievement given that it opened up
the possibilities for broad public participation in decision-making processes at different levels on environmental matters that potentially affect the communities in
which they work and live. That is, Principle 10 of Agenda 21 stated that
“Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned
Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to
Justice in Environmental Matters, June 25, 1998, 2161 U.N.T.S. 447 [hereinafter Aarhus
Convention], available at http://www.unece.org/env/pp/documents/cep43e.pdf
Kravchenko (2010).
Claude Reyes et al. v. Chile, Case 12.108, Inter-Am. C.H.R. (ser. C) Rep. No. 151, 77 (Sept.
19,2006), available at http://www.oas.org/Dl/access-to-informationhumanright Case of
WORLD 2006, at 17 (2006), available at http://www.privacyintemational.org/foi/foisurvey2006.
U.N. Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, Braz., June 3-14, 1992, Rio
Declaration on Environment and Development, U.N. Doc. A/CONF. 151/26 (vol. I) (Aug. 12,
1992) [hereinafter Rio Declaration].
P. Nguon and Y. Vann
c­ itizens, at the relevant level. At the national level, each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public
authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities in their
communities, and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes.
States shall facilitate and encourage public awareness and participation by making
information widely available. Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided”. In addition, Agenda 21
also encouraged national governments to ensure full participation from women
(Principle 20), as well as indigenous people and other local communities in environmental management and development because of the importance of their knowledge
and traditional practices (Principle 22). Unlike the Aarhus Convention, both China
and Cambodia were present at the convention, and according to the UN Information
Center, all nations in attendance agreed to the Rio Declaration’s 27 Principles.15
According to Knox,16 the Rio Declaration and the Aarhus Convention introduced
several procedural obligations for states to protect the environment by ensuring that
the public is meaningfully engaged in environmental matters. These obligations
include the duties to: assess environmental impacts and make environmental information public; facilitate public participation in environmental decision-making,
including by protecting the rights of expression and association; and provide access
to remedies for potential risks.17 In practice, these obligations could be realized
through a robust EIA process where information is provided to and consulted with
the public in a timely manner that enables them to understand and discuss the situation in question, including the potential positive and negative impacts of the proposed project. The process must also ensure that opportunities are provided for the
public, particularly women, indigenous people and local communities, to express
their views and that those views influence the decision-making process.
rocedural Obligations in Cambodia and China EIA
Drawing from this line of literature, the remaining parts of this paper explore the
extent to which procedural obligations in EIA process exist and, if possible, are
applied in Cambodia and China. We base our assessment on a range of primary and
secondary sources. First, we conducted a desk review on the EIA legal framework
in the two countries, paying particular attention on key indicators that Knox suggested, such as: institutional arrangements, legal framework, information disclosure, public participation, consultation process and timing. To assess the application
of these legal frameworks, we examined two case studies which were: the
Ibid 14.
Ibid 9.
Ibid 9.
12 Ensuring Social and Environmental Sustainability of the Belt and Road Initiative…
Beijing-Daxing International Airport in China and the new Koh Kong International
Airport in Cambodia. We selected these projects as our empirical case studies
mainly because as mentioned earlier infrastructure development projects, particularly transportation, make up 34% of the BRI financed projects. Although it is not
known if these two cases are financed by the BRI, their lessons are still pertinent to
upcoming infrastructure projects financed by the BRI or other means. We visited the
sites of both airports during the course of our research to understand their geography, its surrounding natural and built environment, and to observe the social setup
at the sites. Information for this study was also collected through semi-structured
interviews with stakeholders in both countries including government officers, technical experts from specialized government agencies in the field of transportation
and environment, academic researchers, and relevant Cambodian civil society organizations. No interview was conducted with Chinese civil society organizations.
Interviews and site visits were conducted in 2017. Furthermore, we attended events
such as meetings, conferences and forums related to the BRI in Cambodia and
China to learn of recent developments and to interview some stakeholders that were
difficult for us to meet one-on-one due mainly to their busy schedules.
Environmental Impact Assessment in China
China has the National People’s Congress (NPC) as its main legislative body to
enact laws.18 The State Council, China’s main executive body, is the central government of China, which has the power to regulate and implement administrative rules
in accordance with legislation passed by the NPC,19 The Ministry of Environmental
Protection (MEP) is a part of the State Council that has the competent authority to
regulate the affairs of environmental protection and management, with “major functions to establish an integrated basic environmental protection system, and to manage and monitor environmental pollution, prevention and control”.20 The MEP is
divided into 19 departments,21 where the Department of Planning and Finance,
Department of Policies, Laws, and Regulations, Department of Science, Technology
and Standards, Department of Pollution Control, and Department of EIA play significant role in the management and implementation of EIA.22 Out of all departments in MEP, the Department of EIA is the primary department in developing
policies, laws, rules, and regulations, as well as examining and approving EIA statement of major development and construction activities.23 The MEP’s Department of
EIA is also supported by the Appraisal Center for Environmental Engineering
Lawrence (2013a).
Lawrence (2013b).
Tan and Lam (2009a).
MEP Official Website, http://english.sepa.gov.cn/About_SEPA/Internal_Departments/
Tan and Lam (2009a).
Tan and Lam (2009b).
P. Nguon and Y. Vann
(ACEE), an independent advisory institution on environmental protection that provides key technical support to the MEP.24
China also has Environmental Protection Bureaus (EPBs) as the local environmental protection agencies responsible for the matter of the territory under their
jurisdiction. Within an EPB, there is a division in charge of EIA, for example, within
the Beijing EPB, there is an EIA Management Division in charge of supervising
local EIA work, supported by Beijing Appraisal Center for EIA of Beijing EBP in
providing technical support.25 The EPBs may review and approve EIAs and monitor
their implementation for some projects, as designated by state laws and regulations.26 Other state agencies may take part in EIA implementation as designated by
specific laws.27 Their participation includes providing opinions on EIA for plans and
projects in which their opinions must be fully taken into consideration during the
EIA process.
EIA law in China is mainly drawn from the Environmental Protection Law and a
number of environmental laws and administrative regulations. China’s EIA
Environmental Protection Law, enacted in 1989 by the National People’s Congress
(NPC), is the fundamental law for environmental protection and the primary legal
basis of EIA for other laws and regulations.28 Article 13 of the Environmental
Protection Law states that “the environmental impact statement on a construction
project must assess the pollution the project is likely to produce and its impact on
the environment and stipulate the preventive and curative measures; the statement
shall, after initial examination by the authorities in charge of the construction project, be submitted by specified procedure to the competent department of environmental protection administration for approval. The department of planning shall not
ratify the design plan descriptions of the construction project until after the environmental impact statement on the construction project is approved.” Furthermore,
Article 13 of this Law formed the legal basis of EIA requirement that led to the
promulgation of the EIA Law in 2003.29
The EIA Law imposes the EIA requirement on economic development plans and
construction projects, establishes an assessment and mitigation system, requires a
follow-up monitoring and evaluation on actual impacts of the plans and projects,
and creates a legal liability regime in each EIA stage. In addition to China’s EIA
Law, other major environmental laws also elaborate on the EIA requirement for
See e.g. 2013 Annual Report by Appraisal Center for Environmental Engineering, p. 2 http://
Tan and Lam (2009c).
See e.g. a case study of Construction of Pigments Production Lines Project, EIA in China,
p. 59–61.
See e.g. Tan Zhu and Kin-Che Lam, “Environmental Impact Assessment in China”, 2009, 23–24.
Tan and Lam (2009d).
Tan Zhu & Kin-Che Lam, “Environmental Impact Assessment in China”, 2009, p. 16; See
China’s EIA Law, Art. 13.
12 Ensuring Social and Environmental Sustainability of the Belt and Road Initiative…
construction, expansion, reconstruction, or land reclamation from sea projects.30 In
addition to laws promulgated by the NPC, there are administrative regulations
issued by the State Council or other competent authority (such as MEP) upon the
approval of the State Council.31 Some regulations incorporate EIA rules as a part32;
others such as the Regulations on Environmental Protection Management of
Construction Project directly and substantially deals directly with EIA. China also
has departmental statutes, issued by competent authorities of the State Council
alone or jointly to provide guidance for implementation of the laws.33 Local governments may also issue Local Ordinances and local rules on EIA. For instance,
Implementation Measures on the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the
Prevention and Control of Water Pollution for Beijing Municipality requires the
incorporation of measures for prevention and control of pollution in the EIA for a
construction project likely to adversely affect water quality.
Public Participation in China’s EIA System
As China distinguishes two EIA regimes – EIA for construction projects (Project
EIA) and EIA for development plans (Plan EIA) – we look into public participation
in both regimes. The roles of public participation in Project EIAs are mainly regulated under the EIA Law and the Interim Measures for Public Participation in EIA
(2006) (Interim Measures). Article 5 of the EIA Law provides that “The state shall
encourage all relevant units, experts, and the public to participate in the EIA in
appropriate ways.”34 Article 11 and 21 further require some form of public
See e.g. China’s Law on Prevention and Control of Water Pollution (2008), Art. 17; China’s Law
on Protection of Wildlife (2004), Art. 12; China’s Law on the Prevention and Control of
Atmospheric Pollution (2000), Art. 11; China’s Law on Prevention and Control of Pollution from
Environmental Noise (1996), Art. 13; and China’s Marine Environmental Protection Law (1982),
Art. 9.
Tan and Lam (2009f).
For example, Regulations of the People’s Republic of China on Wild Plants Protection, Art. 13,
providing that if a construction project is likely produce adverse impacts on wild plants, the developer must assess the impact and seek approval from relevant department. The department must
seek opinion of other department relevant to wild plants administration for examining and approving such request.
Major Departmental Statutes relating to EIA include: Regulation on Hierarchical Examination
and Approval of EIA Documents (2009); List of the Construction Projects Subject to Classified
Management of EIA (2008); Rules of State Environmental Protection Administration on
Examination and Approval Procedure for EIA Documents (2006); Measures for Certification
Management of EIA for Construction Project (2006); Measures for Report Reviewing on EIA for
Special Plan (2003); Measures for Database Management of Reviewing Experts on EIA (2003);
Measures for Acceptance Management of Environmental Protection Facility of Construction
Project (2002); Measures for Management of Environmental Standards (1999); and Procedures for
Environmental Protection Management of Construction Projects (1990).
China’s EIA Law, Art. 5.
P. Nguon and Y. Vann
participation in the EIA preparation, respectively, for construction projects and
development plans.35
Public Participation in Project EIAs
Article 21 of the EIA Law provides some instruction that public participation should
be a part of EIA and establishes a rule that promote accountability by specifying the
need to enclose explanation in EIA submission on whether public opinions are considered. Article 17 of the Interim Measures reinforces that the opinions should be
“seriously” considered, and that expert advisory committee may be called upon to
assist in the reviewing and approving stages. Article 16 of the Interim Measures
makes a good practice of maintaining original date of the feedback for future references. In addition, according the Interim Measures, public participation consists of
four phases:36
(a) Within 7 days after selecting the entity responsible for conducting an EIA
(“EIA Consultant”), public announcement must be made by the EIA
(b) Before submitting Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to the MEP or EPB, the
project proponent must issue a second public announcement on the EIA findings and conclusions in the form of a brief EIR, which includes a summary on
potential impacts, main measures to prevent or mitigate such impacts, the duration of the EIR available to the public, the scope for soliciting public opinions,
specific means and timeframe for such solicitation.
(c) After the brief EIR is publicly posted, a 10-day period starts for the project
proponent or the EIA Consultant to solicit the public to comment, e.g. through
public investigation, expert consultation, or public hearings.
(d) The project proponent or the EIA Consultant reviews the public opinions and
include in the EIR that would be submitted to the MEP or EPB the explanation
on whether such opinions have been adopted.
Generally, the implementation of public participation follows specific steps as
required by laws and regulations:37
• The EIA information are disclosed, notices are posted in residential quarters, and
the news is released in local newspapers and websites of involved parties.
• Information is collected through different means. Usually, it is done by a hired
contractor. Sometimes, there are informal arrangement for discussions or door-­
to-­door interviews. Generally, a simple questionnaire is made for the public to
Compare US – China, p. 303.
Enserink and Alberton (2016a).
Enserink and Alberton (2016b).
12 Ensuring Social and Environmental Sustainability of the Belt and Road Initiative…
• Then, collected opinions are classified and submitted to the project proponents to
be considered and written as a mandatory section contained in the EIR.
Results from the implementation public participation procedures in EIA in China
has been mixed. First, such implementation has many issues like poor information
disclosure, short reaction time, poor questionnaire design, and biases in selecting
respondents.38 For instance, in Shandong Province, EIA information was oversimplified and omitting relevant information, and some construction developers or EIA
Consultants issue questionnaires randomly to avoid major public affected by the
project. In Yunnan Province, the definition of public is not clear, the timeframe for
collecting is too short, and sensitive, relevant information is not disclosed39.
On the other hand, some practice suggests a satisfied level. In a solid waste disposal site project in Yunnan in 2009, the developer properly executed the public
involvement in three stages.40 First, in May 2009, the developer carried out a questionnaire survey on a target group of local residents potentially affected by the project. Background information, social and environmental benefits, and mitigation
measures were clearly included in the questionnaire. Second, in January 2010, the
EIA information was posted online and in local villages and towns adjacent to the
proposed site for 15 days and had no objection. Third, in June 2010, a summary of
EIA report was posted online for 15 days. This public involvement got local people
to care about environmental awareness, helped avoiding conflict, and made authority improve the viability of the project.41 A few flaws here however could be noted,
for instance, there was no public hearing; Internet access was not popular in remote
villages; and some were illiterate.42 Overall, EIA public participation in China may
be limited because duration of engagement is short, biasness in respondent selection, limited access to information, and limited weight of public opinions in
It is inferred that the lack of knowledge on environmental protection and public
awareness, coupled with imperfect information disclosure (especially on critical or
sensitive facts), are discouraging the public not to participate or not to effectively
participate in EIAs. [Cite: Bert Enserink & Mariachiara Alberton, “Public
Participation in China: Strengths, Weaknesses, and Lessons Learned”, Journal of
Environmental Assessment Policy and Management, Vol 18, No. 1 (2016), p. 16.]
The public’s perceptions of their participation in EIA may be different across areas;
the willingness of governments and/or project proponents to disclose critical information may be different on a case-by-case. These create variables for implementation of public participation in EIAs.
Enserink and Alberton (2016b).
Enserink and Alberton (2016b).
Enserink and Alberton (2016c).
Enserink and Alberton (2016d).
Enserink and Alberton (2016d).
Zhang et al. (2012).
P. Nguon and Y. Vann
Public Participation in Plan EIAs
For the purpose of Plan EIAs, a ‘plan’ is one prepared by a relevant department
under the State Council, local people’s governments at or above the level of municipality for any sector (e.g. industrial, agricultural, energy, water, transportation,
urban construction, tourism, and natural resources).44 This Plan EIA is a major form
of the strategic environmental assessment and derives from the implementation of
Regional EIA.45 Article 7 of the EIA Law requires EIA to be a component part of
development plans.46 Article 10 of the EIA Law mandates the contents of the EIA to
include (1) analysis, projection and evaluation on the potential environmental
impacts, (2) countermeasures and measures to prevent or alleviate adverse environmental impacts, and (3) conclusion of the EIA. The Technical Guidelines for PEIA
list public participation as a required section in the PEIA Statement.47
With regards to specific provision on public participation, Article 11 of the EIA
Law states that “the institutions responsible for preparing the specific plan shall
hold expert meetings and public hearings or in other forms to solicit comments and
suggestions on the draft statement from relevant units, experts and the public, except
for those that are confidential as the state stipulates”. The plan preparing institutions
shall consider the comments and suggestions on the draft EIS of relevant units,
experts and the public, and specify a description on having adopted or not adopted
the comments and suggestions in the EIS that is submitted for review. In addition,
Article 11 of the Provisions of Public Participation in EIA on the Draft of Special
Plans provides48: “In case a program may cause unfavorable environmental impacts
or directly involve the environmental interests of the general public, the organ that
works out the special programs shall, prior to submitting the draft of the programs
for examination and approval, seek the opinions of the relevant entities, experts and
the general public about the draft of the report about the environmental impacts by
holding demonstration meetings or hearings or by any other means, except when it
is provided by the state that it shall be kept confidential. The drafting organ shall
take the opinions of the relevant entities, experts and the general public about the
draft report of environmental impacts into careful consideration, and shall attach a
remark whether the opinions are adopted or refused to the report of environmental
impacts to be submitted for examination and approval.”
The State Council’s Decisions to Implement the Concept of Scientific
Development and to Strengthen Environmental Protection Work also instructs the
reviewing committee to question whether the plan compiling institution has held
meetings, public hearings, or taken other forms to elicit opinions from relevant
units, experts, and the public before submitting, and whether it has seriously considered opinions from relevant units, experts, and the public on the Plan EIA draft to
EIA Law, Art. 8.
Tan and Lam (2009g).
EIA Law, Art. 7.
See also Tan Zhu and Kin-Che Lam, “Environmental Impact Assessment in China”, 2009, p. 45.
Tan and Lam (2009h).
12 Ensuring Social and Environmental Sustainability of the Belt and Road Initiative…
enclose an explanation on whether such public opinions have been adopted or not.
This is similar to the regulation required for Project EIA.
Environmental Impact Assessment in Cambodia
Unlike China’s EIA system, Cambodia’s institutional and legal frameworks on EIA
are far less comprehensive. Cambodia has the National Assembly as its main legislative body and the Royal Government of Cambodia as its main executive body. The
Ministry of Environment (MOE), as part of the Royal Government, has the authority to regulate matters of environmental protection and natural resource conservation. The Department of EIA, under the supervision of the General Directorate of
Environmental Protection, is responsible for reviewing and recommending EIAs for
approval by relevant authorities. Cambodia also has the Municipal/Provincial
Environmental Office in Phnom Penh City and all provinces, working under the
dual supervision of the local governors and the MOE. Other ministries or state entities may be relevant in working with MOE to enforce a violation by the project
proponent during EIA implementation phase.49
The Law on Environmental Protection and Natural Resource Management
(1996) is the primary source of Cambodia’s environmental laws. This law imposes
a legal requirement for every project and activity, either private or public, to conduct
an EIA that is subject to review and approval by MOE. The procedures and scope of
EIAs are specified by a subsequent sub-decree on EIA Process (1999). The EIA
sub-decree determines the scope of projects subject to initial and/ or full EIA. It
defines several types of projects and thresholds that would require EIAs. It also
stipulates the responsibilities of MOE in reviewing the EIAs in collaboration with
other concerned ministries and in monitoring and ensuring compliance with the
project’s Environmental Management Plan during construction, implementation,
and closure.50 Cambodia also has the Prakas on the General Guidelines for Preparing
Initial EIA and Full EIA Reports (2009) as its ministry-level executive directive to
implement rules related to the preparation of initial and full EIAs. In addition, two
other laws also play a role in EIA implementation in Cambodia, which are the Law
on Forestry (2002) and the Law on Protected Areas (2008). However, they both only
make references to the requirement of EIA and provide general rules that the public
participation shall be part of the EIA process.51 Other regulations relevant to EIA
implementation include: Sub-Decree on Water Pollution Control (1999), Sub-­
Decree on Solid Waste Management (1999), Sub-Decree on the Control of Air
Pollution and Noise Disturbance (2000), and Prakas on Delegation of Power to
Cambodia’s EIA Sub-Decree, Art. 28.
Cambodia’s EIA Sub-Decree, Art. 3.
See e.g. Law on Forestry
P. Nguon and Y. Vann
Municipal/Provincial Department of Environment to Decide on Project Development
Public Participation in Cambodia’s EIA System
Public participation has not been a primary focus for Cambodia in environmental
protection. The Environmental Protection Law only has a short section on public
participation, requiring MOE to provide information and “encourage public participation in environmental protection and natural resource management”. Moreover,
the EIA Sub-Decree only includes a sentence for “[encouraging] public participation in the implementation of the EIA process and [taking] into account their input
and suggestions in the process of project approval” as one of the Sub-Decree’s purposes.53 Yet, no follow-up provisions are available to elaborate on how this public
participation should be implemented. Under the Prakas on the General Guidelines
for Preparing Initial and Full EIA (2009) (EIA Prakas), which outlines the components in an EIA (either initial or full), public participation is listed as one of the
sections in the report.54 The relevant text of the Prakas states that “all opinion given
by the public in the EIA process should be addressed for all of which can be contributed to the decision making process. Public Participation includes local authorities and institutions involved; opinion of the public towards the development
projects; consultation; and company interpretation.”
The Prakas does not explain to what extent the participation is required, or as to
how such participation should be conducted. In the 2012 Guidebook on EIA in
Cambodia, a non-binding document published by MOE in cooperation with two
NGOs, provides some explanation as to what extent and how the public should be
engaged. The Guidebook recognizes that public participation should be made in
three main stages: project scoping, EIA review, and project monitoring.55 It also
defines “stakeholders” as relevant ministries/institutions, project proponents/ beneficiaries, NGOs, donors and private sector, and affected people.56 However, the
guideline only states that further development of regulations related to EIA will be
done by MOE, particularly the EIA Department.57
See Guidebook on Environmental Impact Assessment in the Kingdom of Cambodia, 2012, p. 7,
EIA Sub-Decree, Art. 1.
Prakas on General Guidelines for Preparing Initial EIA and Full EIA Reports, Art. 6; See also
Guidebook, p. 16–17.
See Guidebook on Environmental Impact Assessment in the Kingdom of Cambodia, 2012, p. 22,
See Guidebook on Environmental Impact Assessment in the Kingdom of Cambodia, 2012, p. 22,
See Guidebook on Environmental Impact Assessment in the Kingdom of Cambodia, 2012, p. 22,
12 Ensuring Social and Environmental Sustainability of the Belt and Road Initiative…
Cambodia is in the process of drafting major environmental laws and regulations, one of which is the Environmental and Natural Resource Code. The Code is
expected to establish the entire system for the environmental legal framework in
Cambodia, including EIAs. The Code’s latest draft in 2017 has a section on public
participation in EIA. The section would instruct an EIA to fully address public comments, require consent of affected people to mitigation measures imposed on them,
and make the EIA publicly available. However, the Code draft may need more time
for discussion before it is passed and later enforced. Cambodia also has drafted the
EIA Law, in which in its latest draft in 2015, the section on public participation is
almost identical to what is contained in the Code above.58 Finally, an important draft
Prakas on Public Participation in EIA (2016) would be highly relevant if it was
issued by the MOE. It would determine how affected parties can participate in each
stage of EIA (project screening, scoping, investigation, report preparation, review,
approving, and monitoring).59 The Guideline on Public Part in EIA Process was also
simultaneously drafted to define the principles, scope of public participation, and
responsibilities of all relevant parties. However, the status of these two documents
remains unclear. Those drafts were no longer updated after June 2016. Case 1 Beijing-Daxing Intentional Airport, China
Located in the South of Daxing District in China, the Beijing-Daxing International
Airport covers an area of 3032 ha, with an estimated investment of approximately
USD13 billion for the construction, of which USD0.7 billion was allocated for environmental protection. The developer of this project is Capital Airports Holding, a
state-owned enterprise that built Beijing International Airport’s Terminal 3.60 The
EIA for the Project was conducted by Beijing Guohuan Tiandi Environmental
Technological Development Center, Ltd. The project was announced by the Chinese
media in 2011 and approved by the State Council in January 2013. Public participation process was done between February and April 2014. The EIA was submitted to
the MEP in April 2014 and was approved in June, 2014. Construction started on 26
December 2014 and expected to be completed in 2018.61 The Project’s main identified environmental impact was noise pollution, where 11 villages were expected to
be exposed to noise levels exceeding 80dB and would be relocated. Other environmental impacts identified included air pollution by exhaust emissions from airplanes, termination of water supplies for some villages, and potential accidents
Cambodia’s EIA Law Draft (2015), Chapter 5, http://www.vishnulawgroup.com/attachments/
Draft Prakas on Public Participation in EIA Process (2016 June)
Brombal et al. (2017).
CNN International (2013).
P. Nguon and Y. Vann
caused by leaks from fuel depots or explosions. It was estimated that in total, at least
52 villages would be relocated62.
The project started their public participation when the EIA was already “in progress”. The total duration for consultation was 27 days, starting from February 17 to
28 and March 22 to April 4. Within this period, the developer and the EIA company
collected comments from the public after two public notices, six workshops, and
one public opinion survey. After the simplified EIA was published on March 19 –
19 days after the deadline to submit public comments, most extensive consultation
process took place in late March and early April. There was no information on
whether additional hearing or consultation by the MEP was requested after the EIA
had been submitted. Materials provided to the public included two public notices
containing: general information about the participation process, the simplified EIA
report, and a brief project summary. Such notices were accessible at village and
township levels, through local media, and websites of the local government, EIA
company, and developer.63 The general information was complete. Both the simplified EIA report and the brief project summary for the opinion survey had sufficient
information on the main environmental impacts, but not so much on the social and
economic implications, particularly on the relocation of local farmers. Also, information about access to legal redress was not included.64
With regards to consultation arrangements, collection of comments was made
twice, before and after the simplified EIA report was published. Channels of collection included phone calls, mails, fax, e-mails, and online chats. After the simplified
EIA publication, six workshops were held: two were only for State authorities (government departments and local people’s congress) and four were open to representatives of villages affected by the project. Workshops were chaired by the developer
and the EIA company.65 There was no mentioning of participatory consultation
techniques such as workshops being freely open to members of affected communities, deliberate opinion polling, or citizen advisory committee. Reference was made
that affected stakeholders of Hebei Province may bargain for compensation conditions similar to those applied in Beijing municipality.66
In the project, consultation engaged affected residents (those to be relocated or
living in areas subject to mitigation measures), relevant government departments,
public institutions providing social services (education, health, and elderly care),
companies interested in providing goods and services for the Project construction,
and the media.67 A total of 7956 individuals and 562 units took part in the survey,
covering areas where relocation was foreseen, areas subject to mitigation measures,
and nearby areas with limited effect. However, there were some gaps. For instance,
Aehnelt (2013), CAPA Centre for Aviation (2016), CEQ (Council on Environmental Quality)
Brombal et al. (2017).
12 Ensuring Social and Environmental Sustainability of the Belt and Road Initiative…
external experts, NGOs, and other civil society organizations were not mentioned in
the process. The survey was not representative. There was a major difference
between the survey sample and population in the distribution of sex, age, and educational status. For example, women only constituted 21% of the sample; consultation did not target the vulnerable groups or civil society organizations assisting such
groups.68 Finally, it was noted that the Public Participation Section of the EIA
accounts for 23 out of 586 pages of the EIA. Seventeen out of the 23 pages were for
public opinion survey while only about three pages were used to summarize the
consultation results. The survey results were reviewed quantitatively, reporting the
answers to closed-ended questions. More than 99% of the sample supported the
project (considering the Project is government-led and a sensitive issue in China,
and as the participants were required to include their phone numbers, they might be
refrained from giving a truthful answer). In addition, only part of the consultation
results was reported. A minority of respondents showed a lack of support for the
Project, but the report did not clearly and fully address this issue. The lack of details
on consultation results made it hard to assess how much the developer and EIA
company provided feedbacks to the public.69
Case 2 New Koh Kong International Airport, Cambodia
Geographically, the New Koh Kong International Airport is located within Dara
Sakor Seashore Resort, a 45,000 ha of land that was granted in 2008 as a 99-years
development concession to a Chinese-owned firm Tianjin Union Development
Group (UDG) in Botom Sakor district, Koh Kong Province, Cambodia. The size of
the airport is reported to be 750 ha. The investment of the entire resort is estimated
at USD 3.8 billion.70 Although construction of this new airport is scheduled to start
from early 2018,71 the site for its construction has been one of the most controversial
projects in Cambodia. This is due to the long standing, on-going land conflicts
between the developer and local communities over the last 10 years and the un-­
assessed environmental impacts of large scale conversion of an area within a protected area, teeming with rare biodiversity.72 Based on information gathered through
interviews and visit to the site, the project has been in operation without any EIA
submitted to the MOE. For example, the site where the airport is to be built was
already cleared, while its EIA is nowhere to be found. This is of particular and grave
environmental concern since construction at this site would trigger all the safeguard
policies defined by groups including the Asian Development Bank and the World
FT Investigation (2016).
Phnom Penh Post (2017a).
Phnom Penh Post (2017b).
P. Nguon and Y. Vann
Information regarding the detail of the project activities and its financier is not
available to the public from neither the developer nor the Cambodian authority.
Therefore, information used to piece together this case study came from news
sources such as the Phnom Penh Post, Khmer Times, The Cambodia Daily (no longer in operation since 2017), Radio Free Asia, Voice of America and others. In total,
we gathered 78 articles from these sources, none of which reported any positive
social and/or environmental impacts resulting from the project. According to news
articles, approximately 4000 families are affected by this project, many of whom
have already been involuntarily relocated from their homes or accepted relocation
packages. However, an estimated 370 families continue to protest their forced displacement.73 About half of the families (more than 1000 families) that were relocated have abandoned their new homes provided by the developer, citing poor
housing conditions and an inconvenient location. A UDG’s representative argued
that about USD10 million out of the $3.8 billion development plan was used for the
relocation and compensation to affected families. The company claimed that each
family was entitled to a compensation package which included a house, farmland
and financial reimbursement for property lost. However, villagers reported in the
news complained about the poor quality of their houses, unproductive farmland,
lack of infrastructure, less than sufficient financial compensation for the loss of
livelihood, and the remoteness of the new site.
Although the Cambodian law requires EIAs for all investments, as discussed in
earlier section, this case demonstrated that assessment of private investments is
extremely limited or does not occur at all. Moreover, while the Cambodian regulatory system broadly supports public participation in the EIA process, this case study
showed that implementation of such principle does not exist. However, this case is
only one of the many investment projects that have gone ahead without proper or
any EIA conducted. Interviews with relevant competent authorities found that a
majority of investments still have not been subject to EIA review. For example,
based on data from interviews, MOE reported reviewing 49 EIAs in 2016 and 83 in
2017, while the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) reported approving 171 private investments alone in 2016, and 183 in 2017. In addition, it is estimated that at least an additional 100 public investments projects are approved each
year, with or without an EIA. This is, in part, due to a lack of enforcement of the
penalty provisions in the current regulatory framework and a need to strengthen
them through new legal instruments, such as those that are mentioned earlier that
are being drafted. Also, it was reported during the interviews that project proponents
often go directly to CDC for project approval first and are therefore permitted to
begin implementation without an approved EIA. While this CDC approval is generally given based on the condition of completing an EIA in the near future, oftentimes they are not completed.
Phnom Penh Post (2014).
12 Ensuring Social and Environmental Sustainability of the Belt and Road Initiative…
Table 12.1 Institutional arrangements for environmental impact assessment in Cambodia and
Executive: Central
Government level
Executive: Ministry level
Cambodian public institution
National Assembly and Senate
Royal Government
Chinese public institution
National People’s Congress
State Council
Ministry of Environment
Ministry of Environmental
Department of EIA
Executive: General
Directorate level
Executive: Department
Technical support
General Directorate of
Environmental Protection
Department of EIA
Administrative level
Environment Office
1 general admin. and 5 division
Appraisal Center for
Environmental Engineering
Environmental Protection
This concluding section of the paper has two objectives. First, we draw some comparisons between the legal framework on EIA, particularly on public participation,
between Cambodia and China. Second, we offer some lessons/ recommendations
on how to ensure that infrastructure development projects financed by the BRI
would deliver benefits while minimizing potential social and environmental risks
based on the experiences from the two case studies. Overall, the EIA systems of
Cambodia and China display both similarities and differences. Regarding institutional framework, the governing structures are quite similar as illustrated in
Table 12.1. Table 12.2 summarizes the legal framework for public participation in
the EIA process of the two countries. A major difference, however, would be the
strength and capacity of such structures to actualize the legal frameworks as clearly
demonstrated in the two case studies. Cambodia can learn a lot from the experiences
from the Beijing-Daxin International Airport in terms of implementing its regulatory frameworks on public participation in EIA process. Moreover, in China, the
Department of EIA is equivalent to the General Directorate in MOE. This suggests
that China has more capacity in dealing with EIA process, with regards to implementing rules on public participation.
There are three positive lessons in China’s legal framework relating to public
participation in EIA that countries like Cambodia can learn from. First, a stronger
language for the requirement of public participation in EIA should be clearly stated
in Cambodia’s legal framework. According to China’s EIA Law, construction units
“should hold proof meetings, hearings, or take other forms to solicit the opinions
from relevant units, experts and the public.”74 The Interim Measures further p­ rovides,
China’s EIA Law, Art. 21.
P. Nguon and Y. Vann
Table 12.2 Legal framework for public participation in EIA
Main Environmental Law
Specific EIA Law
Main Executive EIA
Law on Environmental Protection
and Natural Resource
Management (1996)
N/A (drafting is in progress)
Law on Protected Area (2008);
Law on Forestry (2003)
Sub-Decree on EIA Process
Main Executive Ministry-­ Prakas on General Guideline for
Level EIA Regulations
Preparing Initial and Full EIA
Main Public Participation N/A
Related Binding
Public Participation
Related Non-binding
EIA Guidebook (2012)
Environmental Protection Law
Among others:
Regulation on hierarchical
examination and approval of
EIA documents
Interim measures for public
participation in EIA
Specific ordinances of local
Not found
“Construction units … should take public opinion seriously.”75 Unlike China’s, the
Cambodia’s EIA Sub-Decree only mentions “encouraging public participation” as
one of the Sub-Decree objectives and fails to impose any concrete obligations to
include public participation in EIA. Moreover, public participation is merely mentioned in the EIA Prakas’ Annex 1, Chap. 5, which lists it as a component of an EIA
report. The 2016 draft Prakas on Public Participation by the MOE has never been
adopted. These show the lack of recognition of importance of public participation
requirement in EIA. Cambodia’s legal framework should employ a stronger language that clearly indicates legal obligations to properly engage the public in EIA
process. Such provisions would not only put a burden on public officers, but would
also empower the public to effectively engage in EIA process.
Second, express procedural requirements should be stated in Cambodia’s legal
framework. According to China’s Interim Measures, public participation consists of
four phases: public announcement, public disclosure, comment solicitation, and
review of public opinions, as indicated above. However, both the EIA Prakas and
the EIA Guidebook contain vague terms and do not provide as how public participation should be engaged. In addition, EIA public participation in China may sometimes be limited because the duration of engagement is short, or there is bias in
respondent selection, limited access to information, and limited weight given to
public opinions in decision-making,76 Cambodia can take this as a lesson and
Interim Measures, Art. 17.
Zhang et al. (2012).
12 Ensuring Social and Environmental Sustainability of the Belt and Road Initiative…
employ a system of its own to address such issues. For instance, Cambodia’s legal
framework should clearly provide criteria to determine the appropriate timeframe
and method of respondent selection. Guidance as to the disclosure of information
and to the method of consideration of public opinions should also be specific.
Third, an accountability mechanism should be used in Cambodia’s legal framework related to public participation in EIA. According to the Interim Measures, the
construction units should make it clear whether to adopt or not the public opinions
in the EIA Statements. Moreover, the construction units, EIA agents, and administrative departments of environment should keep the original data on the feedback
opinions for future reference. However, these features are lacking in Cambodia’s
EIA legal framework. Cambodia’s legal framework should thus establish a requirement that the approvals must provide an explanation, which is to be disclosed to the
public. A failure to state reasons should be a ground for the public to challenge the
decisions in order to suspend the projects for further studies and correction.
Cambodia currently lacks regulations on strategic EIAs for development plans.
In China’s EIA Law, institutions responsible for preparing specific plans shall hold
expert meetings and public hearings or use other forms to solicit comments and suggestions on the draft EIS of relevant units, experts and the public. Their comments
and suggestions shall be seriously considered and the EIS must state on having
adopted or not adopted the comments and suggestions in the EIS. In this case,
Cambodia’s legal framework should establish a requirement for the strategic environmental impact assessment for development plans (especially, infrastructure
development plans) and clearly define the criteria for and methods of engaging the
public to participate in decision-making.
Furthermore, based on findings from the two case studies, there are many lessons
that Cambodia can learn from China in terms of implementing regulatory frameworks on public participation in infrastructure projects to ensure their social and
environmental sustainability.
While these lessons/recommendations are mainly developed for the context of
Cambodia, they could be applicable in countries that are engaged in BRI financed
projects, which mostly are poor countries in Africa and Asia. These include:
1. Ensure full enforcement of the regulatory frameworks: this helps facilitate
the implementation and monitoring of EIA frameworks. This is a difficult task in
many of the countries such as Cambodia where corruption is pervasive. It is
important that authorities, in particular MOE, need to be empowered to exercise
their designated duties in implementing rules related to EIA and public participation. For example, MOE should be able to impose and enforce penalties specifically for project proponents who begin construction prior to the approval of
their EIA report. While it is noted that Cambodian laws exempt some special
projects from having an-approved EIA report prior to commencement, citing
special circumstance, criteria constituting such special projects need to be
2. Strengthen compliance and management: the Cambodian case study indicated that there is a dire need to improve the compensation procedures for ­project
P. Nguon and Y. Vann
affected people, particularly women and indigenous people. There is also a need
to require developers to have a detail dispute resolution procedures. Competent
authorities, such as MOE, need to develop an environmental audit process and
require remedial action to be taken in the event a project’s or activity’s impacts
are found to be greater than those estimated. The point here is that a robust EIA
process where the public is meaningfully and effectively engaged remains a crucial requirement. However, we acknowledge that this is largely feasible provided
that the state, through its legal instruments, adopts a more open, representative
and participatory process in its approval of large scale development projects,
such as those that are being realized through the BRI.
3. Increase transparency by disclosing project information and its EIA reports:
while it is stated in the regulatory framework, disclosure of EIA reports and relevant project documents is still lacking in practice. For example, the EIA report
and relevant documents related to the New Koh Kong International Airport do
not exist in the public sphere. Similarly, an open access database on BRI financed
projects including their planning, construction, supervision, and compliance
should be set-up, especially in English.
4. At minimum, apply the same social and environmental standards adopted
in China for countries that have lower social and environmental standards
and/ or poor enforcement of those standards: studies have alleged that BRI
projects might be the means for the Chinese government to outsource its environmental pollution to poorer countries involved in the initiative such as
Cambodia. Thus, it is essential that in cases where regulatory frameworks on
social and environmental standards in BRI countries are lacking in terms of substance and/or implementation, China should make it their responsibilities to
ensure that social and environmental standards adopted and implemented domestically by the Government of China apply in these countries. If not, the accusation stands that China is merely relocating to poor countries the environmental
and social externalities that come with China’s economic development. In other
words, environmental damage and pollution that come from the BRI financed
projects are simply exported overseas rather than being genuinely reduced.
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Chapter 13
Navigating a Green BRI in Sri Lanka
Divya Hundlani
In recent years, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has spurred significant
investment in Sri Lanka’s domestic infrastructure. The most recent era of China’s
bilateral economic relations with Sri Lanka predates the BRI, beginning in 20051 in
the form of development assistance and infrastructure investment. Since then, China
has grown to be Sri Lanka’s largest foreign investor (in 2017) with an estimated
total investment value of over USD 5 billion, as indicated by Fig. 13.1.2 China has
invested in several large-scale infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka, including in sea
ports, the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant, Mattala Airport, Colombo-Katunayake
Expressway, Moragahakanda Dam Project, and the Southern Expressway.
Sri Lanka’s geographical position—at the centre of shipping routes connecting
East and Southeast Asia to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa—provides an unparalleled opportunity for the island nation to develop as a trading hub in the Indian
Ocean. The BRI, launched by President Xi Jinping in 2013, is estimated to invest
between USD 1 trillion3 and USD 8 trillion4 to build trade and transport infrastructure across Asia, Europe and Africa, with sea port development at the core of its
maritime connectivity strategy. Sea ports can have both positive and negative
impacts on their surrounding cities and broader regions. The most positive impacts
are from economic outcomes, especially (1) expanding the market opportunities for
Kelegama (2018).
Central Bank of Sri Lanka. Annual Reports 2013–2017. Retrieved from: https://www.cbsl.gov.lk/
Huang and Perlez (2013).
Ellis (2017).
D. Hundlani (*)
Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies,
Colombo, Sri Lanka
e-mail: [email protected]
© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019
Md. N. Islam (ed.), Silk Road to Belt Road,
D. Hundlani
Fig. 13.1 FDI volume to Sri Lanka
national and international companies and (2) generating local employment. The
main negative impacts are from environmental degradation5 and pollution associated with the ports and shipping industry.
This paper discusses the environmental sustainability of BRI investments in Sri
Lanka; in other words, how ‘green’ the BRI will be. It seeks to identify the factors
of a green BRI as well as the challenges in implementing a green policy in large-­
scale investments in Sri Lanka. Using the case study method, this paper will focus
on two of China’s major investments in Sri Lanka: the Colombo Port’s Colombo
International Container Terminals (CICT) and the Hambantota Port. It argues that
Sri Lanka must set strong normative standards on how these ports are developed
under the BRI framework and reveals what those standards should be.
This paper proceeds in Sect. 13.2 to identify the initial indicators of a green BRI
and in Sect. 13.3 to consider the internationally-recognised green standards and
benchmarks for ports. Section 13.4 focuses locally to consider the environmental
risks of the BRI in Sri Lanka and the need for Sri Lankan ports to adhere to international standards that embrace green policies of low pollution and ecological conservation. Section 13.5 addresses the challenges for Sri Lanka and China in greening
BRI investments and provides recommendations for legislative and policy frameworks. The paper concludes by highlighting the importance of nurturing pro-green
policies in Sri Lanka’s economic development, and as a key principle in its foreign
De Silva et al. (2015).
13 Navigating a Green BRI in Sri Lanka
investment policy, to ensure a more positive impact from BRI investments and the
development of its ports.
China and a Green BRI
The BRI, also known as ‘One Belt One Road,’ envisions investment in trade links,
infrastructure development, and other key forms of economic connectivity.6 It is
estimated to span over 60 countries and reach 62% of the world’s population. The
BRI consists of both an overland ‘Belt’ and a maritime ‘Road’—the latter being a
modern version of the maritime silk route7 and involving extensive investment in
ports along that route. Given its unprecedented geographic reach and financial scale,
the BRI has the potential to play a leading role in the international practice of green
infrastructure development. This is particularly relevant and potentially beneficial
for developing economies that receive BRI investment, including Sri Lanka.
President Xi committed China to policies on climate change, sustainable development, and low-carbon development at the landmark Belt and Road Forum in
Beijing in May 2017. He stated that,8
The goal of building six major economic corridors under the Belt and Road Initiative has
been set, and we should endeavor to meet it. We need to seize opportunities presented by …
the revolution in energy technologies to develop global energy interconnection and achieve
green and low-carbon development.
President Xi affirmed China’s environmental commitments9 in his speech to the
19th Party Congress in October 2017. He noted the need to promote green development for China’s domestic economy and international investments by embedding
the concepts of resource-efficiency and environmental values into policy, trade and
financial integration.
The BRI’s Vision and Action Plan of 201510 presaged these statements by
President Xi by expressing support for a green BRI that includes “low-carbon infrastructure construction and operation management.” In addition, Beijing has stated
that the BRI is to be guided by an “ecological civilization philosophy”11 to achieve
sustainable development, which includes goals such as resource efficiency and environmental protection. According to this philosophy, China’s aim to promote environmental protection through the BRI rests on its shared interest and common
responsibility with host countries, promoting a ‘win-win scenario.
Yamei (2017).
Ping (2017).
National Development and Reform Commission (2015).
The Chinese ASEAN Environmental Cooperation Centre of the Green Silk Road (2017).
D. Hundlani
The new financial institutions that will provide funding for BRI projects have
also shown a commitment to promoting environmentally-friendly policies. The
Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has released an Environment and
Social Framework12 which lends its support to the Paris Agreement to mitigate the
impact of climate change. It supports ‘green economic growth’ by promoting energy
conservation and the use of renewable sources, sustainable land-use management
and low-carbon technologies. Following through on these commitments, the AIIB
has not invested in coal-powered energy so far and has only financed hydropower
and solar power investments13.
However, despite this positive vision and strategy towards a green BRI, the
implementation and outcomes of BRI investments have been mixed. China has
invested in 240 coal power projects14 between 2001 and 2016 in BRI economies
including Indonesia, Mongolia, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka.15 At present, BRI countries, including China, consume over 70% of the world’s coal,16 and new investments in this area will only serve to increase carbon emissions and add to air
pollution and climate change. In Sri Lanka, critics have attacked the Chinese-funded
Lakvijaya coal power plant for operating without the required environmental
licenses and without basic equipment17 that would reduce the harmful emissions
caused by electricity generated from coal power plants.
lobal Standards and Mechanisms for ‘Green’ Port
There are several international standards and benchmark ports for ‘greening’ port
operations, which Sri Lanka could learn from and replicate in a domestic setting.
Green port policies involve using renewable energy sources, waste management
techniques, and reducing air and water pollution within port operations.
International Standards
The United Nations’ International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is responsible for
a range of measures to prevent and control pollution in the shipping industry and to
mitigate damage caused by maritime accidents and operations. The IMO works to
Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (2016).
Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (2017).
Peng et al. (2017).
Ministry of Power and Renewable Energy (2012).
Li (2017).
Wickremesinghe (2018).
13 Navigating a Green BRI in Sri Lanka
reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships by setting international policies and
guidelines on the reduction of air pollutants. It also works closely with partners
along the relevant supply chain, including port authorities and port operators, to
ensure the highest conformity to anti-pollution prevention standards.
The IMO has contributed significantly to international standards and protocols,
including the MARPOL 73/78,18 one of the most important international marine
environmental conventions. The MARPOL 73/78 convention sets air pollutant levels (including nitrogen oxide and greenhouse gas emissions), marine engine manufacturing standards, and limits on the sulfur content in fuel oil, and in addition,
prohibits the deliberate emission of ozone-depleting substances. The convention
extends to protecting against water pollution and requires port operators to provide
‘adequate waste reception facilities’19 for the transfer of harmful waste from ships,
including oil, noxious liquid chemical substances, and garbage. Since 1959, 50
IMO conventions and protocols and over 800 codes20 have sought to protect the
environment from the damaging effects of pollution from port and shipping
There are several global ports which adhere to IMO standards, including the port
of Singapore. The ‘Green Port Programme’ of the Maritime and Port Authority of
Singapore21 (the Port of Singapore) applies IMO policies to its operations to measure pollutants, set standards on energy efficiency and ensure adherence to regulation of emission output during port and shipping operations. Singapore provides
financial incentives to reduce the emission of air pollutants, including a 25% reduction in port dues for reductions in carbon and non-carbon emissions.
Singapore implements a stringent IMO regulation that limits the use of sulphur
in fuels, which is a large component of non-carbon air pollution and can cause acid
rain. In addition to following international standards, Singaporean domestic policy
encourages local maritime companies to develop and adopt green technologies. For
example, it provides grants to cover up to 50% of development and adaptation
costs22 of green technology in port operations. Singapore is also investing in a
Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal,23 which is likely to receive LNG carrier
ships in the next 3 years. Experts generally (but not entirely) view natural gas as a
cleaner source of energy than other fossil fuels, making it less harmful to the
Gard (2004).
Mikelis (2018).
International Maritime Organization (2008).
Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (2018a).
Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (2018b).
Kristiansen (2018).
D. Hundlani
Comparative Standards
Other international ports may not follow specific international standards but nevertheless practice green port policies in their operations. Ports in California, for example, are regulated by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), whose
environmental regulations have been described by some as more stringent than
those of the IMO.24 The port of Long Beach, which moves over 7.5 million twentyfoot equivalent unit (TEU) in 2017 and is one of the busiest ports in the world,25 has
practised green port policies for over 20 years,26 acting as a pioneer in this area. The
Long Beach port is currently working towards a zero-carbon emissions operation,27
with aims to have an efficient waste management and conservation system. The
operational machinery used at Long Beach is considered energy efficient, and the
port incorporates renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and/or biogas energy
into port operations.
To reduce air pollution, Long Beach has a ‘Vessel Speed Reduction’ program,28
requiring ships to slow to 12 knots at a distance of 20 miles from the port lighthouse.
The port uses financial incentives on port fees to encourage the use of low-sulphur
and clean fuel in ship engines and all port equipment. Long Beach also has policies
to improve water quality, minimise water pollution, and protect the unique wildlife
around its harbour. The port has programmes to recycle water and solid waste as
methods of resource conservation. New construction and expansion within the port
are guided by principles of sustainable development.29 According to Long Beach
Port policies, all building standards should conform to the Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design (LEED) standards, which prioritise recovery and on-site
reuse of construction waste and the use of locally available ‘green’ building materials and supplies.
The BRI in Sri Lanka
Large-scale Chinese commercial investment began in Sri Lanka in 2005,30 with a
primary focus on infrastructure development.31 Investments in infrastructure are key
to converting Sri Lanka’s geographical advantage to becoming a serious player in
International Council on Clean Transportation (2016).
The Port of Long Beach (2017a).
The Port of Long Beach (2017b).
The Port of Long Beach (2017c).
The Port of Los Angeles (2017).
Long Beach Harbour Department (2005).
Kelegama (2018).
Perera (2016).
13 Navigating a Green BRI in Sri Lanka
the logistics, shipping and transport sectors, as envisaged in Vision 202532—the
policy planning document of the Sri Lankan Government. Investment in sea ports,
which are part of the ‘Road’ of the BRI, offers important synergies with Sri Lanka’s
economic development strategy, as the island promotes itself as a logistics and trading hub in South Asia and the Indian Ocean.
The main East-West shipping route passes six to ten nautical miles south of Sri
Lanka.33 An estimated 60,000 ships pass through this route annually, carrying nearly
70% of the world’s oil supply and half of all container shipments.34 Sri Lanka’s
location ensures that global shipping routes benefit from calling at its ports rather
than at competitor ports in the region. Sri Lanka must ensure adequate capacity and
provide modern port services and facilities to ensure it does not lose its ability to
meet the requirements of global shipping lines, and therefore its competitive advantage. Hence sea port development has been a core component of Sri Lanka’s economic growth strategy and development.
Sri Lanka has six major sea ports, including the ports of Colombo, Hambantota,
Trincomalee, Galle, Kankesanthurai, and Oluvil. Of these, the Colombo International
Container Terminal (CICT) at the Colombo port and the port of Hambantota are the
only ones operated by a foreign company. The CICT is one of five terminals within
the Colombo Port and began operations in 2015. The Hambantota port opened in
2010 and was operated by a domestic entity until December 2017. The CICT and
Hambantota port are currently both operated by China Merchants Ports (CMPorts).
CMPort’s holding company, China Merchants Port Holdings Company Limited
(CMHI), is the world’s second largest global terminal operator,35 managing approximately USD 10 trillion in assets and turning approximately USD 20 billion in
annual profit in 2016.
In 2017, the Colombo Port handled approximately six million TEUs36 of which
the CICT handled two million TEUs. CICT has continuously been adding container
volumes and therefore value to the Colombo Port, as indicated by Fig. 13.2.37 The
CICT is primarily a container terminal and its objective is to be a key transshipment
hub in South Asia. The CICT is the only deep-water terminal38 in the Colombo port,
with an 18 m berth; such terminals are in high demand in global shipping routes
because of the growing size of container ships. As the largest terminal of the
Colombo Port, CICT operates at 80% capacity with a volume of growth of 28%39
and has brought increased efficiency and capacity to the Port of Colombo. Since
Office of the Prime Minister. Vision 2025. Retrieved from http://www.pmoffice.gov.lk/download/press/D00000000061_EN.pdf
Fernando (2017).
Colombo International Container Terminal Ltd (2015).
Daily (2017a).
Sri Lanka Ports Authority (2016).
Sri Lanka Ports Authority (2017a).
Fernando (2017b).
D. Hundlani
Fig. 13.2 Containers in Port of Colombo
2015, the CICT has surpassed market expectations40 in terms of revenue, volumes
and profits, and it is arguably the Colombo port’s most efficient terminal.
The Hambantota port has the potential to serve as a global transshipment hub and
to rival the success of ports in Singapore or Dubai. It saves 3 days of shipping time
and fuel41 because of its geographical location in relation to global shipping routes.
Hambantota was designed as a deep water port to absorb the overflow of container
vessels from the Colombo Port and to provide ancillary services including feeder
ships, oil bunkering, ship repairs, a business incubator, integrated logistics, and vessel supply services. Loans from China’s Exim Bank42 financed the construction of
the Hambantota port, and in December 2017 the port was leased to CM Ports in a
debt-to-equity swap under a 99-year agreement worth USD 1.12 billion.
CM Ports aims to develop the Hambantota port to a final annual capacity of 20
million TEUs,43 and it is also developing a surrounding industrial park of 2200
acres. It is still too early to assess the commercial operations and environmental
outcomes of the Hambantota Port under CM Ports management, but with promises
to invest a further USD 600 million44 in the project, there is significant potential for
Hambantota to become a global player that attracts ships, services and investments
with a green agenda.
Daily (2018).
Ship-Technology. Port of Hambantota. Retrieved from https://www.ship-technology.com/features/ship-technology-global-issue-54/
Ship-Technology. Port of Hambantota. Retrieved from https://www.ship-technology.com/features/ship-technology-global-issue-54/
Daily (2017b).
13 Navigating a Green BRI in Sri Lanka
Environmental Challenges to Green Ports in Sri Lanka
Ports can have negative environmental impacts in areas related to the location of the
port, construction of the port, and port operations.45 Since both the CICT and
Hambantota Port are operational, this analysis will concentrate on factors related to
port operations, including ship-related factors. The environmental challenges and
risks for ports and their surroundings can be identified in terms of impact on carbon
emissions, marine and ecological disturbances, waste collection systems and soil,
water and air pollution.
Air pollution is a primary environmental risk arising from port operations,46 arising from greenhouse gases, smog and soot-causing nitrogen oxides, and other harmful pollutants.47 These operational activities include cargo loading and unloading,
land based transport and from ships calling to ports. Air pollution from the shipping
industry represents about 15% and 13% of global emissions of nitrogen and sulfur
oxide.48 The global shipping industry accounted for 2.2% of global carbon dioxide
emissions in 2012,49 and, for a 6-year period from 2007 to 2012, the industry contributed an average of 3.1% of global carbon dioxide emissions according to the IMO.
The cities of Colombo and Hambantota are susceptible to port-related emissions
and air pollution, which can profoundly impact public health and contribute to climate change. Public health issues50 such as premature mortality, increased hospital
admissions for heart and lung disease, increased cancer risk, and increased respiratory symptoms are likely risks that the population living in close proximity to the
Colombo and Hambantota ports would face. Data on the levels of air pollutants
including emissions from carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides specific to Sri Lankan
ports are unavailable; however, general air pollution levels in Colombo have
recorded higher levels of pollutants on average51 than recommended WTO
Sri Lanka ranks within the top 40 most densely populated countries52 in the
world, and Colombo, the most densely populated district with a population of 2.3
million people,53 is susceptible to health risks arising from air pollution. The Sri
Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) does not have a set of rules or guidelines for port
operators to follow—coupled with the lack of data measurements and collection,
this can result in serious risks of air pollution around the ports.
United Nations. Environmental Impacts of Ports. Retrieved from http://www.unescap.org/sites/
Solomon (2004).
Grundler (2016).
Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (2009).
European Commission (2017).
United States Environmental Protection Agency (2017).
National Building Research Organisation (2016).
World Bank Data (2018).
Department of Census and Statistics (2012).
D. Hundlani
The use of non-renewable energy sources represents a significant environmental
challenge for port operations. The use of coal power for electricity generation causes
a high degree of carbon emissions and contributes to greenhouse gases and air pollution. BRI countries accounted for 62% of global coal consumption in 2016,54
which is over half of the world’s coal use. This has significant detrimental effects on
global emission and pollution levels.
Sri Lanka is dependent on coal power or diesel fueled generators as an energy
source. Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), which controls over 80% of
power generation in the country, has plans to increase the country’s reliance on coal
due to weather interruptions on hydropower generation, the country’s primary
source of electricity. The CEB notes that 28% of electricity will be generated from
coal in 2018, but this would increase to 40% in 2025 and 50% by 203455 under its
plans. The International Finance Corporation56 (IFC) notes that for infrastructure
investments to be considered ‘green’, they must involve clean energy and cannot be
operated using oil and gas, petrochemicals or coal.
Water pollution is spread from ships and tankers, through illegal dumping practices of chemical and physical waste in surrounding water areas. Water pollution is
a common challenge in the global shipping industry as cargo ships often discharge57
sewage waste and residual chemical products into the sea around the port, causing
oil pollution, degradation of water quality, and unsanitary conditions. Ballast water,
which is taken up and discharged when cargo is loaded and unloaded from ships,
transfers potentially invasive species to the marine environment and can cause
destruction to marine biodiversity. The loss of habitats through the contamination of
the water by these toxic substances also affects marine and coastal ecology.
The seawater and the marine environment around Colombo and Hambantota are
at risk of being heavily polluted from port operations and sea-based activities. Water
pollution standards and wastewater discharge standards are weak,58 and there is no
continuous monitoring of water quality standards in Sri Lanka by the public sector.
This may lead to negative impacts on two fronts. First, fishery resources on which
livelihoods, trade and employment in Sri Lanka are dependent on are likely to face
significant challenges due to water pollution. Second, only 50% of Sri Lankans have
access to pipe borne water,59 making them susceptible to health risks and diseases
from polluted natural waters.
Gurden (2017).
Ceylon Electricity Board (2017a).
International Finance Corporation (2017).
United Nations. Environmental Impacts of Ports. Retrieved from http://www.unescap.org/sites/
Herath, Gemunu. Water Quality Management in Sri Lanka- Current situation and issues.
Department of Civil Engineering, University of Peradeniya. Retrieved from: http://wepa-db.net/
National Water Supply and Drainage Board (2018).
13 Navigating a Green BRI in Sri Lanka
Green BRI in Sri Lanka: The Colombo International
Container Terminal (CICT)
The CICT is arguably the first BRI investment in Sri Lanka, although the project
predates the official announcement of the BRI. CICT explicitly stated its objective
to operate as a green terminal from the onset of operations in 2015; this commitment, combined with a drive for commercial success, has led to positive outcomes
for CICT in terms of growth and likely, profits,60 with low pollution and carbon
outputs61 thus, creating a business case for green policies in port operations.
CICT has prioritised the preservation of the surrounding ecosystem and introduced low-carbon, anti-pollution policies and technologies, as well as renewable
energy sources for their operations. One of the major capital investments62 CICT
has made to address environmental challenges is the use of green technologies, such
as electrified cranes over the use of diesel powered ones. The engines on these
cranes have zero output of carbon dioxide and minimal output of any greenhouse
CICT further pursues policies to reduce air pollution and carbon emissions
through energy reduction and energy-saving policies. More than 80% of electric
power generated is using solar power64 sources at CICT. This is part of CMPort’s
commitment to embrace green technology and low pollution policies in Sri Lanka.
CICT has reduced their emission levels by 90% by using solar panels for energy
generation, and it continues to move all operations towards a green mode of energy
As a testament to the business case of implementing green policies, CICT is
considered Colombo port’s most profitable and efficient terminal, surpassing expectations of cargo volumes in only 3 years of operations. CICT contributed 70% of the
cargo volume moved by Colombo Port in 201665 by accessing a global network of
shipping lines that move goods from Asia to Europe.
A green BRI in Sri Lanka: The Hambantota Port
Construction of the Hambantota Port began in 2008 at a cost of USD 361 million,66
financed by China’s Exim Bank. The SLPA controlled the operations of Hambantota
port until 2017, but it failed to attract shipping routes and meet profitability
Economy Next (2017).
Colombo International Container Terminals (2017a).
Sri Lanka Ports Authority (2017b).
Colombo International Container Terminals (2017a).
Colombo International Container Terminals (2018).
Colombo International Container Terminals (2017b).
Wijedasa (2014).
D. Hundlani
e­ xpectations; only 19 ships entered the port in 2015 and 14 ships in 2016.67 In
December 2017, the Hambantota port was handed over to China Merchant Ports in
a landmark deal worth over USD one billion on a 99-year lease agreement. Although
this agreement has drawn criticism for propelling Sri Lanka into a ‘debt-trap,’ many
proponents of the deal have noted that, along with promised inflows of investment,
CMPorts brings technical expertise and operational know-how to the Sri Lankan
shipping, logistics and transport sectors.
At the time of writing, it is too early to assess any outcomes of Hambantota Port.
However, CMPorts will face significant environmental risks and challenges as they
begin operations. In order to prioritise green policies in Hambantota, such risks and
challenges must be identified. The lack of data and evidence regarding environmental risks including levels of air and water pollution from port operation should also
be noted at this time. As data is either not collected or not within the public domain,
it becomes increasingly hard to estimate the environmental concerns associated
with port operations.
There are severe environmental risks likely to arise from air and water pollution
at Hambantota port, as there are no significant controls on carbon and non-carbon
emissions, no standards for ships on fuel efficiency and sulphur contents, and scarce
public-sector regulation68 over dumping of waste and pollution into surrounding
waters. The sources of energy utilised at Hambantota indicate that there is no move
towards renewable energy sources, and only an increased dependency on electricity
powered by coal69.
Large scale dredging took place during the construction of Hambantota port,
which has left considerable adverse impacts on the environment. The construction
of the port required 40,000 m3 of dredging from the nearby Karagan Levava
Lagoon,70 which essentially destroyed the entire ecosystem71 of the lagoon and surrounding habitats. The wetlands surrounding the lagoon are arguably considered to
be amongst the most valuable wildlife habitats in Sri Lanka, acting as a migratory
space for birds. The Bundala National Park, a natural reserve spanning 6000 ha, is
located less than 40 km away from the Hambantota port. The national park is a
UNESCO designated Ramsar Site and is at risk of damage and changes to ecological landscapes—including losing its position as an ‘elephant corridor’72 because of
pollution and emissions from port operations.
The Hambantota port could make environmental improvements to realise cost
efficiencies through movement towards renewable energy sources and other technological advances. Systems to reduce unnecessary use of lighting, heating, and cooling, as well as inefficient motors and equipment, would improve energy efficiency
and reduce operating costs. Green technology such as electrified cranes, ‘Smart
Abeyratne (2017).
Marine Environment Protection Authority (2018).
Ceylon Electricity Board (2017b).
Friends of the Earth: United States (2017).
Safri (2016).
13 Navigating a Green BRI in Sri Lanka
Electricity Grids’73 and zero emission cargo handling equipment and vehicles could
also be used in Hambantota Port to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate adverse
environmental impacts of port operations.
Challenges and Options for Sri Lanka
In order to balance the considerable environmental risks associated with BRI port
projects in Sri Lanka, policy and regulatory frameworks must be enhanced to prioritise green policies. Sri Lanka faces considerable challenges in these areas but has
several opportunities to address them.
The first challenge is that China has not released any overarching guidelines for
‘greening’ BRI investments. Implementation of green policies currently occur in an
ad hoc manner, based on individual operators but without any overall green BRI
vision. The requirement to be green is defined and implemented on a project by
project basis and could be influenced by the priorities of BRI project operators and
financiers. There are no overarching BRI enforcement mechanisms or regulatory
bodies present to ensure compliance with green policy or pollution standards for
BRI projects in Sri Lanka, or globally.
The second challenge is the economic objectives of the BRI, which may clash
with China’s green rhetoric on the Initiative. From the outset, the BRI was designed
to absorb overcapacity in Chinese domestic industries,74 particularly in steel and
cement production. These ‘heavy’ industries are carbon and pollution intensive, and
the BRI may only increase dependency on these polluting industries, posing serious
long-term concerns for the environment. Another objective of the BRI is to develop
infrastructure for fossil fuel resources, and investments have been made in building
new oil pipelines via Myanmar, as well as coal power plants in Pakistan. Such promotion of the use of fossil fuels in BRI countries goes against the environmental
rhetoric of a green BRI.
Fortunately for Sri Lanka, commentary from CMPorts leadership notes that they
prioritise green technology and environmentally friendly policies for both CICT
and Hambantota port. However, Sri Lanka is simply one node within the BRI, and
an over-reliance on individual operator preferences to implement green policy
would not serve the BRI and recipient countries well in the long run. China, as the
source of most BRI project capital, must also take the lead in introducing standards
on construction, pollution and emission standards for all infrastructure development
under the aegis of the BRI. This would serve to boost China’s international image as
a leader in green construction and green finance.
The third challenge is that Sri Lanka, along with many other BRI recipient countries, does not have strong national environmental legislation, nor does it implement
existing legislation because of weak institutional capacity and poor governance. Sri
Theodoropoulos (2014).
Dollar (2015).
D. Hundlani
Lanka is governed by over 20 laws related to environmental protection, including
the 1980 National Environmental Act,75 1981 Marine Pollution Prevention Act,76
and the 1981 Coastal Conservation Act.77 General anti-pollution rules, standards for
emissions and water pollution are also laid out, including legislation to deter oil
spills and oil dumping from ships. However, the standards are not stringent and do
not outline any mechanisms to ensure their proper implementation. For example,
although the 1980 National Environmental Act78 requires an Environmental Impact
Assessment (EIA) to be conducted for all infrastructure development projects; neither the EIA for the CICT nor the EIA for the Hambantota port is within the public
Sri Lanka must move towards using international standards and regulations in
sea port operations and must collect and publish data related to air and water pollution levels, carbon and non-carbon emissions, as well as the energy and electricity
sources used within ports. International sea ports, including Singapore and Long
Beach, maintain transparency in data collection and release information regarding
pollution levels into the public domain. Sri Lanka should also ensure that an EIA is
conducted in an independent and transparent manner before large-scale infrastructure is developed.
In addition, as a member of the IMO, Sri Lanka must strive to enforce IMO rules
and regulations within the port sector. The relevant regulatory bodies (the Sri Lanka
Ports Authority and the Marine Environment Protection Authority) should impose
requirements on all ports and terminals, including CICT and the Hambantota port,
to adhere to basic green port principles including waste management systems, low-­
carbon and low-pollution policies. Currently, no such requirements exist79.
The fourth challenge is that, Sri Lanka has major gaps in technology, skills and
financing to introduce green policies in its infrastructure development. A comparison80 between CICT and the two other terminals within the Colombo port (which
are managed by Sri Lankan operators) notes the disparity in technology and green
policies between the terminals. The domestically operated terminals do not operate
with anti-pollution, low carbon technologies and do not prioritise the environmental
impact during operations. This is mainly due to financial resource constraints and
the lack of technical know-how.
There are several policies that Sri Lanka could introduce to ensure transfers of
green technology and expertise particularly, as a prerequisite for foreign investors.
Policies must ensure that Sri Lanka gains technical expertise for its domestic institutions, builds capacity, and develops a skilled labour force when obtaining foreign
investment. Prioritising investment in green technologies in ports and ensuring that
National Environmental Act Sri Lanka. Act No. 47 of 1980.
Marine Pollution Prevention Act. Act No. 59 of 1981.
Coast Conservation Act. Act No. 57 of 1981.
National Environmental Act Sri Lanka. Act No. 47 of 1980.
Goonetilleke and De Saram (2016).
Sri Lanka Ports Authority (2018).
13 Navigating a Green BRI in Sri Lanka
foreign investors adhere to international standards (including those set by the IMO)
would benefit Sri Lanka in the long run.
One immediate opportunity for attracting ‘greener’ investment is the promotion
of LNG as a fuel source in port operations. Many commentators in Sri Lanka have
noted the business case for implementing IMO environmental standards by investing in LNG terminals81 in moving the country towards becoming a global maritime
hub. The Ceylon Association of Ships Agents (CASA) recommends82 that Sri Lanka
introduce concessionary port tariffs for green marine vessels to attract LNG vessels
to Sri Lankan ports. Although LNG would require expensive investment for an
LNG-specific terminal and special bunkering facilities, port operators and regulatory bodies in Sri Lanka could fast track investments from foreign or local investors
to prioritise more green sources of energy and adhere to IMO standards.
The international debate is ongoing as to how green the BRI will be. The evolving
nature of what it means to be green within the BRI, combined with the early lifespan
of many projects (including Hambantota Port), means that there is a major opportunity for the BRI to become a green, low-pollution development initiative.
China’s lack of leadership in setting overarching green BRI standards is an
important missing component. China’s setting of clear environmental standards can
have many positive impacts, including building trust within the community of BRI-­
recipient countries and providing investments with an avenue to become
The Sri Lankan case study highlights that weak environmental institutions and
gaps in national legislation have led to weak and ineffective local environmental
standards and policies in infrastructure projects. By studying international benchmarks and combining a rules-based system with financial incentives, port operators
and the host country together can and must act cohesively to facilitate green policies
and reduce the negative impacts of ports and infrastructure development overall.
Acknowledgement The author wishes to thank Dinusha Panditaratne and Barana Waidyatilake
for their assistance and the participants at the forum on “Belt Road Connectivity and Eurasian
Integration: Meeting the Culture” for their feedback; all remaining errors being the authors’. The
opinions expressed here are of the author and not of LKI, and do not necessarily reflect the position
of any other institution or individual with which the author is affiliated.
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Chapter 14
Comparison of Building Environment
Assessment Systems Across the Belt
and Road Countries: How Do Green
Buildings Contribute to Achieving
Ecological Civilization and Sustainable
Development Goals?
Siu-tai Tsim, Sherry Yue Su, Bonny Bun-ho Yuen, and Mandy Liyan Xie
Building Environment and Its Importance
Urban populations of medium and high-income countries have reached 75% on
average since 2014, and in some well-developed European countries, urbanization
rate can be found over 90% (CASS 2014). In China, urban population has exceeded
rural population since 2011 (UNDP and CASS 2013; CASS 2014). It is predicted
that by 2030, the urban population in China would exceed one billion, equivalent to
70% population. Due to rapid urbanization, concerns have been brought onto
rapid environmental degradation and unsustainable resource consumption. In the
process of urbanization, construction industry serves an important role in controlling environmental issues (Robichaud and Anantatmula 2011). Construction
S.-t. Tsim (*)
Environmental Science Program, United International College, Zhuhai, Guangdong, China
e-mail: [email protected]
S. Y. Su
Building Sustainability, ARUP International Consultants (Shanghai) Co Ltd, Shanghai, China
B. B.-h. Yuen
Environmental Science Programme, United International College, Zhuhai, China
M. L. Xie
Whole Person Education Office, United International College, Zhuhai, Guangdong, China
© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019
Md. N. Islam (ed.), Silk Road to Belt Road,
S.-t. Tsim et al.
industry not only impacts the urban environment, but also globally. One of the major
environmental impacts of buildings is high-energy consumption that will lead to
many kinds of environmental consequences, such as global warming (Robichaud
and Anantatmula 2011). It was estimated that buildings and construction industry
account for 30% of waste output, 40–50% of raw material used, 38% carbon dioxide
emissions, 24–50% energy use and 72% electricity consumption and occupied 48%
land area. A large amount of pollution exhaustion is also accountable by construction industry, including 50% air pollution, 42% greenhouse gases and 50% water
pollution (Qiu 2011; USGBC n.d.-a). Furthermore, buildings which are poorly
designed have been shown to adversely affect people’s health (UNEP 2007). Indeed,
several studies reported that in examination venues, more natural light resulted in
higher examination score, with 20% higher in math and 26% higher on reading tests
(USGBC 2003). Thus, the growing awareness of sustainable development of building environment, which provides potentials to positively impact on urban population
development, has pushed enhancement of building environment to the forefront.
Generally, building environment can be classified into four stages: (i) building
industry processes from design, (ii) construction stage, (iii) operational stage, and
(iv) decommission. It is an overall enhancement in environmental management for
building industry from site selection, water quality control, water use reduction,
building energy-efficiecy, building indoor environment quality, building occupant
health, construction materials, and building operation (USGBC 2003). Through
integrating the concept of sustainable development in building environment, not
only are we addressing the environmental issues, but positive social impacts can
also be resulted due to the improvement of health and wellbeing of building occupants (Robichaud and Anantatmula 2011).
BRI and Green Building
The original idea of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) could be traced back to the
President of China, Xi Jinping’s proposal of building the Silk Road Economic Belt
and the twenty-first Century Maritime Silk Road in 2013 (NDRC 2015). The main
purposes of the Belt and Road project are to promote economic prosperity, strengthen
exchange, such as mutual learning between different civilizations, and economic
cooperation along the Belt and Road routes under the principle of peaceful coexistence (NDRC 2015). Briefly, the BRI intends to “seek mutual benefit by accommodating the interests and concerns of all parties involved such as seeking a conjunction of
interests and the biggest common denominator for cooperation, so as to give full play
to the wisdom and creativity, strengths and potential of all parties” (NDRC 2015).
The Silk Road Economic Belt covers countries/areas in China, Central Asia,
Russia and Europe (the Baltic) that links China with the Persian Gulf and the
Mediterranean Sea through Central Asia and West Asia as well as Southeast Asia,
South Asia and the Indian Ocean (OLGCBR 2017). Enhancing policy coordination
and promoting facilities connectivity are the two essential elements for the implemen-
14 Comparison of Building Environment Assessment Systems Across the Belt…
tation of BRI. As described in the “Action Plan on Belt and Road Standard Connectivity
(2015–17)”, various kinds of infrastructure such as transportation, energy, information technology, etc., will be constructed whereas various kinds of standards such as
commercial, financial and investment, engineering and technology, etc., will be connected to facilitate the in-depth cooperation among the contracted parties (NDRC
2015; OLGCBR 2015). As mentioned on the policy document (CPCCC and SC
2017) and official webpage, “green” is one of the four key features of BRI.1 The needs
of green development and sustainable development have been raised and emphasized
in the official documents of BRI – “Guidance on Promoting Green Belt and Road”
(CPCCC and SC 2017) and “The Belt and Road Ecological and Environmental
Cooperation Plan” (hereafter called “the Plan”; MEP 2017). It was stated that “…It is
of great significance to quicken the pace to shape the mechanism and environment
that highlight innovation, value coordination, advocate green development, deepen
opening-up and promote sharing…mainstream ecological civilization in the ‘Belt
and Road’ Initiative, promote green development, strengthen eco-environment protection…” (CPCCC and SC 2017). Thereafter, Ministry of Environmental Protection
(MEP) of the People’s Republic of China has formulated the Plan. As mentioned on
the Plan (MEP 2017), two key BRI developmental goals are laid:
• Goal 1: “from now to 2025, the concepts of ecological civilization and green
development should be integrated into Belt and Road Initiative and create a
favorable pattern of well-grounded cooperation on eco-environmental
• Goal 2: “from now to 2030, cooperation on eco-environmental protection with
higher standards should be promoted and at deeper levels to accomplish the
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)2”.
To achieve the BRI green development goals as mentioned above, the Plan highlights the concept of ecological civilization and the importance of strengthening
policy coordination. China intends to share its experience in building ecological
civilization through bilateral, multilateral, sub-regional and regional cooperation
mechanisms in BRI (MEP 2017). Exchange in concepts, laws and regulations, policies, standards and technologies for ecological progress and green development are
vital in achieving the Plan. One of the proposed actions is to advance construction
in an eco-friendly way by the following actions (MEP 2017):
• “Promote green low-carbon construction, operation and management of
• “Improve green and low-carbon operation, management and maintenance of
facilities by clarifying environmental protection requirements in infrastructure
construction standards”.
The four features of BRI are “Green”, “Healthy”, “Intelligent” and “Peaceful”. https://eng.yidaiyilu.gov.cn/ztindex.htm
Sustainable development goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 goals spearheaded by the United Nations,
involving 153 member states, released on September 25, 2015. These goals aim at eliminating
poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity for all (UN n.d.).
S.-t. Tsim et al.
• “Enforce environmental standards and practices in such sectors as green transportation, green building and green energy”.
Implementation of green building standards along Belt and Road routes, hence,
is one of the key factors in ensuring success in the Plan.
Aims of This Review
Due to more frequent cultural and institutional interactions across the Belt and Road
countries, it can be foreseen that professional collaboration on infrastructure and
new building construction will be further strengthened. This review paper attempts
to compare various common Building Environment Assessment Systems (BEASs)
based on their assessment categories, criteria and weightings in new public (or
office) building design. Furthermore, this paper will evaluate the contributions of
various BEASs on United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the
establishment of ecological civilization in China. The role of Hong Kong SAR
(China) as a “super-connector” and its significance in assisting China enterprises to
go global will also be discussed in this review.
I mportance of Building Environment Assessment
Building Environment Assessment System (BEAS) is a benchmark and performance label launched to assess overall building performance. It ranges from planning and design, construction and commissioning, building management and
maintenance in the aspects of site selection, energy and water consumption efficiencies, indoor environment, selection of construction material and management,
and waste and pollutant production/reduction. Since the intended outcomes of
BEAS are to reduce waste production and resources consumption, this system is
considered as a strategy for better implementation of sustainable development
goals in a society. BEASs provide practical guidance for land developer to construct a building with less environmental impacts and at the same time, obtain better financial return.
BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment
Method) – the first set of green building standard of the world was proposed by
the Building Research Establishment (UK) in 1990 (Table 14.1). In 1996, Hong
Kong developed its own green building standard – Building Environmental
Assessment Method (BEAM) (Table 14.1). The U.S. Green Building Council
launched Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) scheme in 1999
(Table 14.1). In China, the first national green building standard was published in
2006 (Table 14.1). Various BEASs have been developed in many countries in the
past two decades to encourage green building development and to provide a suite of
Current rating
One star (≥50)
Two star (≥60)
Three star (≥80)
Government: Ministry of
Housing and UrbanRural Development of
the People’s Republic of
China (MOHURD)
Since 2006
Current version: 2014
Founding year
and current
China (Mainland)
To save resources,
protect the environment,
promote sustainable
Full name of
GB/T 50378
Assessment Standard for
Green Building
Since 1996
Current version: v1.2
Bronze (≥40%)
Silver (≥55%)
Gold (≥65%)
Platinum (≥75%)
The Hong Kong Green
Building Council Limited
China (Hong Kong SAR)
To promote more
sustainable building
development and reduce
their long-term impact on
the environment
BEAM plus
The Building
Assessment Method
Since 1990
Current version:
Unclassified (<30)
Pass (≥30)
Good (≥45)
Very Good (≥55)
Excellent (≥70)
Outstanding (≥85)
BRE Global Ltd.
(Building Research
Building Research
Assessment Method
United Kingdom
To use buildings,
infrastructure or
communities to
achieve their
Certified (≥40)
Silver (≥50)
Gold (≥60)
Platinum (≥80)
Since 1999
Current version: v4 (2018)
To transform the way
buildings and communities
are designed, built and
operated; enabling an
environmentally and socially
responsible, healthy, and
prosperous environment that
improves the quality of life
U.S. Green Building Council
Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design
Bronze (≥35%)
Silver (≥50%)
Gold (≥65%)
Platinum (≥80%)
Since 2007
Current version 2018
German Sustainable
Building Council
To assess buildings and
urban districts which
demonstrate an
commitment to
meeting sustainability
Deutsche Gesellschaft
für Nachhaltiges Bauen
Table 14.1 General information of five most popular BEASs (GB/T 50378, BEAM plus, BREEAM international, LEED and DGNB) adopted by the Belt and
Road countries
14 Comparison of Building Environment Assessment Systems Across the Belt…
Application in
new building
GB/T 50378
Residential buildings
Public buildings (incl.
office and commercial
buildings, hotel
constructions, and all
kinds of building for
Table 14.1 (continued)
Government, institutions,
and community
Mixed use
BEAM plus
Residential (2 types)
Commercial incl.
offices, industrial
and retail (10 types)
Education (4 types)
institutions (5 types)
Hotels and
institutions (3 types)
building types (16
Hotel buildings
Industrial buildings
Data centers
Warehouse and distribution
(Small) apartment
Laboratory buildings
Mixed use
Multistorey car parks
Sports halls
Buildings used for
meetings, assemblies,
and gatherings
Healthcare buildings
Retail buildings
Educational buildings
New construction
Core and Shell
S.-t. Tsim et al.
Sources of
Number of
certified projects
and country
1050+ projects
1 country (Hong Kong
SAR, Macao SAR, and
Mainland China)
BEAM Society Ltd. (2012, BRE Global Ltd.
n.d.) and HKGBC (n.d.)
(2017) and BRE
Global Ltd. (n.d.)
1 country (Mainland
MOHURD (2017) and
LEED building design and
LEED interior design and
LEED building operation and
LEED neighborhood
LEED homes
USGBC (n.d.-b)
refurbishment and
565,000+ certificated 92,000+ projects
77 countries
165+ countries
BEAM plus
BEAM plus new buildings BREEAM
BEAM plus existing
BEAM plus interiors
BEAM plus neighborhood BREEAM in-use
4071 projects as of 2015
GB/T 50378
New construction of
green building
DGNB GmbH. (2017a,
20 countries
1224+ projects
Existing buildings
New construction
14 Comparison of Building Environment Assessment Systems Across the Belt…
S.-t. Tsim et al.
standards of building quality with the evaluation methods better designed for the
local environment, city status and government policy (HK-BEAM Society 2004;
MOHURD and AQSIQ 2014; DGNB GmbH 2017a, 2017b; BRE Global Ltd.
Since buildings serve many different functions, such as for living, working, manufacturing, educational purposes, and the age of buildings also differ, specific building standards are necessary to accommodate different types of buildings. Various
derivatives of BEAS have been developed to suit the needs of different building situations, e.g., the BREEAM scheme, as the world-first launched green building standard, divides the system based on different project types, including new construction,
building in-use, building refurbishment, communities, infrastructure, and home
quality (Table 14.1). Land developers and their project teams use the scheme at key
stages in the design and procurement process to measure, evaluate, improve and
reflect the performance of their buildings. Briefly, BREEAM New Construction is
the standard to assess the sustainability of new, non-residential buildings; BREEAM
In-Use helps building managers to reduce the running costs and improve the environmental performance of existing buildings; BREEAM Refurbishment provides a
design and assessment method for sustainable housing refurbishment projects, helping to cost effectively improve the sustainability and environmental performance of
existing dwellings in a robust way; BREEAM Communities focuses on the master
planning of entire communities and aims at helping construction industry professionals to design buildings that people want to live and work in, are good for the
environment and are economically successful; BREEAM Infrastructure standards
focus on the new infrastructure projects and civil engineering projects. Finally,
Home Quality Mark standard applies to new residential projects in the UK (BRE
Global Ltd n.d.). For Germany, the DGNB (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges
Bauen) scheme offers a suite of standards for existing buildings, new construction,
and districts (DGNB GmbH 2017a, 2017b). In addition to the standard for Building
Design and Construction, LEED also contains the standards for interior design,
building operation and maintenance, neighborhood development, and homes
(Table 14.1; USGBC n.d.-b).
In Hong Kong SAR, China, BEAM Plus scheme comprises standards for new
buildings, existing building, and interiors (BEAM Society Ltd., 2012, n.d.), whereas
in mainland China, it is adopting the Assessment Standard for Green Building
(GB/T 50378-2014) which is applicable to all types of buildings including old and
new residential buildings, retail stores, offices and hospitals. Buildings can be
awarded with two types of green label: the Design Label and the Operation Label.
The Design Label ranges from planning, design, and construction that is mainly
related to the developers, architects, mechanical and electrical engineers, and contractors. Operation Label mainly corresponds to building management, on-going
commissioning and recording that is related to building facility team, building occupancies, and tenants. The Design Label is awarded for newly constructed buildings
whereas the Operation Label awards existing buildings or new buildings that have
transited into operation stage (MOHURD and AQSIQ 2014).
14 Comparison of Building Environment Assessment Systems Across the Belt…
arket Analysis of BEAS Across Belt and Road
As of the end of 2017, there are 71 countries, including China, participated in the
BRI (Table 14.2). It is noted that a large proportion of Belt and Road countries (i.e.
48 countries, or 67.6%) have implemented one or more types of BEAS (Table 14.2);
among these countries, only a small proportion (i.e. 17 countries or 23.9%) has self-­
developed BEASs. For most countries which do not have self-developed BEASs,
they may have adopted one or more well-developed BEASs from other countries. At
least 23 types of BEAS have been implemented in the Belt and Road countries
(Table 14.2), among them, BREEAM scheme is the most popular BEAS and has
been adopted in 39 (or 54.9%) countries participated in the BRI. LEED and DGNB,
which are the second- and third-most popular BEASs, are implemented in 19 (or
26.8%) and 11 countries (or 15.5%), respectively (Table 14.2). GSAS (Global
Sustainability Assessment System), which is developed by the Gulf Cooperation
Council countries, is implemented in 5 (or 7.0%) Belt and Road countries
(Table 14.2).
As the proponent of BRI, Chinese has developed its BEAS - GB/T 50378,
but it is still in the very early stage of development and being practiced in China. It
is necessary to collect feedbacks from practitioners to further fine tune the requirements and assessment methods. As GB/T 50378 is developed based on the building situations of China, modifications of this BEA may be required to make it
applicable to the local context if it is to be adopted in other nations. Hong Kong, a
Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, has been adopting a well-developed
BEAS, which is known as BEAM Plus, since 1996. However, although this BEA is
more developed, when compared with BREEAM and LEED, BEAM plus is less
popular and is rarely adopted in Mainland China. It is speculated that the popularity
of a built environment assessment system may be related to the promotion effort and
marketing strategy of a BEAS as well as the decision of builder and/or building
A self-developed BEAS may help a country to develop a more independent and
manageable strategic plan in achieving green and sustainable society. Ideally, an
advanced BEAS should be marketed to other countries, e.g., BREEAM and LEED,
so as to enhance the country’s economic development through exporting professional services. However, a large amount of resources is required to develop, run
and maintain a competitive and world-leading BEAS. Listed below are some key
resources which are considered vital in the development and maintenance of an
advanced BEAS:
• Sufficient amount of experienced and professional practitioners in building
industry, engineering, and town planning to serve different roles during the
developmental stage and implementation of BEAS;
• Sufficient high quality and innovative researchers to conduct relevant scientific
studies, so as to provide necessary evidence and invention for the continuous
enhancement of BEAS;
S.-t. Tsim et al.
Table 14.2 Implementation of BEASs in Belt and Road countries
Members of BRI
participating countries
(from A to Z)a
71 (Algeria, Albania, Armenia#, Azerbaijan#, Bahrain#, Bangladesh#,
Belarus#, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina#, Brunei, Bulgaria#¶,
Cambodia, China#§¶, Croatia#¶, Czech Republic#§¶, Egypt#§, Estonia#,
Ethiopia, Georgia#, Hungary#¶, India#§¶, Indonesia#§, Iran#, Iraq,
Israel#§¶, Jordan#, Kazakhstan, Kuwait#¶, Kyrgyzstan, Lao, Latvia#,
Lebanon#§¶, Lithuania#¶, Macedonia, Malaysia#§¶, Maldives,
Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro#, Morocco#, Myanmar#, Nepal, New
Zealand#, Oman#, Pakistan#¶, Palestinian, Panama, Philippines#§¶,
Poland#¶, Qatar#§¶, Republic of Korea#§¶, Romania#, Russia#¶, Saudi
Arabia#¶, Serbia#, Singapore#§, Slovakia#, Slovenia#¶, South Africa#§,
Sri Lanka#§¶, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand#§, Timor-Leste, Turkey#¶,
Turkmenistan, Ukraine#¶, United Arab Emirates#§¶, Uzbekistan,
Vietnam#§, Yemen)
48 countries # (or 67.6%)
Number of country
implementing BEAS(s)
Number of country has 17 countries § (or 23.9%)
its self-developed BEAS
List of BEASs using in 1. ARZ Building Rating System – Lebanon
Belt and Road countries
2. BCA Green Mark Scheme – Singapore
3. BEAM plus – Hong Kong SAR, China
4. BERDE Green Building Rating System – Philippine
5. BREEAM – originated from UK
6. DGNB – originated from Germany
7. GB/T 50378 – China
8. GBI (Green Building Index) – Malaysia
9. GPRS (Green Pyramid Rating System) – Egypt
10. GREENSL® Rating – Sri Lanka
11. Green Star NZ – New Zealand (originated from Australia)
12. GREENSHIP – Indonesia
13. GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment) – India
14. GSAS (Global Sustainability Assessment System) – Gulf
Cooperation Council countries
15. Korea Green Building Rating System – Republic of Korea
16. LEED – originated from USA
17. Pearl Rating System – United Arab Emirates
18. Qatar Sustainability Assessment System – Qatar
19. SBToolCZ (Czech Sustainable Building Certification System) –
Czech Republic
20. The Israel Green Building Standard, Standard 5281 – Israel
21. The Sustainable Building Assessment Tool - South Africa
22. TREES (Thai’s Rating of Energy and Environmental
Sustainability) – Thailand
23. LOTUS Vietnam Green Building Rating System – Vietnam
14 Comparison of Building Environment Assessment Systems Across the Belt…
Table 14.2 (continued)
Popularity of BEASs
along the BRI countries
Number of country
adopting two or more
BEASs in coexistence
1. BREEAM – Building Research Establishment’s Environmental
Assessment Method (being used in 39 countries, or 54.9%)
2. LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (being
used in 19 countries, or 26.8%)
3. DGNB – Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen (being
used in 11 countries, or 15.5%)
4. GSAS – Global Sustainability Assessment System (being used in 5
countries, or 7.0%)
23 countries (or 32.4%)
BRP (n.d.)
Country implementing BEAS(s)
Country with its self-developed BEAs
Country adopting at least two or more BEASs
• Good understanding of local climate, environment, resources, new technology
and material development, culture and heritage, and governmental policy of a
society to ensure the standards in BEAS are up-to-date;
• A healthy market/society demand on green building to provide continuous support to BEAS and its further enhancement.
Some Belt and Road countries may not have all the necessary resources to
develop and maintain an advanced BEAS for themselves. Since the ideas of BRI
emphasizes on cooperation, mutual learning and benefit through market-oriented
approach, it may be a good and possible option to develop a new generic BEAS that
is applicable to most, if not all, Belt and Road countries.
nalysis of Assessment Categories, Criteria
and Weightings
Although BEASs are unique and are designed under different backgrounds, they all
share common goals, i.e. to provide guiding standards for the design, construction
and operation of a building project so as to minimize impact to the environment and
society. From the horizontal comparison of two China’s BEASs (i.e. GB/T 50378
and BEAM Plus) with other popular BEASs (i.e. BREEAM, LEED, and DGNB)
across Belt and Road countries, it was noted that DGNB seems to differ the most
from the other BEASs (Table 14.3). It may be due to the fact that DGNB aims to
facilitate the achievement of sustainable development (i.e. Agenda 2030) and circular economy in the society (Table 14.1), whereas other BEASs tend to focus more
on green building development.
Compared with the other popular BEASs such as BREEAM and LEED, GB/T
50378 (Mainland China) has a very short history (Table 14.3). According to the
standard, GB/T 50378-2014, any new construction project of public building should
be assessed by some 100 criteria in 8 categories. These eight categories of assess-
Embedded in other
13 indicators
Material saving and
material resource
Water saving and
water resource
13 indicators
6 indicators
11 indicators
23 indicators (20%)
16 indicators
12 indicators
14 indicators
13 indicators
Energy saving and
utilization of energy
17 indicators
6 indicators
6 indicators
19 indicators (19%)
9 indicators (10%)
9 indicators (App. 7%)
5 indicators (App. 4%)
Abbreviations of assessment criteria
Number of credit-bearing assessment criteria/factors
Weighting (%)
BEAM plus New
BREEAM International
New Construction 2016c
GB/T 50378–2014 Building v1.2b
(HKSAR, China)
Land saving and
15 indicators (25%) 7 indicators (8%)
outdoor environment 15 indicators
7 indicators (6%)
Embedded in other
LEED v4 for BD+C:
New Constructiond (USA)
9 indicators (26.2%)
6 indicators (7.9%)
1 indicator (3.2%)
7 indicators
4 indicators
5 indicators
9 indicators (12.7%)
PRO1.1, PRO1.4, PRO2.1, PRO2.2,
PRO2.3, PRO2.4, PRO2.5
18 factors (9.6%)
ENV1.1, TEC1.4
10 factors
2 factors
ENV1.3, TEC1.6
6 factors
SOC1.1, SOC1.2, SOC1.3, SOC1.4,
SOC1.5, SOC1.6, SOC1.7, SOC2.1,
TEC1.2, TEC1.3,
29 factors (28.5%)
DGNB Version 2017 (Germany)
ENV1.2, ENV2.3, ENV2.4,
SITE1.1, SITE1.2, SITE1.3,
SITE1.4, PRO1.6, TEC3.1
22 factors
Table 14.3 Comparison of various BEASs being implemented along BRI countries in terms of assessment criteria categories, number of credit-bearing
assessment criteria, and weightings for new public building at design and operational stages
S.-t. Tsim et al.
3 indicators
(Bonus 6%)
12 indicators
(Bonus 10%)
Promotion and
10 indicators
(Bonus 10%)
7 indicators (App. 4%)
2 indicators (App. 2%)
2 indicators
Embedded in other
ECO1.1, ECO1.2, ECO2.2
9 factors
1 factor
2 factors (1.1%)
Abbreviations in BEAM plus: EU Energy Use, IA Innovations and Additions, IEQ Indoor Environmental Quality, MA Materials Aspects, SA Site Aspects, WU
Water Use
Abbreviations in BREEAM: Ene Energy, Hea Health and Wellbeing, Inn Innovation, LE Land use and ecology, Man Management, Mat Materials, Pol
Pollution; Tra Transport, Wat Water; Wst Waste
Abbreviations in LEED: LT Location and Transportation, SS Sustainable Sites, WE Water Efficiency; EA Energy and Atmosphere, MR Materials and Resources,
EQ Indoor Environmental Quality, IN Innovation, RP Regional Priority
Abbreviations in DGNB: ECO1 Economic Quality – Life Cycle Costs, ECO2 Economic Quality – Performance, ENV1 Ecological Quality – Impact on Global
and Local Environment, ENV2 Ecological Quality – Resource Claim and Waste Expenses, PRO1 Process Quality – Quality of Planning, PRO2 Process
Quality – Quality of Construction, SITE1 Location Quality – Location Quality, SOC1 Socio-cultural and Functional Quality – Health, Comfort and User
Satisfaction, SCO2 Socio-cultural and Functional Quality – Functionality, TEC1 Technical Quality – Quality Technical Design
Number of
assessment category
Number of
assessment criteria/
factors (with bonus
Economic quality
Embedded in other
13 indicators
14 Comparison of Building Environment Assessment Systems Across the Belt…
S.-t. Tsim et al.
ment criteria are: (1) Land saving and outdoor environment; (2) Energy saving and
utilization of energy; (3) Water saving and water resource utilization; (4) Material
saving and material resource utilization; (5) Indoor environmental quality; (6)
Construction management; (7) Operation management; and (8) Promotion and
innovation (MOHURD and AQSIQ 2014). Unlike other well-known BEASs, the
weightings of various assessment categories are evenly divided in China’s system
(Table 14.3). Even though GB/T 50378 is still relatively young and developing, it is
worth noting that GB/T 50378 shows higher level of resemblance to BREEAM
International (UK) and BEAM Plus (Hong Kong SAR, China) in areas such as
assessment scopes and credit earning mechanism (Table 14.3). The practitioners in
BRE Global (Building Research Establishment) previously performed a detail mapping of assessment criteria in GB/T 50378 and BREEAM and reported significant
areas of overlap between these two standards. The authors suggested that high
coherency between GB/T 50378 and BREEAM could improve the efficiency and
cost effectiveness of assessments, particularly for building projects undertaking certification in both BEASs (Ward et al. 2017).
Currently, 32% Belt and Road countries (or 23 countries) are not implementing
BEAS and 76% Belt and Road countries (or 54 countries) do not have self-­developed
BEAS. To these Belt and Road countries, significant burden or difficulty may arise
if they attempt to implement an advanced green building system all at once. GB/T
50378-2014 or BEAM Plus may serve as a practical option which provides a ladder
for gradually improving green building development in these countries. Since it is
expected that Chinese building industry will be heavily involved in many development projects along the Belt and Road countries in near future, adoption of GB/T
50378-2014 or BEAM Plus in these countries may be advantageous because the
Chinese practitioners are more familiar with Chinese BEASs, thus increasing the
efficiency and practicality in adopting BEAS in these 23 Belt and Road countries.
Ecological Civilization and Green Building
Implementation of green building standard could potentially assist a society into
approaching sustainable development. In China, the Green Development Index
System and the Construction of Ecological Civilization Evaluation Target System
have been launched since 2016 to measure the performance of ecological civilization implementation at cities or administrative regions (NDRC et al. 2016a, b). The
Chinese Green Development Index (GDI) is derived from measuring 56 indicators
grouped under seven categories. These seven categories of indicators include (i)
resource utilization, (ii) environmental governance, (iii) environmental quality, (iv)
ecological protection, (v) quality of growth, (vi) green life, and (vii) public satisfaction. From the mapping of GB/T 50378-2014 with GDI indicators, it was noted that
Chinese green building standard positively contributes to 30 indicators of GDI
(Table 14.4). Although green building standard might not have significant influence
on the categories of environmental governance and quality of growth in GDI, it does
14 Comparison of Building Environment Assessment Systems Across the Belt…
Table 14.4 Mapping of GB/T 50378-2014 with the Chinese’s evaluation system of ecological
Indicators of ecological civilization
I. Resource utilization (29.3%
Mapping with the relevant
sections of GB/T
C: 19.2%
U: 10.1%
2. Reduction of energy
consumption per unit of GDP
3. Reduction of carbon dioxide
emissions per unit of GDP
4. Non-fossil energy in primary
energy consumption
5. Total water consumption
6. Reduction of water consumption 2.75%
per million RMB
7. Reducing rate of water
consumption per unit industrial
added value
8. The effective utilization
coefficient of irrigation water in
9. Total area of cultivated land
10. Land size of the new
11. Reducing rate of new
construction per unit of GDP
12. Output rate of resources
13. Comprehensive utilization rate
of general industrial solid waste
1. Total energy consumption
14. Comprehensive utilization rate
of crop straw
S.-t. Tsim et al.
Table 14.4 (continued)
C: 4.6%
U: 11.9%
Mapping with the relevant
sections of GB/T
20. Garbage harmless treatment
21. Centralized sewage treatment
22. Investment on environmental
pollution control accounted for the
proportion of GDP
III. Environmental quality (19.3%
C: 14.7%
U: 4.6%
Indicators of ecological civilization
II. Environmental governance
(16.5% weighting)
15. Reduction of total COD
16. Reduction of total ammonia
17. Reduction of total sulfur
dioxide emissions
18. Reduction of total nitrogen
oxides emissions
19. Utilization rate of hazardous
waste disposal
23. Proportion of good air quality
days at city or above level
24. Decreasing of fine particulate
matter (PM2.5) concentration at
the city (or above level) which
does not meet the national standard
25. Proportion of surface water
meeting class III national standard
or above
26. Proportion of surface water at
inferior class V
27. Proportion of major rivers and
lakes meeting national water
quality standard
28. Proportion of city or above
level of which the water quality of
centralized drinking water source
meet class III national standard or
29. Proportion of coastal water
quality meeting the national
standard class I or II excellence
30. Safety utilizing rate of
contaminated cultivated land
14 Comparison of Building Environment Assessment Systems Across the Belt…
Table 14.4 (continued)
Indicators of ecological civilization
31. Amount of chemical fertilizer
used per unit area of cultivated
32. Amount of pesticides used per
unit area of cultivated land
IV. Ecological protection (16.5%)
33. Forest coverage
34. Forest volume
35. Comprehensive vegetation
coverage in grassland
36. Retention rate of natural
37. Wetland protection rate
38. Area of terrestrial nature
39. Area of marine protected areas
40. Area of newly governance soil
41. Desertified land governance
42. The new mine restoration area
V. The quality of growth (9.2%)
Mapping with the relevant
sections of GB/T
C: 9.2%
U: 7.3%
C: 0%
U: 9.2%
43. Growth rate of GDP per capita 1.83%
44. Disposable income of residents 1.83%
per capita
45. Third industrial added value
accounted for the proportion of
46. Added value of strategic new
emerging industries accounted for
the proportion of GDP
47. Expenditure on research and
development accounted for the
proportion of GDP
VI. Green life (9.2%)
C: 7.4%
U: 1.8%
48. Proportion of energy
consumption reduction in public
institutions per capita
S.-t. Tsim et al.
Table 14.4 (continued)
Mapping with the relevant
sections of GB/T
Indicators of ecological civilization
49. Market share of green products 0.92%
(high energy efficient products)
50. Growth rate of new energy
vehicle ownership
51. Green Travel (urban public
transport passenger volume per
10,000 population)
52. Urban green building
accounted for the share of new
53. Proportion of green area in
urban built areas
54. Penetration rate of tap water in
rural areas
55. Popularization rate of sanitary
latrines in rural areas
VII. Public satisfaction (0%)
56. Public satisfaction with the
quality of ecological environment
C: 0.0%
U: 0.0%
Sum of C: 55.1%
Sum of U: 44.9%
Total: 100%
Note: “C” refers to possible contribution (direct or indirect) of GB/T 50378-2014 to GDI,
“U” refers to unlikely or insignificant contribution of GB/T 50378-2014 to GDI
account for 55.1% weightings of GDI under the categories of resource utilization,
environmental quality, and green life (Table 14.4). Therefore, proper implementation of green building standard could potentially contribute in promoting ecological
civilization in a society.
Sustainable Development Goals and Green Building
As stated clearly on the Plan “…To 2030, we will promote cooperation on eco-­
environmental protection with higher standards and at deeper levels to accomplish
the Sustainable Development Goals…” and “…The cooperation on eco-­
environmental protection under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative will
inject an effective impetus to accomplishment of environmental targets in the Agenda
in countries along the routes...” (MEP 2017), one of the goals of BRI is to promote
green development along the routes which aligns itself to the Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs) of Agenda 2030 proposed by the United Nations
(NDRC et al. 2015).
14 Comparison of Building Environment Assessment Systems Across the Belt…
To realize green development in BRI, China needs to promote green building and
infrastructure along the routes, thus, it is important and necessary to address the
relevance between green buildings and SDGs (UN n.d.). Regarding this matter, the
assessment criteria of Chinese BEAS – GB/T 50378-2004 and 17 SDGs was
mapped empirically to evaluate the contributions of green building standard
in achieving SDGs. It was noted that GB/T 50378-2014 may be relevant to nine
SDGs, including “Goal 3. Good health and well-being”, “Goal 6. Clean water and
sanitation”, “Goal 7. Affordable and clean energy”, “Goal 8. Decent works and
economic growth”, “Goal 9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure”, “Goal 11.
Sustainable cities and communities”, “Goal 12. Responsible consumption and production”, “Goal 14. Life below water”, and “Goal 15. Life on land” (Table 14.5).
Roles of Hong Kong SAR
The BEAM scheme of Hong Kong SAR was established in 1996. By reviewing its
history of development, the design of BEAM based largely on the British’s
BREEAM scheme. Since then, the BEAM scheme has been revised several times
and a range of additional assessment tools has been developed. Currently, BEAM
plus New Buildings version 2.0 (a newly revised BEAM) is being tested in pilot
trial. Today, BEAM Plus is considered one of the advanced BEASs in the region,
which gives it high potential to be marketed and implemented in Belt and Road
countries. Recently, the new scheme of BEAM Professionals (BEAM Pro) specialty
training and examination has been launched, further strengthening the roles of Hong
Kong SAR as training platform and super connector in BRI.
From the SWOT analysis (Table 14.6), Hong Kong SAR has some advantages to
become a regional center for promoting green building and ecological civilization
under the BRI platform. Furthermore, the “one country, two systems” policy may
enable Hong Kong SAR to serve as an offshore certification body of Chinese GB/T
50378 scheme (Table 14.6). Since Chinese companies, architects and engineers may
involve in many infrastructure and construction projects in Belt and Road countries,
it is proposed to develop a new and/or revised version of GB/T 50378 specifically
for Belt and Road countries that do not have their self-developed BEAS. The proposed BEAS could be designed by using the BEAM Plus scheme and GB/T 50378-­
2014 as foundation.
Both the construction and operation of a building consume a significant amount of
resources including land, energy, water, and materials, etc. By greening buildings,
not only are we reducing their negative impacts on the environment, but also
S.-t. Tsim et al.
Table 14.5 Empirical mapping the potential contributions of GB/T 50378-2014 to the Sustainable
Development Goals proposed by the United Nations
development goals
1. No poverty
2. Zero hunger
3. Good health and
GB/T 50378–2014
No. of
Relevancy to
4. Quality education
5. Gender equality
6. Clean water and
7. Affordable and clean
8. Decent work and
economic growth
9. Industry, innovation
and infrastructure
10. Reduced inequalities
11. Sustainable cities
and communities
12. Responsible
consumption and
13. Climate action
14. Life below water
Relevant categories
of assessment criteria
Land saving and outdoor
Indoor environment quality
Water saving and water resource
Construction management
Operation management
Energy saving and energy
Operation management
Promotion and innovation
Material saving and material
resource utilization
Energy saving and energy
Land saving and outdoor
Energy saving and energy
Water saving and water resource
Material saving and material
resource utilization
Construction management
Operation management
Energy saving and energy
Promotion and innovation
Water saving and water resource
Construction management
Operation management
14 Comparison of Building Environment Assessment Systems Across the Belt…
Table 14.5 (continued)
development goals
15. Life on land
16. Peace, justice and
strong institutions
17. Partnerships for the
GB/T 50378–2014
No. of
Relevancy to
Relevant categories
of assessment criteria
Land saving and outdoor
R: 4/17
S: 5/17
R+S: 9/17
Note: “R” relevant, “S” some relevance, “I” irrelevant or unlikely relevant
Sustainable cities and communities has not been emphasized in current version of GB/T 503782014 scheme. However, it has been addressed by other BEAS schemes such as BEAM Plus
Neighborhood, BREEAM Communities, LEED Neighborhood development, and DGNB Districts
enhancing the health and well-being of their occupants. In the Chinese’s proposed
Belt and Road Initiative, green development has been emphasized alongside economic development. This review also shows the relevance of green buildings to
ecological civilization and sustainable development. Thus, to achieve green development, it is vital to incorporate green building and green infrastructure. Today,
many schemes of Building Environment Assessment System (BEAS) have been
designed to provide guidance and standard of green building. Among all systems,
although BREAAM (UK scheme) is the most popular scheme in the Belt and Road
countries, more common features are shared between GB/T 50378-2014 (China)
and BEAM Plus (Hong Kong SAR, China) schemes. As the proponent of BRI,
China could consider to design and/or develop a new version of GB/T 50378 specific for Belt and Road countries by referencing the current Chinese scheme and
BEAM Plus as backbone. In most countries, there are no mandatory requirement
acting on the building owners to implement green building standards. The building
owners could also choose to adopt any BEAS. Nonetheless, the requirements of different BEASs as well as the number of experienced practitioners could be an important consideration for choosing what type of BEAS to implement. Since GB/T
50378-2014 is originally designed for China – a developing country with high speed
of economic development, this standard may suit the needs of many less developed
countries. Furthermore, it is forseeable that, with the acceleration of
BRI, more China’s architects and construction companies will be involved in developmental and building projects across BRI countries, since these people are more
familiar with GB/T 50378-2014, they could provide technical support and professional advice to some less developed BRI countries. As of Hong Kong SAR, the
One Country Two System policy confers its advantage to become an important
future BRI platform for offshore certification and training of the Chinese GB/T
50378 scheme.
S.-t. Tsim et al.
Table 14.6 SWOT analysis on the roles and niche of Hong Kong SAR as future platform for BRI
in promoting green building standard and ecological civilization
BEAM Plus has a long history of development
and implementation. It can be considered as one
of the advanced BEASs in the region
HKSAR has well-established professional body
and mechanism to certified BEAM Plus and
many experienced practitioners to help clients
fulfilling the requirements
Most practitioners in HKSAR could effectively
communicate in both English and Chinese
HKSAR can provide a wide range of high-quality
professional services including legal, commercial,
educational and training, and engineering etc
Many industries such as legal system,
engineering, accreditation and auditing, etc., in
HKSAR have world-recognized reputation and
professional ethics
Using the existing BEAM Plus and GB/T 50378
as backbone to develop a new BEAS for BRI
BEAM Plus is not a popular system outside
China. Other than HKSAR, Macao SAR and
Mainland China, BEAM Plus has not been
implemented in other countries
Reservation of some professionals in
HKSAR to participate and play leading roles
in BRI
Rental costs and service charges in HKSAR
are among the highest in the world, much
higher than most cities in China and most
BRI countries. It will be costly to hire
professionals to conduct training and
Strong competitors in some Belt and Road
countries. Existence of more advanced
systems like BREEAM, LEED and DGNB
in the region
Further enhancement of China GB/T 50378
BRI participating countries have more than 71
countries which are potential markets of BEAM system and its advancement may override
the importance of BEAM Plus in the region
Plus or a new BEAS for BRI
HKSAR could serve as a super-connector in BRI, Potential competitors such as Green Star
(Australia) and Singapore may get into the
e.g., an offshore registration and certification
body of GB/T 50378 or the new BEAS for BRI
Further enhance the scientific aspects of BEAM
Plus by conducting collaborative research with
the academic institutions in China
BEAM Society Ltd. (2012). BEAM plus new buildings version 1.2 (2012.07). Retrieved from the
following link https://www.hkgbc.org.hk/eng/NB_Intro.aspx. Accessed on 31 Jan 2018.
BEAM Society Ltd. (n.d.). BEAM plus assessment tools. Retrieved from the following link https://
www.hkgbc.org.hk/eng/BEAMPlus.aspx. Accessed on 31 Jan 2018.
BRE Global Ltd. (2017). BREEAM international new construction 2016, Technical Manual:
Version: SD233 – Issue:2.0. Hertfordshire: BRE Global Ltd.
BRE Global Ltd. (n.d.). Technical standards. Retrieved from the following links http://www.
breeam.com/discover/technical-standards/. Accessed on 31 Jan 2018.
BRP (Belt and Road Portal). (n.d.). International cooperation. Retrieved from the following link
https://eng.yidaiyilu.gov.cn/info/iList.jsp?cat_id=10076. Accessed on 31 Jan 2018.
CASS (Chinese Academy of Social Science). (2014). China sustainable development strategy
report[R]. Beijing: Chinese Science Press.
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CPCCC and SC (CPC Central Committee and the State Council of the People’s Republic of
China). (2017). Guidance on promoting Green Belt and Road. Retrieved from the following
link https://eng.yidaiyilu.gov.cn/zchj/qwfb/12479.htm. Accessed on 31 Jan 2018.
DGNB GmbH. (2017a). Scheme overview. Retrieve from the following link http://www.dgnbsystem.de/en/schemes/scheme-overview/. Accessed on 31 Jan 2018.
DGNB GmbH. (2017b). Criteria catalog building new construction version 2017. DGNB
GmbH. Retrieve from the following link http://www.dgnb-system.de/en/system/certification_
system/. Accessed on 31 Jan 2018.
HK-BEAM Society. (2004). HK-BEAM 4/04 “New Buildings” an environmental assessment for
new buildings version 4/04. HK-BEAM Society. Retrieved from the following link https://
www.beamsociety.org.hk/files/download/download-20120314044753.pdf. Accessed on 31 Jan
HKGBC. (n.d.). BEAM plus. Retrieved from the following link. https://www.hkgbc.org.hk/eng/
BEAMPlus.aspx. Accessed on 31 Jan 2018.
MEP (Ministry of Environmental Protection, the People’s Republic of China). (2017). The Belt
and Road ecological and environmental cooperation plan. Retrieved from the following link
https://eng.yidaiyilu.gov.cn/zchj/qwfb/13392.htm. Accessed on 31 Jan 2018.
MOHURD. (2017). Building energy-saving and green building development plan in national 13th
Five-Year plan. (in Chinese).
MOHURD and AQSIQ (Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Construction of the People’s
Republic of China and General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and
Quarantine of the People’s Republic of China). (2014). Assessment standard for green building – GB/T 50378–2014. Published by China Architecture & Building Press. (in Chinese).
NDRC, MFA, and MC (National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, and Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China). (2015). Vision and
actions on jointly building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-century Maritime Silk Road.
Retrieved from the following link https://eng.yidaiyilu.gov.cn/qwyw/qwfb/1084.htm. Accessed
on 31 Jan 2018.
NDRC, NBS, MEP, and ODCPC. (2016a). The green development index system. Retrieved from
the following link http://www.ndrc.gov.cn/zcfb/zcfbtz/201612/t20161222_832303.html.
Accessed on 31 Jan 2018.
NDRC, NBS, MEP, and ODCPC. (2016b). The construction of ecological civilization evaluation
target system. Retrieved from the following link http://www.ndrc.gov.cn/zcfb/zcfbtz/201612/
t20161222_832303.html. Accessed on 31 Jan 2018.
OLGCBR (Office of the Leading Group on the Construction of the Belt and Road). (2015). Action
plan on Belt and Road standard connectivity (2015–17). Retrieved from the following link
https://eng.yidaiyilu.gov.cn/zchj/qwfb/35977.htm. Accessed on 31 Jan 2018.
OLGCBR (Office of the Leading Group on the Construction of the Belt and Road). (2017).
Building the Belt and Road: Concept, practice and China’s contribution (1st ed.). Beijing:
Foreign Languages Press Co.
Qiu, B. X. (2011). Introduction to building energy saving and green building model system.
Beijing: China Construction Industry Press 04, M. (in Chinese).
Robichaud, L. B., & Anantatmula, V. S. (2011). The greening project management practices for
sustainable construction. Journal of Management in Engineering, 10(1061), 48–58.
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Jan 2018.
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Science). (2013). China human development report[R]. Beijing: China Publishing Group,
Chinese translation and publishing.
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USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council). (2003). Building momentum: National trends and prospects for high-performance green buildings. Rep. Washington, DC: U.S. Senate Committee on
Environment and Public Works.
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(2nd edn, p. 4). Washington, DC: U.S. Green Building Council.
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link https://new.usgbc.org/leed. Accessed on 31 Jan 2018.
Ward, C., Yates, A., & Brown, V. (2017). Assessing the performance of sustainable buildings in
China – Synergies between BREEAM and the Chinese Assessment Standard for Green Building
(Three Star). Watford: BRE Global.
Part VI
Medicine and Health
Chapter 15
A Malaysian Perspective on Traditional
Chinese Medicine (TCM) During
Postpartum Care and Its Relevance
Towards China’s One Belt One Road
Initiative (BRI)
Shariffah Suraya Syed Jamaludin and Maria Aloysius
Traditional medicine, a system of medicine at least twenty-three centuries old has
gained popularity and its awareness has been growing rapidly throughout the world.
Traditional medicine bares the definition of knowledge, practices and skills based
on beliefs and theories from various cultures that are used in maintaining health,
prevention and therapies of mental and physical diseases (WHO 2001). An estimate
of 1–2 billion Ringgit/$500 (US) million was allocated annually to on traditional
and complementary medicine, only $300 (US) million is spent on western medicine
in Malaysia. Malaysia provides more budget for the traditional medicine compared
to conventional medicine. Traditional and Complementary Medicine (T&CM) division under the Ministry of Health are in charge of the setup of three hospitals since
2007 as well as T&CM units in other hospitals.
In Malaysia, traditional and complementary medicine refers to health-related
practices to prevent and manage illnesses in order to preserve mental and physical
well-being (T&CM Division, Ministry of Health, Malaysia 2007). It includes practices such as Malay Medicine, Islamic Medical Practices, Traditional Chinese
Medicine, Traditional Indian Medicine and Homeopathy (Othman and Farooqui
2015). Even though Malaysia has established medical services which are at par with
international standards with evident based practices, many medical personnel such
as doctors, nurses and patients still prefer to use traditional and complementary
medicine for their illnesses beside the modern medicine based on the beliefs that
combination of both traditional and complementary medicine and modern medicine
will complement each other to cure the disease effectively. According to Siti et al.
S. S. S. Jamaludin (*) · M. Aloysius
Anthropology & Sociology Section, School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia,
Penang, Malaysia
e-mail: [email protected]
© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019
Md. N. Islam (ed.), Silk Road to Belt Road,
S. S. S. Jamaludin and M. Aloysius
2009: 262, traditional and complementary medicine practice among Malaysians are
common because of its low prices and no side effects. Malaysian belief that a combination of modern medicine and traditional complementary medicine can treat
their diseases. This view originates from their surrounding culture where they were
brought up emphasizing on strong family bonds with ancestors, older generation,
close friends and doctors who increased their trust to try out traditional complimentary medicine as a last option (Lee et al. 2004).
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is one of the well-known practices in
Malaysia. TCM was developed through medical practice in China before the early
nineteenth century when modern medicine starts to exist (Chung et al. 2011: 247).
TCM encompasses a wide range of practices including herbal medicine and acupuncture which are familiar to the West. The human body is viewed as an entity
within the contexts of TCM which aims to restore the qi (energy) and yin and yang
(balance) during treatment. Policy makers, health professionals and the public question the safety, quality and development as well as validity of the usage of TCM
(Kingston et al. 2014: 68). In 2001, World Health Organization (WHO) named
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as the most prominent traditional and complementary medicine commonly used among Malaysians. TCM is believed to be
originated from China, having historical roots of over 2000 years (Hesketh and Zhu
1997: 115–117). TCM in Malaysia has been introduced by Chinese immigrants
working in tin mines during fifteenth century. Herbal medicine and acupuncture are
common practices in Malaysia (Ho 2001: 487–492). Acupuncture and Chinese
herbal medicine are the types of T&CM practices offered in the hospitals.
Acupuncture involves insertion and manipulation of needles into specific points of
the body to relieve pain. Chinese herbs cure illnesses and boost the body’s immune
system and well- being and to help with the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
The country image is one of the most important factors took into consideration
by Malaysians in deciding to use TCM. Country of Origin Image (COI) is the association of products with certain particular countries (Laroche et al. 2005). Hence, a
country’s image is directly connected to the product image itself and promotes positive values of a country that will benefit the country’s economy as well as its manufactures (Roth and Romeo 1992: 477). Other than that, the image of a country
becomes a crucial motivator in determining how Malaysians perceive TCM (Omar
and Putit 2014: 1731–1739). TCM was viewed as being a representative of the
Chinese civilization and environment and that TCM originated from China and
other Western countries try to study this medicine. They have opinions that Chinese
citizens possess good health due to their food intake and thus want to adapt this into
the Malaysian context. Malaysians prefer TCM practitioners who are well educated
or knowledgeable, have experience or aged and proper external appearance.
15 A Malaysian Perspective on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) During…
Malaysians see TCM as being pure and original possessing curative characteristics
compared to the other counterfeit products.
Studies conducted by Kumar et al. (2015): 317 reported findings that more
Malaysian female adults use TCM compared to Malaysian male adults with a
female: male ratio of 13: 1. TCM therapies that were most well- known among
Malaysians are acupuncture and herbal medicines. Gender, ethnicity, education and
usage of TCM has influence on Malaysians adults’ knowledge towards
TCM. However, education prove to be the most important effect on the adults’
knowledge towards TCM. TCM is becoming more widespread among the Malaysian
In the context of Malaysia, the Islamic halal principle is very much intertwined
in the pursuit of TCM. This principle is founded on Islamic ideals that emphasize
purity and cleanliness to promote one’s health and Muslim consume foods that are
wholesome in Arabic (Khattak et al. 2011). It can be said that this principle also
appeals to non-Muslims consumers, who care about the sustainability of their food,
particularly organic foods. Since Malaysia is a Muslim country and China on the
other hand is not, halal food consumers’ particularly Malay mothers who use TCM
are increasingly concerned about the halal authenticity of TCM itself. Since this
study focuses on Malaysian Chinese mothers, the ‘halal’ aspects were not brought
up as Malaysian Chinese mothers in this study were not Muslims. However, TCM
practitioners have brought up that Malay mothers prefer Indonesian traditional
medicine as they might possess halal properties and can be safe for consumption in
line with Omar and Putit (2014: 1731–1739) study on issues of TCM being ‘halal’.
This paper aims to identify the usage of TCM in postpartum care among
Malaysian Chinese mothers, to examine perception among Chinese medical practitioners towards TCM during postpartum care and finally to develop a cultural connectivity between TCM in the context of postpartum care and its relevance to
China’s One Belt One Road Initiative (OBOR). The researchers of this papers are
aware that there is a lack of research done in Malaysia to connect information on the
public perception of Malaysians towards TCM treatment and only a small number
of studies have focused on barriers to TCM medication (Liu et al. 2010: 225).
Postpartum Practice in Malaysia
The postpartum period marks a rite of passage in a woman’s life and is pivotal as it
includes a woman within her 6-week period to make adjustments psychologically,
socially, physically and physiologically (Mothander 1992: 20). Postpartum care is
associated with the emotional aspects of the mother in which case it can influence
their behaviors on dietary practices as well as breastfeeding decisions (Aloysius and
Jamaludin 2015: 73). Studies by Fadzil et al. (2016: 503), describes postpartum
practices, beliefs and commonalities among three races in Malaysia focusing on
traditional herbs, food restrictions and postpartum massage as well as recognizing
the role of older women in families.
S. S. S. Jamaludin and M. Aloysius
The postpartum period start when mothers balance yin (cold) and yang (hot) in her
body. Pillsbury (1978: 11) describes yin properties such as darkness, cold, wetness and
femininity while yang properties include brightness, heat, dryness and masculinity.
This humoral system is largely derived from classical theories from Hippocrates and
Galen and is rooted in different hot and cold classifications system in Asia and Latin
America (Jamaludin 2014:34). According to this belief, the body is composed of four
elements (water, earth, fire and wind) that correspond to four humors (yellow bile,
black bile, blood and phlegm). All these humors are categorized using four elements of
hot, cold, wet and dry. The humoral theory is prevalent among the Malaysian community (Chinese, Malay and Indian) cultures which recognize the influence of the concept
‘heat’ and ‘cold’ and the effect of wind and air on their health status (Rice 2000).
Chinese women adhere to ‘doing the month’ (zuo yuezi) which lasts 30 days after
delivery. This practice is evident among the Chinese communities residing in
Australia, California, Scotland, Malaysia, Taiwan and Hong Kong where a mother’s
food taboos and habits are according to family traditions and beliefs as well as lifestyle and bonds family members (the woman and her mother or mother in law).
According to Doh et al. (2005: 21), Chinese women been practicing 30 days of
confinement and following dietary practices of hot foods such as rice, wine, ginger and
sesame oil and avoided cold foods such as vegetables and fruits. The Chinese believe
that foods such as pork, chicken, rice wine, fish and wheat noodles with egg are encouraged to increase breast milk. Childbirth and labor pain can be overcome by consuming
medicinal products such as ginger, chicken and ginseng (Pan as ginseng). Pei Yue, are
experienced women who can be mothers or mother in laws to help by preparing meals.
Shameless et al. (2010: 9) states that in general, Western postpartum practices are
based on the role of a physician rather than the mother and traditional non-Western
perspective focuses on of kinship involving social and environmental relations and
moral aspects. Asian traditional practices of postpartum care are aimed at restoring
the mother’s body functions and for her to heal and lose weight. Traditional postpartum care comprises of two most important practices which are (a) the balance of hot
and cold foods, clothing and (b) sanitary habits after delivery.
Mothers in Asian countries take more precautions during postpartum compared
to Western mothers (Stern and Kruckman 1983). In the Malay culture, ‘Pantang’ is
defined as a restriction referring to the do and don’ts during the postpartum period.
Since Malaysia comprises of the Malay, Chinese and Indians, each culture has their
own confinement practices which may be similar in terms of treatments such as
postpartum diet and massage, hot compress (bertungku), corset (bengkung), herbal
baths and medicinal tonics and specific lifestyles that need to be followed (Choudhry
1997). Practices of ‘pantang’ in each of the cultures makes for lower levels of
depression among Asian mothers.
China’s One Belt One Road Initiative (OBOR)
China’s One Belt One Road Initiative (OBOR) was implemented in 2013 by
President Xi Jin Ping as a foreign policy initiative connecting China to Europe
through Silk Road Economic Belt (land) and twenty-first century Maritime Silk
15 A Malaysian Perspective on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) During…
Road (sea). OBOR is not just limited to physical infrastructure and commerce but
President Xi Jin Ping has stressed the five factors of connectivity which include
policy communication, road connectivity, unimpeded trade, monetary circulation
and understanding between peoples (intellectual exchanges, flow of tourists and
students). Many foreign countries have adapted to the TCM culture which highlights the profoundness and extensiveness of the Chinese nation. OBOR is quintessentially represents TCM and China in providing opportunities to expand cultural
exchange between the Chinese and other cultures. TCM culture is a good platform
for the inheritance and dissemination of the Chinese culture.
The WHO has endorsed an international agreement drawn up in Beijing in 2008
to support the safe use of traditional medicine. Through OBOR, Malaysia opened
12 hospitals that practice both modern and traditional medicine between 2006 and
2010 and the WHO has recognized 25 collaborating centers for traditional medicine: 7 in China, 5 in Africa, 3 in Europe, 2 of each in Japan, South Korea, India and
the United States and 1 in both North Korea and Vietnam.
Effective of May 2011, China has signed 91 TCM partnership agreements with
more than 70 countries aiming to promote recognition of TCM internationally. With
the implementation of OBOR, TCM culture had become more popular, getting
worldwide recognition and concern.
The China – Malaysia Centre for Traditional Chinese Medicine (CMCTM) was
launched on the 12th of December 2017 at UTAR Sungai Long Campus. The
CMCTM is a platform combined with medicine, health care, education, scientific
research, cultural exchange and industry of TCM. With the acceleration of OBOR,
China has gradually strengthen its support for the development of TCM beyond
China itself. CMCTM is prove of China’s collaboration with Malaysia through the
OBOR. Datin Paduka Siti Hamisah suggests Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE)
is encouraging Malaysian researchers to engage in the culture of creating and innovating in their respective fields. With the establishment of T&CM Unit in Malaysia,
authorities have sought to incorporate Malaysia’s traditional medicine industry into
the national health care system. Increased regulations done by the authorities of the
TCM practitioners help to monitor its practices, services and herbs. The development of T&CM higher education and skill programs are also being sought after by
the MOHE and Ministry of Human Resource (http://www.utar.edu.my).
Collection of Data
A number of 30 Chinese mothers and 10 Chinese medical practitioners in Penang,
Malaysia were selected and interviewed for this study. Chinese mothers were easy
to locate whereas Chinese medical practitioners in Penang were insufficient due to
the number of TCM centers that offered postpartum treatment in Penang. The data
collected among the Malaysian Chinese mothers focused on postpartum beliefs and
practices and the usage of TCM during their postpartum period.
S. S. S. Jamaludin and M. Aloysius
Medical practitioners also known as singseh were interviewed on TCM and its
connections to China’s OBOR. Each interview was audiotaped and the data was
transcribed and analyzed using a thematic analysis approach to derive experiences
and perception from the Malaysian Chinese women and traditional Chinese practitioners experience. Themes were developed based on the interview transcripts and
the thick rich description of data that were obtained. The researchers avoided repetitive data by the respondents and focused on probing on questions related to TCM to
decrease researcher biasness.
This study offers seven themes which have been derived from the interview data.
Four themes have been developed from the Malaysian Chinese mothers which are
(a) food is medicine, (b) acupuncture and Chinese herbalism (c) adherence to rules
of Doing the month and (d) learning from tradition of ancestors whereas other
themes developed from the traditional Malaysian Chinese practitioners are based on
the perception or image including (a) perception towards China’s image (b) perception towards TCM and (c) perception of mothers towards TCM.
Theme 1: Food and Chinese Herbs as Medicine
Special mentioned foods that were eaten by Malaysian Chinese mothers during
their postpartum period are ginger, black sesame, black vinegar, eggs and ginseng.
Ginger proves to be the main ‘hot’ or ‘warm’ food that helps with a mother’s overall
healing after delivery. Malaysian Chinese mothers claim that black sesame helps
with increasing their breast milk and supplying them with all the good nutrients
such as fatty acids, vitamins, calcium, magnesium and zinc and black vinegar promotes digestion and helps constipation by removing toxins after delivery.
“Ginger is the main food that helps after delivery. It is warm and improves
digestion and blood” (Respondent 12)
“Ginger is used in most of the postpartum recipes” (Respondent 1)
“Rice wine is added into ginger, chicken and pepper to be cooked in soups and
broths” (Respondent 23)
Rice wine is added into cooking of ginger, chicken and pepper. Herbal soups and
broths are also eaten by Malaysian Chinese mothers as well as drinks that include
red and black dates, dang shen and huang qi.
15 A Malaysian Perspective on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) During…
Theme 2: Acupuncture Practice
The most common TCM therapies practiced by Malaysian Chinese mothers during
their postpartum period are acupuncture and herbal medicine in helping to recover
after childbirth. Acupuncture is based on the concept of qi (life force) resembling
energy and when qi becomes blocked, illnesses start.
“Acupuncture helped me to avoid fatigue due to loss of blood during labor and
delivery” (Respondent 21)
“Moxibustion can warm the body and increase healing” (Respondent 25)
“Acupuncture can help mother to heal physically and emotionally” (Respondent
Theme 3: Adherence to Rules of Doing the Month
Malaysian Chinese mothers recognize and acknowledge the practice of doing the
month (zuo yuezi) particularly getting complete rest, eating hot food such as chicken,
following hot and cold concept (yin and yang), observing taboos or restrictions
including avoiding contact with cold air, cold foods and cold water. All these practices are enforced by family members especially mothers who make their children
adhere to these traditions. Majority of the respondents stayed with either their mothers or mothers in laws after delivery, where they were asked to follow the rules of
doing the month during the confinement period.
“I practice zuo yuezi as it was a part of my family traditional ever since my
great grandmother” (Respondent 23)
“I adhered to yin and yang concepts because I stayed with my mother after my
delivery” (Respondent 12)
Theme 4: Learning from Tradition of Ancestors
Organized support usually comes from family members who supports the mother
and her baby during the postpartum period. Malaysian Chinese mothers have named
their own mothers and mother in laws or other female relatives for being the main
source of help during their postpartum period. Respected elder family members
especially grandmothers also have been named as the main providers of care during
the postpartum period. Most Malaysian Chinese mothers have expressed that their
mothers, mother in laws or other female relatives are involved in cooking and
household chores as well as advising mothers on how to care for their babies.
S. S. S. Jamaludin and M. Aloysius
“My mother and mother in law help with giving me home cooked meals”
(Respondent 3)
“I need complete rest. The traditional Chinese postpartum period is all about
rest, seclusion” (Respondent 14)
Theme 5: Perception Towards China’s Image
The study reveals the perception towards China’s image among the traditional
Malaysian Chinese practitioners or the singseh. China has been represented from a
positive light by these traditional practitioners focusing on the Chinese population
as a healthy ageing population with proper intake of food consumption and resources
which play an important part in improving the wellbeing of its citizens. They
believed that Chinese citizens life a long life because of their health food, water
intake and always stay in good health.
“China has been a good influence. TCM comes from China and the Chinese
nation have always had an older population who exceeds 100 years of age”
(Respondent 4)
“China has resources of technology, money and infrastructure but they still
give emphasis towards traditional medicine that can promote medical
enhancement” (Respondent 11)
Theme 6: Perception Towards TCM
The perception of TCM plays an important factor among TCM practitioners where
they identify TCM to have no side effects, originating from natural resources and
being safe to consume after undergoing testing by the Malaysian government.
Another factor that stands out in the perception of TCM is its preventative function,
where healthy people use TCM to maintain their health.
“TCM is the alternative way of medicine with no side effects as well as illnesses
can be cured naturally” (Respondent 10)
“TCM is from natural resources” (Respondent 8)
“TCM is not just for treatment but also for prevention of any diseases. Healthy
people can also try them” (Respondent 7)
15 A Malaysian Perspective on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) During…
Theme 7: Perception of Mothers Towards TCM
TCM practitioners perceive that mothers have trust and no doubts on TCM if the
practitioner itself is knowledgeable, experienced, skillful and able to explain and
reason with the mother. The issues of trust among mothers towards TCM has been
discussed by the Malaysian Chinese practitioners. In the case of convincing mothers
to try TCM, practitioner provides explanation of using TCM as well as the suggested therapies that can help mothers cope during their postpartum month and
encouragement to eliminate doubt from their minds. Based on the Malaysian culture, few practitioners have realized that almost all mothers from different ethnicities seek TCM therapies during the postpartum period but Indian mothers tend to go
for Ayurvedic therapies and Malay mothers choose Indonesian traditional
“Trust is important in convincing a mother to try out TCM. Trust is also built
by their family members (other female relatives) who have taken the same
TCM to get through the postpartum period” (Respondent 4)
“In some cases, Malay and Chinese mothers want to try out TCM. They don’t
mind trying anything that is effective for their health after delivery”
(Respondent 12)
There are some limitations of this qualitative study that must be considered. The
findings were drawn from Malaysian Chinese mothers’ experiences of their recent
postpartum periods, leaving out other two ethnicities, Malay and Indians mothers.
Furthermore, the TCM practitioners that were interviewed are limited and researcher’s bias can be present. The results from this qualitative study cannot be taken or
seen as a representative due to the fact that the sample size and characteristics
because of the difficulty of locating Malaysian Chinese mothers who want to open
up about their perception and preferences and TCM practitioners who want to take
advantage of marketing their TCM business as a whole for earning more customers.
Despite all of these limitations, the researchers manage to discover new insights
about TCM perception and usage among Malaysian Chinese mothers and TCM
The research findings show that there is an adherence of ‘doing the month’
among Malaysian Chinese mothers are evident. Malaysian Chinese mothers follow
only few Chinese postpartum culture of doing the month, compared to the 12 rules
of ‘Rules’ and Rationale for Doing the Month’ or zuo yuezi as discussed by Pillsbury
(1978: 11). They share that doing the month is part of their tradition with the instructions of their mothers or mother in laws and adhere to the yin and yang concept with
certain taboo and restrictions. Rest, avoiding cold air, cold foods and avoiding
S. S. S. Jamaludin and M. Aloysius
p­ eople’s home houses during the postpartum period are also the main taboos that are
practiced by Chinese Malaysian mothers.
Malaysian Chinese mothers stress the importance of ginger, black sesame, black
vinegar, eggs and ginseng, rice wine, herbal soups and broths. This finding relates
to Chinese women in the maternity hospital in Kuala Lumpur who practice 30 days
of confinement and following dietary precautions including hot foods such as ginger, rice, wine and sesame oil and avoided cold foods such as vegetables and fruits
(Doh et al. 2005: 21). New findings of this study include Malaysian Chinese mothers taking red and black dates, dang shen and huang qi. Mothers suggested ginseng
to overcome labor pain. This study discovers that Malaysian Chinese mothers opt
for acupuncture and Chinese herbs for their postpartum therapies in line with Kumar
et al. (2015: 317) findings in Malaysia where the most popular used TCM modalities were also Chinese herbal medicines and acupuncture. Chinese herbal medicine
functions to restore the flow of qi. Acupuncture, acupressure, moxibustion (the
burning of dried substances over qi channels) and Chinese herbalism all share the
same goal of restoring a mother’s qi after delivery as well as eliminating postpartum
depression and anxiety.
Malaysian Chinese mothers confess from learning tradition from their ancestors
being in line with Kim-Godwin’s (2003:74) statement where most Asian cultures,
family members’ particularly female relatives or midwives provide social support
for new mothers at home during this postpartum period. Malaysian Chinese mothers
receive social support from their own mothers, mother in laws, grandmothers and
other female relatives known as Pei Yue, experienced women (mothers or mother in
laws) help by cooking and passing down tradition from their ancestors from generation and generation as discussed by Raven et al. (2007:8). This type of organized
social support is evident among other cultures including Eastern Indian Hindus,
Chinese, Korean, Guatemalan, Nigerian and Jordanian (Rice 2000) where family
members especially mothers and mother in laws play essential roles as gatekeepers
who transmit traditional values and practices during the postpartum period.
TCM practitioners have mentioned that China to be a healthy nation and its citizens live till old age. This findings on China’s image is in accordance with Omar
and Putit’s (2014: 1731–1739) findings where Malaysians have opinions on Chinese
citizens possessing good health due to their food intake and thus want to adapt this
practice into the Malaysian culture. Moreover, this study explores perception on
TCM where Malaysian TCM practitioners perceive TCM to have no side effects and
originating from natural resources that have been approved by the Malaysian
Ministry of Health in contrast to findings that Malaysians are curious on the origins
of TCM Additionally, TCM practitioners recommend TCM for preventative measure rather than treatments for illnesses. The perception of mothers towards TCM in
this study relates to the same Omar and Putit (2014: 1731–1739) findings that
Malaysians prefer TCM practitioners who are well educated or knowledgeable,
have experience or aged and proper external appearance. Similarly, Chinese mothers who seek TCM for postpartum care want the trust of practitioners or some cases
their family members to try out TCM. The background knowledge and experience
15 A Malaysian Perspective on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) During…
of TCM practitioners can be the main motivator that encourages mothers to take it
during their postpartum period.
Based on all the findings as discussed above, it is clear that various postpartum
practices takes place in the Malaysian society because of the multitudes of sociocultural beliefs inherited by Malays, Chinese and Indians. Based on views of TCM
practitioners’ on Malaysian mothers, there is new-found information stating that is
a ‘fair share of all races (Malays, Chinese and Indians) who seek TCM for postpartum care’. Due to Malaysia’s multicultural background, mothers from different ethnicities are willing to try out other postpartum practices that are similar to their own.
The researchers have employed the assimilation theory as means of understanding
how Malaysian mothers adapt to different postpartum practice from different
Assimilation theory was formed when there were immigrants that came into
nations that were not theirs, and cultural assimilation was born when there is a culture of acculturation among the immigrants who like and adapt to the lifestyle patterns such as customs, behaviors, beliefs and ideologies (Richard 1997). However,
in Malaysia cultural assimilation began when the people (Malays, Chinese and
Indians) lived in their own nation, all being influenced by the immigrants’ cultural
habits. This phenomenon in Malaysia promotes Chinese tradition of TCM that were
brought by Chinese immigrants and hence, allowed for Malaysia to open its doors
to OBOR. Malays represent the majority in Malaysia, followed by the second and
third minorities (Chinese and Indians) where the Chinese culture shares different
levels of influences in each culture. According to Punitha and Kumaran (2014), this
is because cultural assimilation occurs naturally without realization between multicultural people who live together and communicate. In the case where Malaysian
mothers (Malays and Indians) are open to TCM, it can be understood that this phenomenon is rare and unique as the commonalities of postpartum practices among
the Malays, Chinese and Indian cultures can be identified. These commonalities
include the type of foods consuming during confinement as well as the strong familial bond based on ethnokinship that emphasizes social support network of womenfolk in helping during the postpartum period.
In dissecting cultural connectivity in terms of OBOR and its effectiveness in
Malaysia, two cultures come into play which are (1) ethnokinship and (2) technocentric cultures. Postpartum care in the Western and Asian cultures can be represented using these two cultures. Technocentric cultures include cultures in the
United States, New Zealand, United Kingdom which rely on technology, usually in
hospitals settings to monitor the health of the new born baby and the mother during
the immediate postpartum period (Posmontier and Horowitz 2004). The first
24–48 h calls for technological monitoring where the woman and her infant can
leave the hospital if their vital signs meet certain metrics. In contrast to technocentric culture, ethnokinship refers to cultures that employ social support ritual focusing on social support networks with shared racial, national, linguistic or cultural
practices for a prolonged periods of time after childbirth (Posmontier and Horowitz
2004). Cultures that display ethnokinship during postpartum care include Korean,
Chinese, Japanese, Hmong, Mexican, Arabic and African. Social support networks
S. S. S. Jamaludin and M. Aloysius
are defined as support from womenfolk itself who ascribe to cultural beliefs that
influence restriction of specific behaviors and following diets, with emphasis on rest
and recovery. The commonalities of the ethnokinship culture is manifested in both
the Malaysian and Chinese cultures. Hence, both Malaysians and Chinese have the
advantage of learning from each other ethnokinship culture in the postpartum care
period. Since the most profound discovery of this study focuses on Malaysian
Chinese mothers practicing the Chinese postpartum practices, the expansion of
Malaysian culture itself can be transmitted to the Chinese. Cultural connectivity can
be the exchange, presence or expansion of cultures, in this case the Chinese into
Malaysian culture. The Chinese can also share in this equation and partake in cultural exchange by learning elements of ‘Malaysian ethnokinship’ which is an extension of three major cultures, the Malay, Chinese and Indians. Chinese womenfolk
can ultimately learn from Malaysian Chinese mothers and women in terms of social
support networks to strengthen their ethnokinship elements. In retrospect, one major
element that the Chinese nation can learn from Malaysians is the ability and willingness to learn, adapt and follow each other’s cultural practices as Malaysians are
constantly surrounded and are socialized around them and moreover, Malaysians
are interested in understanding culture at its best.
This study examines Malaysian Chinese mothers’ and traditional Chinese medical
practitioners’ experiences and practice of TCM in sociocultural contexts and the
researchers explore how TCM is used as a tool and resource for cultural connectivity between China and Malaysia. Malaysians are now living in a multicultural society that received much assimilation of cultures and customs in their everyday life
and as time progresses, the Malaysian community is bound to be more indulged
with their assimilated culture. This unique phenomenon is embedded into the ethnokinship culture which is vastly practiced in Malaysia and hence, China through
the OBOR can learn and adapt these insights that Malaysia has to offer in terms of
postpartum practices or in general.
Findings of this study on Malaysian Chinese mothers and traditional Chinese
medicine practitioners highlights President Xi Jin Ping’s final factor of connectivity
of the OBOR where understanding between peoples such as intellectual exchanges,
flow of tourists and students as well as medical tourism is achieved. Presently, it can
be assumed the TCM gives benefit to both China and Malaysia in terms of unimpeded trade and monetary circulation but this study gives light to the cultural connectivity that takes place among Malaysian Chinese mothers and TCM practitioners
in Malaysia as there is an expansion of culture between the Chinese and the
Malaysian Chinese. Malaysia has adapted to the TCM culture giving focus to the
effectiveness of TCM in the context of postpartum care. The implementation of
OBOR in Malaysia continues to encourage research and development in traditional
medicine by firstly, motivating public hospitals to offer TCM treatments to their
15 A Malaysian Perspective on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) During…
patients and its effectiveness is being monitored in order to spread professional on
the awareness of the TCM culture in the health care system.
The most profound discovery of this study is Malaysian Chinese women still
prove to be practicing TCM following the postpartum Chinese culture that can be
identified as an ethnokinshipgeru, where Asian cultures (e.g. South Asia, East Asia
and the Middle East) emphasize on social support rituals during the postpartum
period (Posmontier and Horowitz 2004: 34–43). Predominantly, findings of this
study exhibits the usage of Chinese herbs vary and were natural because Malaysia
is diverse in ethnicity following generations of traditional healing practices supported by vast natural resources in line with Tindel et al. (2005:42) and Tan et al.
(2004: 861). Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners have also stressed the
importance of trust, knowledge and background in TCM.
Exposure and education towards TCM must be circulated among Malaysians and
be used as a platform in combining medicine, health care, education, scientific
research, cultural exchange and industry of TCM. Malaysian authorities have to
incorporate awareness of TCM among Malaysian people to enhance Malaysian’s
health care system. Overall, this study serves to understand postpartum practices
and TCM and their reasons so that Malaysian stakeholders in the maternal and child
health in the Malaysian community will be able to provide a comprehensive
approach to the management of postpartum mothers from all ethnicities who will
benefit from both biomedical and traditional Chinese medicine.
The existence of understanding between ethnicities through cultural assimilation
has not only brought about better social integration among Malaysians but it has
strengthen the bonds among each ethnicity to respect each other’s’ culture and customs. Cultural connectivity exists between the China and Malaysia and both nations
should allow for more cultural exchange and learning to give new social meanings
toward the ethnokinship culture. Cultural connectivity, in this sense represents the
exchange of ideas, values and practices that can take place in the context of postpartum care among Malaysian Chinese and the Chinese and OBOR can naturally
become a powerful platform for encouraging a symbiotic relationship among both
nations, without any agenda. China must acknowledge that the success of the OBOR
does not rely entirely upon its economic and political gains and China must make
itself open to learn, adapt and follow Malaysia’s exemplary practices which include
family bonds, respect, willingness to embrace weaknesses and strengths of each
ethnicity (Malays, Chinese and Indians) as well as remaining true to their own
respective cultures.
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Part VII
Country Impact
Chapter 16
One Belt One Road Project is a Driving
Force for Holistic Development of Eurasian
Region: Challenges to Bangladesh
Profulla C. Sarker
The One Belt One Road project is the driving force for ‘holistic development’ in
terms of economic, social and political development to improve the quality of life
and well being of the peoples of China and Eurasian countries. The main objective
of construction of high ways is to make link among the different countries to
strengthening domestic and foreign policy for economic development through networking the people of this region under one umbrella. Some of the countries in this
region are alienated or disintegrated due to ethno-religiosity and geo-political reasons which generates political disharmony that affects economic growth, social
development and political relation. The network relation among the different countries of Eurasia is one of the crucial factors for ‘holistic development’. The main
challenge is to reintegrate these countries of this region through the proper execution of One Belt, One Road project involving economic development through construction of roads, infrastructural development, investment in industrial sectors, and
proper utilization of local resources, increase of production and balanced business
and social tie. The main thrust of this project is to revitalize original trade to open
regional markets keeping in view to strengthening regional economy, political harmony and reciprocal social relationship for ‘holistic development’ to improve the
quality of life and well being of the peoples of this region.
P. C. Sarker (*)
Royal University of Dhaka, Dhaka, Bangladesh
© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019
Md. N. Islam (ed.), Silk Road to Belt Road,
P. C. Sarker
Conceptual Issues
One Belt, One Road (OBOR) has spurred much speculation among scholars and
policy-makers around the world. In fact, many have dubbed it as China’s own
“Marshall Plan”. There is no doubt, however, that OBOR is indeed a game-­changing
initiative. It is the biggest initiative of its kind taken by any single nation in recorded
human history, and, if implemented properly, it could change the geo-political landscape of Eurasia to China’s favor. The OBOR was unveiled in 2013 by the Chinese
government with an aim to connect the Eurasian landmass with the Chinese mainland. OBOR is basically an umbrella initiative of several infrastructural mega-­
projects to revive the ancient Silk Road, comprising two trade routes and six trade
corridors. An underlying aim of the initiative is to introduce RMB as a currency of
international transactions as well as strategically channel Chinese foreign reserves
to develop the infrastructures of Asian countries. It seeks to reduce dependency on
the United State of America by creating new markets for Chinese products. Under
the initiative, China will build roads, airports, and sea-ports to integrate the developing and under -developed countries closely with the Chinese economy to fulfill its
growing demands of raw materials and capital.
Geo-Trade Network of OBOR
The Chinese economy is deeply integrated with the global economy and forms an
important driving force of the economy of Asia and even the world at large. China’s
investment opportunities are expanding. Investment opportunities in infrastructure
connectivity as well as in new technologies, new products, new business patterns,
and new business models are constantly springing up. China’s foreign cooperation
opportunities are expanding. The member states support the multilateral trading
system, devote themselves to the Doha Round negotiations, advocate the Asia-­
Pacific free trade zone, promote negotiations on regional comprehensive economic
partnership, advocate the construction of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
(AIIB), boost economic and financial cooperation in an all-round manner, and work
as an active promoter of economic globalization and regional integration (Irzli and
Nicolas 2015). More than 2000 years ago, China’s imperial envoy Zhang Qian
helped to establish the Silk Road, a network of trade routes that linked China to
Central Asia and the Arab world. The name came from one of China’s most important exports—silk and the road itself influenced the development of the entire region
for hundreds of years. In 2013, China’s president, Xi Jinping, proposed establishing
a modern equivalent, creating a network of railways, roads, pipelines, and utility
grids that would link China and Central Asia, West Asia, and parts of South Asia.
One Belt One Road Project is a Driving Force for Holistic Development…
This initiative, One Belt, One Road (OBOR), comprises more than physical connections. It aims to create the world’s largest platform for economic cooperation,
including policy coordination, trade and financing collaboration, and social and
­cultural cooperation. Through open discussion, OBOR can create benefits for everyone. The Members’ State Council authorized an OBOR action plan in 2015 with
two main components: the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime
Silk Road. The Silk Road Economic Belt is envisioned as three routes connecting
China to Europe (via Central Asia), the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean (through
West Asia), and the Indian Ocean (via South Asia). The 21st Century Maritime Silk
Road is planned to create connections among regional water ways. More than 60
countries, with a combined GDP of $21 trillion, have expressed interest in participating in the OBOR action plan.
Geo- Structure of Corridors
The Geo- structure of corridors inter-lock China with Russia, Turkey, Singapore,
Myanmar, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan keeping in view for regional development under the umbrella of OBOR mega project in the Chinese leadership to reduce
the dependency upon the USA.
P. C. Sarker
• New Eurasian Land Bridge, running from Western China to Western Russia.
• China-Mongolia-Russia Corridor, running from Northern China to Eastern
• China-Central Asia-West Asia Corridor, running from Western China to Turkey.
• China-Indo-china Peninsula Corridor, running from Southern China to Singapore.
• China-Myanmar-Bangladesh-India Corridor, running from Southern China to
• China-Pakistan Corridor, running from South-Western China to Pakistan.
• Maritime Silk Road, running from the Chinese Coast through Singapore to the
BCIM Economic Corridor
The Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar Economic Corridor is an initiative conceptualized for significant gains through sub-regional economic cooperation within
the BCIM. The multi-modal corridor will be the first express way between India and
China and that will pass through Myanmar and Bangladesh (DasGupta 2014).
Bangladesh is centrally situated in the BCIM (Bangladesh-­China-­IndiaMyanmar) economic corridor which spells a great export opportunity for
Bangladeshi products. Bangladesh has already requested duty-free access of 22
Bangladeshi products, which if granted, will help to substantially decrease the trade
deficit of the country. Bangladesh also occupies a strategic position along the
Maritime Silk Road (MSR) with its Chittagong port as a major maritime hub
through the Indian Ocean and it will be more so once the Chinese Special Economic
Zone at Chittagong becomes operational in a few years’ time. Bangladesh is already
One Belt One Road Project is a Driving Force for Holistic Development…
constructing a deep seaport in Sonadia to accommodate larger ships and better
transportation opportunities. China’s One Belt One Road Initiative offers a huge
opportunity for countries to stimulate economic growth through massive infrastructural development which in turn will enable greater flows of trade across borders.
Bangladesh with its unique geopolitical position between China and India stands to
gain a lot if it can ride the wave of this huge opportunity. As this century is all about
shared prosperity and development, Bangladesh would do well to avail full Chinese
cooperation. Through linking the ASEAN Free Trade Area, ASEAN-China Free
Trade Area and the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area, the corridor would constitute as
one of the largest free trade areas. Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar hope to
create a corridor that would effectively combine road, rail, and water and air linkages in the region. This will also improve foreign trade of the BCIM countries and
empower bilateral trading.
Motivational Issues of OBOR
Practically, developing infrastructural ties with its neighboring countries will reduce
physical and regulatory barriers to trade by aligning standards. Additionally China
is also using the Belt and Road Initiative to address excess capacity in its industrial
sectors, in the hopes that whole production facilities may eventually be migrated out
of China into BRI countries. A report from Fitch Ratings suggests that China’s plan
to build ports, roads, railways, and other forms of infrastructure in under -developed
Eurasia and Africa is out of political motivation rather than real demand for infrastructure. The Fitch report also doubts Chinese banks’ ability to control risks, as
they do not have a good record of allocating resources efficiently at home, which
may lead to new asset -quality problems for the Chinese banks that most of funding
is likely to come from. The Belt and Road Initiative is believed by analysts.
China has already invested billions of dollars in several South Asian countries
like Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan to improve their basic
infrastructure, with the implications for China’s trade regime as well as its military
influence. China has emerged as one of the fastest-growing sources of Foreign
Direct Investment (FDI) into India – it was the 17th largest in 2016, up from the
28th rank in 2014 and 35th in 2011, according to India’s official ranking of FDI
P. C. Sarker
Goals of the OBOR Project
OBOR generated infrastructure will facilitate trade investment and trade, and contribute to the global output. In some poorer countries, where infrastructural development is significantly low, this initiative can create new market demand. OBOR
infrastructure could further boost growth in an already rapidly growing part of the
world. GDP growth in OBOR countries averaged 4.2% in 2014–16, compared to the
global average of 2.6%. According to some experts, “By 2050 the OBOR region
will contribute 80 percent of global GDP growth, with China’s share remaining
broadly stable at around 40 percent and that of the rest of Asia doubling from the
current 15 percent to over 30 percent.” Dubbed the next Marshall Plan (carried out
in Western Europe which brought about and asserted the global dominance of US)
the OBOR initiative could very well change the political landscape of the world. If
executed well, this project will ensure China’s stronghold on regions, such as Africa,
East Europe, and East Asia. China may control from deep sea ports to trade routes
whilst creating their own routes as they please in the future. This upheaval may very
well make Renminbi (RMB) a suitable substitute for the US dollar.
Bangladesh is important for the OBOR initiative for several reasons: the huge
population of Bangladesh and their rising disposable income is one of the most
important aspects. Geopolitically, Bangladesh is at an attracting advantage.
Bangladesh’s availability of cheap labor, physical and political proximity to India,
and most importantly the proximity to the Bay of Bengal is greatly important for
China’s geo-political and geo -economic interests. Around 80% of China’s energy
imports pass through the Malacca straits via Indian Ocean. To assert more control
over Indian Ocean and Malacca straits China fervently needs the cooperation of
Bangladesh. Considering all of these, Bangladesh could emerge as a key player in
the OBOR initiative. Moreover, China is shifting towards high-tech, high-margin
and high-end industries, such as IT, Aerospace, and Telecommunication. Existing
Chinese companies that deal in low-tech labor intensive industries are trying to
relocate their manufacturing plants to places that offer cheap labor and quality
work. Bangladesh whose key demographic is between ages 15 and 30 could very
well become the prime destination for these industries.
During the visit of Chinese president Xi Jinping in October, 2016, 34
Memorandum of Understandings had been signed between Bangladesh and China
worth $13.6 Billion in trade and investment. In addition, $20 billion in loan agreements have been carried out by both governments. These investments will welcome
future FDIs that will most definitely help Bangladesh economy to get bigger. Apart
from ADB and World Bank, newly established AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment
Bank) could become a major source of foreign loans for infrastructural development
in Bangladesh.
One Belt One Road Project is a Driving Force for Holistic Development…
Involvement of Bangladesh
Bangladesh officially became a part of OBOR in 2016 after a visit by Chinese president Xi Jinping when the two countries signed several deals worth $21.5 billion.
However, it is reported that all these deals are still in paper only due to bureaucratic
complexities. Nevertheless, Bangladesh is part of the proposed Bangladesh-China-­
India-Myanmar corridor (BCIM) which is one of the six corridors of OBOR. China
has already shown interest in developing a deep sea-port in Bangladesh in 21st
century maritime Silk Road initiative. Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) have
also been signed between Bangladesh and China to build several components of the
Pyra deep sea-port. Geographically, Bangladesh can be a connecting corridor
between semi-industrialized ASEAN countries and the highly populated Indian
sub-continent. It is strategically located between South Asia and South-East Asia
which makes it a very important player in trans-regional integration.
Bangladesh has the potential to leverage its geographical advantage through this
initiative. China plans to invest up to $4tn in OBOR-related projects in the next
couple of decades. With proper policy co-ordination, Bangladesh can attract a large
chunk of that investment. The Chinese economy is transforming on a fundamental
level. The country is moving away from low-tech- industries to high-tech ones.
Beijing is seeking to export its surplus industrial capacity abroad for the smooth
transition into a developed economy. As such, China is looking for cheap labor and
highly productive economies for long -term investment. A large population, coupled
with the advantageous geographical position, thus it makes Bangladesh a perfect
candidate to be a partner of OBOR to fulfill the quasi-economic interest between
Bangladesh and China.
Impact on Holistic Development
Holistic Development is a combined approach to a comprehensive development
where economic, political and social development takes place. Although economic,
political and social development may take place either individually or collectively
but they should have network relationship to supplement each other. The concept of
‘holistic development’ is based on three components viz. mutual political trust, economic integration and cultural relativism among the member states of One Belt One
Road project and ensuring their active participation for effective execution.
P. C. Sarker
A holistic development is not one-dimensional development; rather it covers all
areas of development viz. economic, political and social development to improve
the quality of life and well being of the people of all social stratifications of this
region. It means an approach where economic, political and social development
values are combined to integrate for overall development. More specifically holistic
development is relating to the development of the whole instead of a separation into
parts of overall development. Holistic development is the process by which a nation
improves the economic, political, and social well-being of its people.
Economic Integration and Development
The advantages of BCIM Economic Corridor are envisaged to accrue from greater
market access for goods, services and energy, elimination of non-tariff barriers, better trade facilitation, investment in infrastructural development, construction of
roads and high ways to enhance transport facilities, joint exploration and development of mineral, water, and other natural resources, development of value and supply chains based on comparative advantages, by translating comparative advantages
into competitive advantages, and through closer people to people contact (Rahman
2014).The proposed corridor will cover 1.65 million square kilometers, encompassing an estimated 440 million people in China’s Yunnan province, Bangladesh,
Myanmar, and West Bengal in Eastern India through the combination of road, rail,
water and air linkages in the region. This interconnectedness would facilitate the
One Belt One Road Project is a Driving Force for Holistic Development…
cross-border flow of people and goods, minimize overland trade obstacles, ensure
greater market access and increase multilateral trade.
The economic advantages of the BCIM trade corridor are considerable; most
notably: access to numerous markets in Southeast Asia, improvement of transportation infrastructure and creation of industrial zones (ibid). The construction of industrial zones will have a twofold benefit. Firstly, it will lead to industrial transfer
boosting industries such as processing, manufacturing and commerce logistics.
Secondly, as labor costs rise in China, labor-intensive industries such as textile and
agro processing will eventually be shifted out of China. These industries will need
to be transferred to new regions with lower labor costs. Companies operating in
China will likely give priority to the trade corridor region given its established infrastructure, improved logistics and ease of access. India’s isolated eastern and north-­
eastern states also stand to gain by higher trade and connectivity with China and the
rest of Asia (Lal 2013). The multi-modal transport connectivity and supported by
other initiatives and infrastructure development could significantly reduce transaction costs, stimulate trade and investment and consequently, accelerate growth and
poverty alleviation in this region. The ‘Kunming Initiative’ evolved into the BCIM
Forum for Regional Cooperation with the objective to create a platform where
major stakeholders could meet and discuss issues in the context of promoting economic growth and trade in the BCIM region; identify specific sectors and projects
which would promote greater collaboration amongst the BCIM nations; and
strengthen cooperation and institutional arrangements among the concerned key
players and stakeholders to deepen BCIM ties.
Political Trust and Development
The Kunming initiative developed into what came to be popularly known as the
BCIM Forum. Successive BCIM Forums were held annually making a seminal contribution in raising awareness about the potential benefits accruing from the BCIM
cooperation. BCIM cooperation also started to feature in intergovernmental discussions where political buy-in and intergovernmental ownership would be the keystone to realizing the vision and the objectives of the initiative. It is true that
intergovernmental relationships in each individual country of BCIM Forum will
enhance the mutual trust through their economic activities and cooperation avoiding
different political ideology of multi-governmental system. Gradual increasing of
mutual trust through economic cooperation, political relation and social integration
among the governments of the BCIM Forum will be one of the contributing factors
of sustainable development in this region (Peter and Pierre 2001). The concept of
political trust is rooted into mutual understanding, reciprocal relationship and close
cooperation among the member states in avoiding economic inequality, social hierarchical, political ideology and ethno-religious identity.
P. C. Sarker
Cultural Relativism and Social Development
Cultural relativism is the view that no culture is superior to any other culture when
comparing systems of morality, law, politics, etc. It is the philosophical notion that
all cultural beliefs are equally valid and that truth itself is relative, depending on the
cultural environment. Those who hold cultural relativism they hold that all religious, ethnic, ethical, aesthetic, and political beliefs are completely relative to the
individual within a cultural identity. Cultural relativism instincts in the mind set of
the people to respect other culture as one’s own culture avoiding cultural conflict or
ethnocentrism which may lead to negative judgments of the behaviors of groups or
societies. It can also lead to discrimination against people who are different. Cultural
relativism is associated with political stability and social integration and thus affects
economic development. Economic development is related to increase in output coupled with improvement in social welfare and political stability within a country.
Therefore, economic development encompasses both political stability and social
integration. Here economic development also in compasses connectivity of infrastructure, expanding trading areas and trading infrastructure and financial integration across the countries through OBOR project under the leadership of China.
OBOR also thrives to secure mutual benefits for China and all the stakeholders
within the initiative. Economic development also generates additional resources
that can be used to improve social development such as healthcare, safe drinking
water, education, poverty reduction etc. Concisely, the relationship between social
development and economic development can be explained in three ways. First, it
increases in average income leads to improvement in health, food security and nutrition. Second, it is believed that social outcomes can only be improved by reducing
poverty. Lastly, social outcomes can also be improved with essential services such
as education, healthcare, safe drinking water and so on. All these three dimensions
of development are inter-locking with social integration, political tolerance as well
as cultural relativism.
OBOR Project and India
India has not endorsed China’s OBOR initiative, because the Indian policy makers
disapproved OBOR as China’s unilineal or autocratic decision. The China-Pakistan
Economic Corridor (CPEC), the centerpiece of China’s OBOR initiative in South
Asia. India declared that CPEC is “not acceptable” because it would pass through
the territory of India claims in the disputed Kashmir region (Laskar 2015). At the
same time, India is investing in alternative connectivity frameworks that circumvent
China and Pakistan. In 2016, India signed an agreement to develop a transport corridor between Afghanistan and Iran, anchored at the Iranian port of Chabahar, which
is located across the border from Pakistan’s Chinese-backed Gwadar Port (Saran
and Ritika 2016). Indian interlocutors told the Commission that India is pursuing
One Belt One Road Project is a Driving Force for Holistic Development…
the port deal with Iran in part to mitigate the security and economic challenges India
might face from China’s OBOR projects and from CPEC in particular. India’s
approach to OBOR is complicated, however, by its tentative endorsement of the
Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor, a project that predates OBOR, but which the Chinese government has since tried to integrate as the
southwestern route of the initiative (Mandhana 2016). BCIM would link Kolkata
(India) with Kunming (the capital of China’s Yunnan Province) by high-speed rail
and other infrastructure, passing through Myanmar and Bangladesh. On the one
hand, BCIM presents an attractive prospect for India because it will “cross horizontally through India’s underdeveloped north-eastern states, a region Prime Minister
Narendra Modi has targeted as a priority for development (Smith 2016).
Challenging Issues for Bangladesh
The several challenges have already been identified by Bangladesh to be involved
with the BCIM regional forum as well as OBOR mega project for national and at the
same time for regional development. Some of the challenges are bilateral and some
of them are unilateral to be involved with OBOR mega project.
• Bangladesh does not have a well-functioning financial system to absorb such
large amount of investment. Large-scale loans might be harmful for macro-­
economic stability. Corruption, policy deficits, and lack of transparency are also
matters of concern for challenging issue to be involved in OBOR.
• Sino-Indian rivalry relationship might jeopardize Bangladesh’s prospects. India
has already boycotted OBOR over Chinese involvement in the China Pakistan
economic Corridor (CPEC) which, according to India, violates its sovereignty.
• Japan and India has expressed their intention to resist OBOR project. Given
India’s clout in South Asia, it can seriously delay or disrupt OBOR related projects in this region. Under the circumstances, Bangladesh needs to consider its
involvement, because both India and Japan is development partner of Bangladesh.
• Though Bangladesh has already extended support behind China’s grand plan,
without India’s tacit endorsement, it would be difficult for Bangladesh to reap
the full benefits of OBOR. Moreover, Bangladesh is surrounded by India and
both of them are mutually friendly countries and help each other in times of
• China is seeking to convert a part of its “soft loans” pledged to Bangladesh into
commercial credits. If disbursed as commercial credits instead of a government
-to-government basis (G2G), the loans could be very expensive for Bangladesh
and could cause a long term debt crisis.
• Both India and China are important partners for Bangladesh, and favoring one
over the other could get in the way of Bangladesh’s national interests. Thus,
Bangladesh has to act with utmost caution, while all economic issues must be
kept out of political consideration.
P. C. Sarker
• Rohinga refugee problem between Bangladesh and Myanmar is another challenging issue which needs to be solved to make cordial relationship among the
member states of BCIM forum for the implementation of OBOR project.
• Indo-ASIEAN apprehension of Chinese ultimate objective of OBOR may create
strong bond between India and ASEAN countries which may impede OBOR
mega project.
Concluding Remarks
One Road One Belt initiative manifests greater economic interdependence and
strong political and socio-cultural network relationship among the sovereign member states across the region. Since the late 1980s, economic growth and social progress of Asia have already been stimulated by scientific and technological advances
that have made greater intra-regional and international interdependence and integration. Through innovation, change and adaptation, Asian countries have been adjusting to globalization since the late 1970s. Globalization has brought significant
growth for most of the Asian countries that pursued export oriented economic development strategies (Lee, 2007). After World War −11, Japan became a leading industrial nation followed by Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan and they
achieved rapid economic development and social progress. Similarly, Malaysia,
Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam have also improved their economic growth. On
the other hand, China and India have made dramatic economic strides but there is
significant infrastructural and business gap. The One Belt and One Road Initiative
is expected to bridge the ‘infrastructural and business gap’ and thus accelerate economic growth through political relation and socio-cultural tie across the region.
Economic development in Asia is not a new phenomenon rather it has strong
historical background. If we go back to the fourth century BC, Asia had begun its
first cycle of economic growth and power and as a result Alexander the Great
decided to travel eastward to establish an empire. At that time Greece was not
worthwhile compared to India and China. Rome had to import all its luxuries from
India and China. Until the 1820s, 60–75% world’s GDP growth came from Asia
(Wickremesinghe 2010). Asian dominance of economic development was crushed
by European colonialism and at the same time Industrial Revolution which led
European manufacturers enters into the Asian markets for their productions.
Consequently, Asia was turned into captive markets for European industry for the
greater part of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (ibid). Asian countries excepting Japan did not get benefit from the Industrial Revolution. Asia accounted for only
20% of the world’s GDP by 1940. Asia regained its previous economic position in
1970s when the four tiger economies viz. South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and
Taiwan emerged as low-wage manufacturing bases for consumer goods.
Consequently, Asia is an important issue which is going through major ­development,
and thereby challenges to the Western world. The success of development of this
region should not be confined to economic growth and technological advancement
One Belt One Road Project is a Driving Force for Holistic Development…
rather; it depends upon the social development, correct political decisions and effective as well as successful leadership. It is the expectation that the mission and vision
of One Belt One Road mega project if properly executed and if it is successful with
the existing economic growth, technological advancement and social development
of Asian countries which may able to contribute to change the scenario of leadership
in shifting power from the West to East in twenty-first century. Under the circumstances, Bangladesh very carefully needs to develop a strategic plan to secure its
interests vis-à-vis building rapport with India and China. As an independent country, Bangladesh must assert its sovereign right to build rapport with the outside
world without external interference. OBOR is offering an opportunity for Bangladesh
to integrate with the international market for economic development through political tolerance and cultural relativism. Cultural relativism is the philosophical belief
that all cultural views are equally valid. Bangladesh must embrace reforms and
modify its policy aspects in order to successfully achieve the objectives of OBOR
for its holistic development.
Dasgupta, S. (2014). Plan for economic corridor linking India to China Approved. Times of India.
Retrieved June 9, 2014.
Irzli, M., & Nicolas J. (2015). China’s AIIB, America’s Pivot to Asia & the Geopolitics of
Infrastructure Investments. Revue Analyse Financière. Paris.
Lal, N. (2013). India and China seek economic integration via Burma, Bangladesh. The Irrawady.
Retrieved July 2, 2013.
Laskar, R. H. (2015). India, Pakistan spar over economic corridor passing through PoK. Hindustan
Times (India), June 1
Lee, S. M. (2007). Information technology and economic development strategy. In D. A. Rondinelli
& J. M. Hefferon (Eds.), Gobalization & change in Asia. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers.
Mandhana, N. (2016). India, Afghanistan and Iran sign deal for transport corridor. Wall Street
Peter, B. G., & Pirre, J. (2001). Developments in intergovernmental relations: Towards multi-level
governance. Policy and Politics, 29(2), 131–135.
Rahman, M. (2014). BCIM-economic corridor: An emerging opportunity. www.thedailystar.net.
Transcom Group. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
Saran, S., & Ritika, P. (2016). Seizing the ‘one belt, one road’ opportunity. New Delhi: Observer
Research Foundation.
Smith, J.M. (2016). China-South Asia Relations. China Economic and Security Review
Commission. Testimony.
Wickremesinghe, R. (2010). World economic power sifting back to Asia from the west. Paper presented in the Rotary International South Asian Conference, Bangkok.
Chapter 17
Belt and Road Initiative for Kazakhstan:
Opportunities and Risks
Fatima Kukeyeva and Dauren Dyussebayev
The Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and the Sea Silk Way are critical components
of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). On 16 September 2013 at Nazarbayev
University in Astana, the Chinese premier Xi Jinping presented a comprehensive
and ambitious initiative, SREB, which would extend across the entire Eurasian continent. SREB went on to receive full support in Central Asian countries, in particular
in Kazakhstan where the search for economically effective corridors, market expansion, establishment of equal access to common infrastructure, and attracting investments in its economy are absolutely vital. Kazakhstan plays an important role in
world economic process, because of its significant reserves of natural resources and
its location at the intersection of major transcontinental trade and transportation
Since Kazakhstan’s independence, hydrocarbons have been the locomotive that
has propelled the growth of the state’s economy. The country is extremely dependent on mining and, in particular, on the oil sector. In 2017, oil sales account for
12–18% of GDP, and, accordingly, the country’s budget is built more on income
associated with the sale of oil. Despite the fact that in 2018 the weight of Kazakh oil
in the world production amounted 1.8%, the price of oil remains as the key factor.
Therefore, the dependence of Kazakhstan’s economy on the fluctuation of the world
energy prices is quite high (Mk-kz.kz 2018).
Kazakhstan, with its enormous territory, small population, and lack of sea access,
has always been located on the periphery of the global trade of goods. Participation
F. Kukeyeva (*)
Professor of International Relations and the World Economy Department, Al-Farabi Kazakh
National University, Almaty, Kazakhstan
D. Dyussebayev
International Relations Department, Al-Farabi Kazakh National University,
Almaty, Kazakhstan
© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019
Md. N. Islam (ed.), Silk Road to Belt Road,
F. Kukeyeva and D. Dyussebayev
in the BRI and the consequent implantation of the SREB will allow Kazakhstan to
move away from its dependence on the export of hydrocarbons and to develop other
sectors of its economy. As a large country with substantial borders and routes that
extend from east to west and north to south, Kazakhstan is capable of providing safe
transport corridors while also having the means to modernize and create new routes
In 2014 President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced the creation of the
Kazakhstan national transport program “Nurly Zhol.” The program’s main goal is to
drive state and foreign direct investment into critical infrastructure and priority sectors for economic growth. Around $ 9 billion US dollars are planned to be spent on
shift productivity to agribusiness, manufacturing, trade and logistics, tourism, information technology and finance, and away from the oil sector.
“Nurly Zhol” has allowed Kazakhstan to integrate effectively into BRI. China
reacted extremely positively to the program as many of its top priorities mirrored
those of SREB. One of the decisive factors in the success of this project will be the
Chinese investments which are vital for the country’s transit modernization.
Without the necessary transport infrastructure, Kazakhstan’s vast open spaces
would be a barrier, but with that infrastructure, they would be an advantage.
Consequently Kazakhstan’s interest in the success of this initiative is evident.
Literature Review
Among experts there are two levels of discussion concerning the BRI. The first
concern is China’s declaration about a new geopolitical concept focused at neighboring countries (with Central Asia being at the forefront). The second level is
related to the ongoing investigations concerning the various aspects of the SREB
and what part Kazakhstan plays in them. The experts of the first level draw attention
to the geopolitical nature of the BRI, viewing it as a key measure in China’s transformation into the world’s factory, allowing it to bring goods to international markets, and putting it on the same level as the USA and European countries (Syroezhkin
2016). The BRI aims to achieve military, political, and cultural goals by increasing
China’s influence on a regional and worldwide level (Caa-network.org 2018).
The experts of the second level positively viewed SREB. Kazakhstan’s participation in this project will open up exciting possibilities: the chance to maximize its
transit potential and modernize its transport and logistical infrastructure. All of the
possible transport corridors going through region would use Kazakhstan as a transit
and logistical hub which would allow for substantial economic gains: to increase the
transit possibilities of the country, to raise the volume of trade turnover, to develop
the transport and logistic infrastructure, and to ensure investment inflows
(Amrebayev 2017). Russian experts also view Kazakhstan as the main beneficiary
of Chinese investments among Central Asian countries due to its overall importance
as a transport link (Minchenko 2015).
Belt and Road Initiative for Kazakhstan: Opportunities and Risks
Despite a positive assessment, domestic experts warn about possible risks for
Kazakhstan in the implementation of the SREB. One of the main risks is the lack of
a clear strategy laid out for how to use these investments to develop non-energy-­
related sectors of the economy, such as agriculture and manufacturing. Much discussion has been dedicated to the question of integrating SREB with the “Nurly
Zhol” program and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) (Kazantseva 2015). For
China, transit is the strategic importance. Beijing understands economic integration,
primarily as an expansion of the sales markets for its products (Bnews.kz 2017).
But experts have not excluded that Beijing’s ambitious plans may end up contradicting Russia’s integration processes (Izimov 2016: 57–58). “National egoism”
and a lack of coordination between EEU members, in particular between the founding members, hinder successful cohesion between the Eurasian project and China’s
global initiative BRI (Kaukenov 2017).
Apart from economic problems, analysts have also discussed cultural differences
and how they may hinder successful realization of SREB. One relevant issue considers Chinese investments and how they are followed by Chinese labor into a
region with a glut of labor resources (Syroezhkin 2014: 25). The SREB project will
not only be able to assure China control over the movement of goods, services, capital, and people but will also considerably enhance its demographic and geopolitical
presence in each of the countries along the route (Gaifutdinova 2015).
The question of how to combat the spread of existing phobias and fears about
China in Kazakhstan society is a relevant issue that would help to develop bilateral
relations in terms of SREB’s implementation. Among other factors that feed Sino-­
phobia are attempts by politicians and elite groups to take advantage of anti-China
sentiments, as well as a lack of knowledge about China, its culture, language, and
traditions (Burkhanov and Chen 2016). Today debates about the nature of Chinese
projects that fall under this initiative take place at the level of theoretical discussions
and do not impede the implementation of SREB objectives. The Kazakhstani analytical community studying the BRI is still forming, as is the BRI and one of its
components, the SREB.
Through analysis of the Republic of Kazakhstan’s participation in the SREB, as a
part of the Chinese BRI, the authors of this paper understand that the development
of the country’s transit potential is part of a process toward the emergence of real
international integrity. The stated issue in this paper has been analyzed through the
prism of sustainable development theory. “Nurly Zhol” should be viewed as a part
of Kazakhstan’s program for sustainable development. The opportunities and risks
of Kazakhstan’s involvement in SREB project are connected to a whole array of
socioeconomic and political factors. To address these issues and to respond to the
possible risks, the government structures will have to correlate their involvement in
the SREB vis-à-vis economic and natural patterns into the foreseeable future. For
F. Kukeyeva and D. Dyussebayev
there to be effective results, the government must evaluate these projects not only on
the potential for profit. Economic projects that bring quick and considerable profits
but are implemented without consideration of long-term economic, social, and environmental consequences may ultimately turn out to be disadvantageous.
Content analysis has revealed the prevailing ideas of the BRI in official and
expert publications, as well as their broadcast channels in Central Asian societies.
The content analysis method is also used in studying political discourse, which is
considered especially effective in the study of methods and mechanisms for the
implementation of the SREB in Kazakhstan. The concept of “transnational social
spaces” was used by the authors to analyze the BRI’s humanitarian aspect, which is
aimed at the dissemination of China’s “soft power” in various strata of society such
as the elite, intellectuals, public organizations, civil society, etc.
he SREB Project in Kazakhstan: Opportunities
and Risks
In an attempt to diversify its economy, the government of Kazakhstan has attached
particular importance to the intensive development of transport infrastructure. Since
2015 the “Nurly Zhol” program, aimed at the modernization of the country’s transport assets, has been underway. By 2020 projects totaling over 40 billion dollars will
be completed (Kushkumbayev 2015). Funds supplied by international banks will go
toward the construction of highways from the center to the south, east, and west of
the country. This will fulfill one of the aims of “Nurly Zhol” – to connect the capital
with major regions based on the “radial principle.” Thanks to its geopolitical position as a transport link in the system of multileveled interactions between Asia and
Europe, Kazakhstan announced its intention to become a regional transit hub.
For Kazakhstan, China is an indispensable partner, creditor, and investor. In
monetary terms, Chinese investments totaled 623.9 million dollars in 2016
(Tengrinews.kz 2016). In order to identify how much China’s plans are in keeping
with Kazakhstan’s plans for reindustrialization with potential for expansion in bilateral cooperation and the possibility of integrating SREB and “Nurly Zhol” into the
EEU format, the opportunities and risks for Kazakhstan in the BRI should be
Opportunities the SREB Project Offers to Kazakhstan
Cooperation between Kazakhstan and China can contribute to the development of
Kazakhstan’s transit potential. The Chinese ideas of SREB and “Nurly Zhol” have
converging interests in the development of transport and logistic infrastructure on
Kazakhstan’s territory. This is what the 2016–2017 agreements between Kazakhstan
Belt and Road Initiative for Kazakhstan: Opportunities and Risks
and China and the issuance of credit lines from China aimed at. A “road map” to
expand bilateral cooperation in all sectors of the economy, along with the creation
of a joint working group on the integration of the SREB and “Nurly Zhol,” has been
created. According to the plans, four areas of cooperation are anticipated (ibid).
The first area – development of a transit corridor, creation of logistical centers in
Kazakhstan, and the simplification of procedures (customs, tax, financial, etc.)
with the intention to expand bilateral trade. Kazakhstan’s goal is to pick up part
of the trade flow between China and Europe.
The second area – joint industrial projects
In September 2015, President Nazarbayev reported on the decision to relocate 51
Chinese factories to Kazakhstan. Chief among these are the construction of a
copper-smelting factory in East Kazakhstan Region, a polypropylene plant in
Atyrau Region, and the modernization of the Shymkent oil-refining factory. As
part of the SREB initiative, there are plans for projects financed by the Silk Road
Fund and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The overall cooperation program includes over 26 billion dollars of Chinese investments (Bnews.kz 2016).
The third area – cooperation in science-driven and high-tech sectors
Astana and Beijing are considering one to two areas in which Kazakhstan and China
will collaborate at the level of scientific institutes and universities, as well as in
the creation of joint enterprises (ibid). For the time being discussions are underway about the areas in which Kazakhstan and China will collaborate, neither
institutes nor universities where the collaboration would be carried out have been
The fourth area – cooperation in agriculture
Today Kazakhstan and China are working on 19 projects totaling more than 1.7
billion dollars. Agreements have been reached recently about the creation of several
major joint projects in the agriculture sector (ibid). For example, the Chinese company Rifa Holding Group aims to invest in the construction of a meat-packing plant
in East Kazakhstan Region. Eighty percent of the plants’ production will be exported
to China. The project is estimated at 7.9 billion tenge. The CITIC Corporation
signed an agreement with the “Baiterek” Holding Company to undertake projects
relating to feed lots and poultry farms. The Hong Kong financial group “Oriental
Patron” plans to invest in the Kazakhstan company “Kazeksportastyk” to develop
agricultural product processing with goods destined for the Chinese market. The
investments total around 500 million dollars (Alibekova 2016).
All the aforementioned facts are proof that areas of integration between “Nurly
Zhol” and SREB have not only been found but have taken shape in the form of concrete projects, but more importantly, they have already been funded. A major jump
took place in 2014–2015 when guaranteed Chinese investments into the Kazakhstan
economy grew threefold (Syroezhkin 2016).
In 2016 Kazakhstan completed construction on its part of the international transit
highway corridor – Western Europe – Western China. The railroad line Khorgos-­
Almaty-­Taraz-Shymkent-Kyzylorda-Aktau with the Borzhakty-Ersay branch has
been completed, along with the infrastructural framework for the ferry complex
F. Kukeyeva and D. Dyussebayev
“Kuryk” on the Caspian Sea Coast with a capacity of four million tons of cargo per
year. Aktau’s port is being modernized (Kuzmina 2017). The role of the original
driver of these and other projects is assigned to the Asian Bank of Infrastructure
Investments with an authorized capital of 100 billion dollars and the Silk Road
Fund, which has a $ 40 billion (Kushkumbayev 2015). By implementing the SREB
project, China is expanding its list of investments into Kazakhstan’s economy. Apart
from the oil and gas sector, Chinese money will go toward infrastructure, industry,
agriculture, and tourism, among others.
For Kazakhstan the harmonization in relations between “Nurly Zhol,” SREB,
and the EEU is critical. The EEU and SREB are two of the most tangible projects
that will lay the foundation for a Greater United Eurasian Economic Community.
The EEU orients toward the post-Soviet space with the reindustrialization of its
members being its primary goal, along with the creation of a common economic
space which would provide for freedom of movement, goods, services, capital, and
labor. Despite the fact that SREB is not an integration project per se, its main goal,
nonetheless, is the creation of favorable conditions for the movement of Chinese
goods to the markets of Central Asia, Russia, Europe, and countries of the Near and
Middle East, which coincides with the interests of the Eurasian Economic Union’s
The integration of all three projects would become a model of the shift from
competition to a level of intercountry, intercontinental economic cooperation.
Between “Nurly Zhol,” SREB, and the EEU, Kazakhstan could act as a bridge in
China and Russia’s multidimensional relations.
hallenges and Risks of Kazakhstan’s Participation
in the SREB Project
In taking advantage of new opportunities and benefits of cooperation with China as
part of the SREB, Kazakhstan must minimize possible risks and challenges. It is
clear that when countries with considerable differences in potential are involved in
joint projects, this inevitably creates contradictions not only of an economic character but a political, sociocultural, and environmental one as well. To manage these
risks and challenges, Kazakhstani politicians and experts need a strategy based not
on short-term profits (financing and investing) but on long-term perspectives that
would protect the state’s national interests.
There is a certain ambiguity in the perception of the Chinese initiative among
the Kazakhstani public that is worth noting. Discourse from the political elite conveys a positive perception of bilateral cooperation in all areas, while at the same
time, social discourse brings light to fears and phobias.
While Kazakh authorities make claims about future prospects, there is an
increased anxiety in society around the consequences of such a shift. It is possible
that these apprehensions are baseless since there is little information about these
Belt and Road Initiative for Kazakhstan: Opportunities and Risks
businesses, the amount of jobs that will be created for the local population, environmental assessments, etc. (Contur.kz 2017). For example, by announcing relocation
of 51 Chinese enterprises to Kazakhstan, the Ministry for Investments and
Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan has neither published a list of the businesses nor a program of the bilateral industrial-investment cooperation, which
would allow for real evaluation of the opportunities associated with these projects
(Kuzmina 2017).
The shifting and creation of joint Kazakhstani-Chinese businesses in Kazakhstan
is justified if they are created in areas where Kazakhstan itself is unable to due to
lack of investments or qualified labor. A special government commission and the
conclusions reached by independent experts must determine the level of demand for
any given business. The implementation of investment projects must facilitate the
inflow of new technologies, the organization of technology parks, and the production of goods for export to third countries, job creation, and, as a whole, economic
growth. Otherwise, there is a risk of protest riots in the local population against
government actions.
The Chinese government has launched a new political model “ecological civilization” that aims to minimize environmental pollution in China, introduce “green
technology,” etc. (Green 2017). To this end, the question of which businesses China
plans to relocate to Kazakhstan becomes relevant (operation of productions, environmental safety, outlook on product distribution, etc.). Importing businesses with
“dirty” technology threatens the development of “yesterday’s” resource economy in
Central Asian countries while delaying their technological development in relation
to China.
The implementation of the SREB may cause social risks for the Central Asian
region. According to the official statements by Kazakh authorities, SREB projects
aim to create new jobs which are an appealing argument for a region with a surplus
of labor. However, due to the preferential loans provided by China through state
banks, the associated projects are carried out by Chinese companies and Chinese
labor. For example, Chinese train manufacturers are expecting the highest returns,
which means the usage of Chinese materials, management, and labor. Kazakhstani
manufacturers will have to make due with the remaining contracting business
(En.ndrc.gov.cn 2015). This and other examples explain not only Chinese interests
but also the reluctance of Kazakhstan and Central Asian countries to support the
SREB’s implementation in terms of personnel and technological needs.
In the first half of 2015, 12,360 Chinese citizens received Kazakhstan work permits (in 2014 there was a total of 6500). It is clear that as surplus Chinese labor
comes to Kazakhstan at the beginning of the project’s implementation and that
China’s labor migrant population will multiply several times over (Nur.kz 2015). As
a member of the WTO, Kazakhstan cannot sharply limit the flow of Chinese labor
migration – all that’s left to do is hope for China’s good will. There is no information on agreements available in the public domain addressing labor migration quotas from China within the SREB project. Such uncertainty is caused by frustration
among Kazakhstan and Central Asia’s population.
F. Kukeyeva and D. Dyussebayev
One way for labor migrant to solve this complicated issue is with the help of the
“market in exchange for technology and training” mechanism. This trend must
replace the former one of “raw materials in exchange for investments.” Before starting production in Kazakhstan, Chinese businesses must train local workers. Sooner
or later the money received as investments and credit will run out, but the problem
of untrained personnel will remain.
Kazakh authorities should refer to China’s well-known practice of strictly regulating any foreign presence in its economy. First of all, the policy aims to overall limit
the presence of foreign businesses (no more than 25%) and also in key areas of China’s
economy such as in the production of tea, rice, and Chinese medicinal products.
Secondly, China was interested more so in the retraining of its personnel as opposed
to money. Now, China no longer needs foreign investments, and it creates technology
itself and, most importantly, has its own personnel that understand the logic of developing a modern world market (Expertonline.kz 2017). When implementing the
SREB, the Kazakh authorities can use the main ideas of this experience.
Anti-Chinese sentiments are a serious roadblock in the implementation of
SREB. While Kazakhstan and Central Asian elites welcome the flow of finances,
Chinese businesses have been encountering xenophobia from the local population.
One of the most widespread fears is that Chinese economic, demographic, and military expansion will, as a result, lead to a loss of sovereignty. Kazakh authorities
unintentionally incited another wave of Sino-phobia in 2010 when it was announced
that Kazakhstan would lease farmland to China over the course of several decades
which quickly prompted protests. Ultimately the deal did not go through
(Sultangalieva 2016). This caused Beijing to study the program’s vulnerability from
a security standpoint.
Kazakh people believe that, as a whole, the investments give little to nothing of
value to the population. They accuse the authorities of corruption. There are also
fears around the region’s environment. This combination of nationalism, grievances
about corruption, and environmental pollution strengthen anti-Chinese and anti-­
government sentiments. Local manufacturers see the inflow of Chinese goods into
Kazakhstan as a threat since they are not able to compete with Chinese companies.
It is also clear that, despite the geographical proximity and cultural-historical
past, there is a lack of experience in mutual communication and mutual understanding between Kazakh and Chinese societies. For all intents and purposes, there is no
Kazakh school of sinologists which would be able to combat stereotypes and the
alarmist vision of China.
teps That Kazakhstan Must Take to Ensure
a Successful Implementation of the SREB Project
In order to redress the current situation, the SREB must be about more than highways and routes. The rebirth of the Silk Way is a means to bring together those who
live along this route. In SREB documents, the people-to-people area is represented
Belt and Road Initiative for Kazakhstan: Opportunities and Risks
via multidimensional humanitarian collaboration including the areas of education,
culture and the arts, tourism, healthcare, youth politics, science, and technology.
The Kazakh side must raise the question of expanding cultural-humanitarian
cooperation and building bridges between people, for example, through the expansion of cooperation in the fields of education, science, and healthcare. This will
allow for Kazakhstanis to better recognize and understand Kazakhstan’s strategic
partnership with China.
A sociological study in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan revealed that among 300
respondents (representatives of the young, educated elite in both countries), 96% of
respondents had a positive view of Chinese investments. The most negative opinion
was in relation to the inflow of Chinese immigrants – 80% of respondents. Seventy
percent of respondents were concerned about environmental pollution (Caa -network.org 2018). According to this study, the older and middle generation in
Kazakhstan is fearful and apprehensive about the policies of their Great Neighbor.
But at the same time, Kazakhstani youth is forming its own view of the Celestial
Empire through engagement with China’s “soft power.” It’s clear that traditional
Sino-phobia coexists alongside a new phenomenon – a positive view of China
Education must play a key role in bringing the civil societies of the two countries
closer together. Kazakhstan’s universities must take into account how innovations in
the internalization of higher education can aid in the training of highly qualified
specialists prepared for the new realities of the geo-economic BRI.
In addition to training specialists with practical knowledge, it is necessary to
prepare students for international outlook, innovative thinking, and knowledge of
foreign languages in the regional countries of the New Silk Road.
It is safe to say that China has attained the status as one of the most popular
countries where young people of Central Asia go to study. Recipients of the
Presidential Scholarship “Bolashak” go to China for their studies. This is also
enabled by the growing number of scholarships issued by the Chinese government,
specialized scholarships for Silk Way countries, organization of cultural events, and
so on. Agreements have been signed between the countries on science and technological cooperation and mutual recognition of higher education documents.
Confucius Institutes operate in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstani students have an excellent
opportunity to study Chinese at the Confucius Institute which has been operating
successfully at the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University and is considered one of
the best in Central Asia. All the necessary material and logistical conditions are in
place, professors from China teach classes, and there are frequent cultural events.
The institute works in close cooperation with the Department of Oriental Studies
and the Department of International Relations. Every year enrollment in Chinese
language classes increases.
The leading university in Kazakhstan, Al-Farabi Kazakh National University,
works with 35 Chinese universities in different areas, jointly working on scientific
projects as well as preparing specialists. At Al-Farabi Kazakh National University,
168 Chinese students are enrolled – this includes 76 who are taking language
courses to eventually matriculate into a university. KazNU is part of the two univer-
F. Kukeyeva and D. Dyussebayev
sity network consortiums – University Network of the Commonwealth of
Independent States and the University Network of the Shanghai Cooperation
Agreement. As a primary university coordinator in the SCA University network,
KazNU participates in the implementation of MA programs in the areas of “environment,” “regional studies,” and “nanotechnology.” Many Chinese universities are
partners in the training of specialists in these areas (Kaznu.kz 2014). Favorable
public opinion should become the foundation for cooperation in the Belt and Road
Initiative. Nongovernmental forms of cultural exchange should be more diverse,
and communication among business and cultural elites should be established.
The rise of Sino-phobia can be stopped with the help of the mass media, the
internet, the public diplomacy, a large-scale PR campaign that would clarify the
goals and purposes of the SREB, its integration with “Nurly Zhol,” and the expected
dividends for the local population and the state. It is essential to explain to the public
questions associated with the transfer of excess Chinese manufacturing capacity to
Kazakhstan, as well as joint projects in the agriculture sector. Easily available information would dispel speculation and rumors.
It is important to convey to the population that the SREB project offers substantial opportunities for the country’s development. In Kazakhstan and other Central
Asian countries, there is an understanding that partnering with China gives more
benefits than actual risks. Creating enterprises in Kazakhstan will set in motion the
intellectual and technical growth of the nation. Collaboration in agriculture will
allow Kazakhstan to successfully export not only to China’s food market but to the
markets of third countries as well.
To foster constructive discussion and critique the impact of SREB on the socioeconomic landscape in Kazakhstan, it is important that there will be a wide range of
experts, including independent experts, who would not be restricted in preparing
analytical materials for branches of government and who would develop tools to
influence public opinion. Building constructive relations with China must be based
on cohesive expertise concerning the pluses and minuses in decision-making. The
question of developing principles and framework for cooperation with China
remains relevant. Experts must thoroughly analyze the objective benefits of each
side and correspondingly, clarify and adjust the agenda of bilateral cooperation. A
lack of quality expertise on the Chinese problematic will make it impossible for
Kazakhstan to form its own agenda in how bilateral relations develop further.
Despite the expansion and deepening of cooperation and growth of China’s influence in the world, in Kazakhstan there is a lack of demand for a “think tank on
China.” These, among other factors, explain the absence of a school of sinologists
in Kazakhstan.
How to simplify customs and visa procedures so as to remove barriers for the
expansion of trade and tourism is a question that remains open. People-to-people
diplomacy brings the two societies closer together and reduces the level of fear relative to one another. One of the five main directions declared in China’s partnership
with the Silk Way countries is the “bringing together of peoples.” This consists of a
wide range of areas for collaboration: cultural exchanges, scientific contacts, partnerships between mass media and volunteer organizations, and tourism among others.
Belt and Road Initiative for Kazakhstan: Opportunities and Risks
Today many Kazakhstanis do business and have other economic ties with Chinese
partners, study or receive medical assistance in China, enjoy Chinese cuisine, and
visit the Middle Kingdom as tourists. “People-to-people” diplomacy must be supported by visa mechanisms, among others.
SREB project affects various areas of development in many states and the entire
regions of the world: security, sociocultural, political-diplomatic, and civilizational
aspects of their existence. It is undeniable that the SREB brings many new opportunities for Kazakhstan. Astana can use these opportunities only if it manages to
ensure that the project is built on conditions favorable for Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan’s involvement in the Chinese BRI will enable the diversification of
the economy and the development of the non-commodity sector, providing for long-­
term sustainable development. Kazakhstan’s strategy consists of advocating for its
interests in the following ways. It requires that joint contracts with China meet
certain criteria and standards in various areas (law, technology, environment, etc.)
with the input of independent and international experts. The integration of SREB
and “Nurly Zhol” will allow for Kazakhstan to step back from its former practice of
“raw materials in exchange for investment” and turn to developing its economy
based on the strengthening of its transport infrastructure.
Apart from the possibilities, the implementation of the SREB contains risks that
the Kazakhstani side needs to manage. The main risks are in the economical, as well
as the ideological and civilizational, spheres. The necessity of developing a program
between SREB, EEU, and Nurly Zhol is evident. The absence of such a program
will create difficulties for Kazakhstan to realize its multi-vector foreign policy.
In order to effectively protect its national interests, Kazakhstani politicians and
experts must develop a strategy to popularize the BRI among Kazakhstani society.
On the one hand, this will help to alleviate phobias and fears about the Chinese presence in Kazakhstan. The strategy must aim to provide information to the population
on the integration process (under what conditions, where, and with what prospects
for the future). This will help to quell rumors and speculation, as well as anti-­
Chinese sentiments.
On the other hand, the strategy must aim to strengthening the ties between
Kazakhstan and China in the humanitarian sphere. Education and culture must be
the driving forces in this area. If the number of students studying at Chinese universities has been rising, then the cultural-humanitarian sphere must be expanded and
deepened. Work in this area must not only focus on Chinese culture and its achievements but also aim to develop cultural and humanitarian cooperation based on the
“two-way street” principle. The educational component of bilateral relations must
be complemented by cooperation in analytical and research areas. Customs and visa
procedures should be simplified in order to remove barriers so as to expand trade and
tourism. The better we know one another, the more effective our partnership will be.
F. Kukeyeva and D. Dyussebayev
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Chapter 18
Cambodia-China’s Trade Connectivity:
Reevaluating the Trade Pattern
and Constraints
Sophannak Chorn, Savuth Cheng, and Yuthnea Ngoy
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also known as One Belt, One Road (OBOR), is
China’s highly ambitious development project aimed at revitalizing the Chinese
ancient Silk Road and realizing the Chinese dream. It was launched in 2013 by the
Chinese President Xi Jinping. BRI initiative is perceived to have impacts on many
aspects of interconnectivity, one of which is trade connectivity (Heng and Po
2017:1–18). The Belt and Road Initiative is a new form of international economic
cooperation created by China to stress a greater influence and contribution to “international economic architecture” (Huang 2016). Trade between Cambodia and China
has become noticeably prominent especially since the first trade agreement signed
in 1996. BRI shall be a potential opportunity for Cambodia to take part and benefit
as the country wants to attract more foreign direct investment (FDI) and other provisions from the projects as it is believed that external policies or outward-oriented
policies have better impact on economic performance of both developing and developed countries compared to inward-oriented policies in the long run. Particularly, a
country that is more open for inflows of FDI and trade exchange is more likely to
grow faster than a country that is otherwise. The positive relationship between trade
openness and economic growth has been confirmed by various empirical studies, for
S. Chorn (*)
Lecturer of Economics, Department of International Studies (DIS), Institute of Foreign
Languages, Royal University of Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
S. Cheng
Mekong Institute of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Y. Ngoy
Department of International Studies, Institute of Foreign Languages,
Royal University of Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019
Md. N. Islam (ed.), Silk Road to Belt Road,
S. Chorn et al.
example, Barro and Sala-i-Martin (2004:521–541), Osei-Yeboah et al. (2012:12–17),
Busse and Königer (2012:1–18), Gries and Redlin (2012:4–15), and Chorn and Siek
This is why countries all over the world are now paying more attention to trade
and investment activities across the borders. Trade between Cambodia and China, in
particular, has kept expanding since the first trade agreement signed in 1996, according to China-ASEAN Center. By 2014, China was the third largest market for
Cambodia’s products after the EU and the USA, which accounted for approximately
17.2% of Cambodia’s total exports. Moreover, China was the largest exporter to
Cambodia, which accounted for 32.6% of the total import value (WTO 2015). Data
from World Integrated Trade Solution indicated that trade connectivity between the
two mentioned countries in the last decade has been improved not only by the volume but also by the number of the traded products. Since trade between Cambodia
and China has become more prominent, especially for Cambodia, investigation on
the trade pattern and the connectivity of both countries is essential.
In Cambodia, there have been several empirical studies on Cambodia’s trade pattern in terms of bilateral trade with its trading partners. Huot and Kakinaka
(2007:305–319) and Kim (2006:1–24) investigate the determinants of trade of
Cambodia and its trading countries, including China. Vin et al. (2014:147–154)
conduct the study on trade of rice between Cambodia and her trading partners
including Thailand, Vietnam, and China. Yet, only few have focused exclusively on
the trade between Cambodia and China.
This chapter is intended to provide insight on how to intensify gains and to sustain the gains from trade for Cambodia in the medium and long term by examining
the China-Cambodia trade pattern and constraints facing firms in Cambodia involving in exports and imports with China. This study is structured into the following
sections. Firstly, Sect. 18.2 is for literature review on relevant theoretical foundation
on trade pattern by illuminating the famous and most cited arguments in classical
and neoclassical theories of trade. Trade pattern is generally known by types of
products traded and the countries involved in trading. In other words, it is referred
to who produces what and sells to whom. Herein, this section also discusses some
previous findings regarding Cambodia’s trade pattern with her trading partners.
Secondly, Sect. 18.3 is devoted for research methodology and data collection mode
to accomplish the attempt to respond to the research objectives, which are divided
into two steps: (1) to investigate the trade pattern, the research study employs
descriptive data analysis on secondary data collected from various sources. Trade
Complementarity Index (TCI) is also used to further indicate the characteristics of
trade connectivity between the two countries; (2) to find out the challenges faced by
firms operating in Cambodia in trading with China, the authors have come up with
the idea of developing SWOT analysis which is endowed by primary data collected
through in-depth interviews and the existing data. Thirdly, Sect. 18.4 is solely developed for illustrating and discussing results after deploying data analysis in accordance with the stated methodology, consisting of trade pattern discussion and
SWOT analysis results. Last but not least, Sect. 18.5 is for conclusion and policy
Cambodia-China’s Trade Connectivity: Reevaluating the Trade Pattern…
Theoretical Foundation on Trade Pattern
The Ricardian model, probably the simplest model that shows the difference
between countries, gives rise to trade and gains from trade. In this model, labor is
the only factor of production, and countries differ only in the productivity of labor
in different industries. Countries will only export goods that their labor produces
more efficiently and will import goods that their labor produces relatively less efficiently (Economic Watch 2010; Krugman et al. 2012:24–47). Advanced from
Ricardian trade model, another trade model that also tries to explain the pattern of
trade is the Heckscher-Ohlin (H-O) model. H-O model hypothesizes that comparative advantage is based on national differences in factor endowments. Countries
export goods that have production requirements intensive in the nation’s relatively
abundant factors (Krugman et al. 2012:81–104; Gerber 2014:63–91). Even though
the two trade theories aforesaid have different assumptions and different ways of
explanation, both share one thing in common in the sense that they explain the gains
of both importing and exporting countries from trade exchange in achieving higher
consumption level than they would otherwise have never made possible without
trade given limited resources through specialization in production for their exports
at which they have comparative advantage (Krugman et al. 2012:73; Hing 2013:2;
Carbaugh 2015:36–58).
Recent trade theory, increasing return to scale (IRS-based trade theory), argues
that trade allows exporters to enjoy the economy of scale when they have a large
market. It is simply stated that trade needs not be the result of comparative advantage. It, instead, can result from increasing returns or economies of scale, that is,
from a tendency of unit costs to be lower with larger volume of outputs produced as
firms have improved the efficiency in their production. Economies of scale provide
countries with an incentive to specialize and involve in trading even in the absence
of differences in resources or technology between countries (Krugman et al.
2012:138–152; Carbaugh 2015:87–91). Without any government’s intervention or
strong enabling precondition, the readily highly efficient and large-scale firms as the
first mover create an effective binding constraint for the new entry of other firms as
the later mover to compete in the international market.
Many empirical works have been done to experiment the effect of trade competitiveness and complementarity on whole trade between participating countries,
whose findings differ by countries; that is, in some cases complementarity plays
more role, but in other cases competitiveness does. The groundbreaking work of
Evenett and Keller assesses such an identification issue by conditioning bilateral
trade relations on the differences in factor endowment and on the share of intra-­
industry trade. Since policy implications are crucially connected with its underlying
trade model, the model identification would be essential when discussing trade
issues in a specific country (Evenett and Keller 2002:281–316). A study conducted
by Huot and Kakinaka (2007:305–319) proves that modified gravity model is also
effective and applicable in explaining Cambodia’s bilateral trade flows. The positive
and statistically significant coefficient on Trade Complementarity Index (TCI)
S. Chorn et al.
reflects that a Heckscher-Ohlin framework seems to be more appropriate in explaining
Cambodia’s pattern of trade with her major trading partners. The flows of trade are
considerably owed to interindustry trade that comes from factor endowment difference rather than intra-industry trade from the monopolistic competition.
Research Methodology and Data Collection
To investigate the pattern of trade—as well as the trend of intensification and diversification—descriptive data analysis has been conducted on secondary data collected from various sources. The data in this study come from the World Integrated
Trade Solution (WITS) provided by the World Bank.
Trade Complementarity Index (TCI) is also used to further indicate the characteristics of trade connectivity between the two countries. The formula for calculating TCI is expressed as followed:
m jkt xikt 
TCI t = 100 ∗ 1 − ∑ k
M jt Xit 
Where xikt is the value of exports of product k from country i (Cambodia) in year t
and Xit is country i’s total exports to country j in year t. Partner country j’s value of
imports of product k in year t is given by mjkt, and its total imports from country i in
year t are given by Mjt. The TCI is calculated at two-digit level (H0) using
Harmonized System (HS) 1988/1992, a system used by the World Customs
Organization (WCO) to record the tariff and trade classification. The HS 1988/1992
is chosen to ensure sufficient time series data for the analysis.
The value of TCI is between 0% and 100%, with 0 suggesting that the two countries are perfect competitors and 100% suggesting perfect complementary.
Theoretically, if TCI shares similar trend with trade volume, it is suggested that the
volume of trade also increases as the degree of complementary of trade between
trading partners increases, which further suggests that trade flows between Cambodia
and its partners are generally in the form of interindustry trade. In this case,
Heckscher-Ohlin model is said to be consistent with explaining the pattern of bilateral trade. On the other hand, if the trend of TCI is opposite to that of trade volume,
it is suggested that trade volume increases when TCI falls. In other words, trade
volumes increase with the competitiveness. Trade flows tend to be the intra-industry
trade and differentiated products and comply with the increasing return to scales
(IRS) (see in Huot and Kakinaka 2007:305–319 and World Bank 2013:19–20).
In this chapter, last but not least, to find out constraints faced by firms operating
in Cambodia in trading with China, the authors have come up with the idea of developing SWOT analysis which is endowed by primary data collected through in-depth
interviews and the existing data. Actual fieldwork for in-depth interviews has been
carried during August and September of 2017 with key informants from four
Cambodia-China’s Trade Connectivity: Reevaluating the Trade Pattern…
g­ arment factories, two construction companies, one rice exporting company, and
one logistic company located in Phnom Penh and Kandal province. Most of the
firms are Chinese-owned enterprises except rice exporting and logistic companies.
Empirical Results and Discussion
Pattern of Cambodia Trade with China
This section is mainly devoted to the discussion on the pattern of Cambodia trade
with China using data extracted and calculated from the World Integrated Trade
Solution (WITS) provided by the World Bank. Data show that Cambodia is strongly
integrated into the world market as the country’s openness to trade is also significant. Cambodia’s trade openness (the percentage of the combined export and import
volume against her GDP in the same year) accounts for more than 100% of country’s GDP, whereas the kingdom has experienced more imports than exports.
According to data extracted from WITS, the Cambodia’s exports accounted for 61%
of GDP, while the imports accounted for 66% of GDP in 2016, resulting in a trade
balance deficit about 5%.
The USA and European countries such as the UK and Germany, to name a few,
have been the main export destinations of Cambodia (Fig. 18.1). Japan and Canada
also rank in the top ten export destination of Cambodia in 2015. In 2015, China
ranked the sixth largest export market for Cambodia,1 while China, however, has
been the first top importer to Cambodia (see Fig. 18.2). Cambodia’s trade volume
with China for the last decade has kept rising tremendously. For instance, by 2015
the total volume of trade exchange with China (including mainland China, Hong
Kong, and Macao) was about 5 billion US dollars, dominated by the imports of
around 4.5 billion US dollars, followed by the exports of just around 600 million US
dollars (see Fig. 18.3).
Examining the export destination to China, it is revealed that Cambodia’s trade
flows to mainland China contribute the largest share, followed by the trade with
Hong Kong. The volume of trade with Macao is minimal. In the last 5 years, trade
with mainland China has, moreover, increased rapidly as shown in Fig. 18.4. Trade
with mainland China accounted for about 4.3 billion US dollars in 2015, while trade
with Hong Kong accounted for about 900 million US dollars in 2015. Decomposing
the trade volume into exports and imports shows that Cambodia’s exports to mainland China have increased rapidly from 2010 and became the largest export destination comparing to Hong Kong and Macao in 2015, while exports to Hong Kong
ranked the second in the same year (see Fig. 18.5). On the import side, mainland
In fact, analysis on the enterprise survey 2013 of the World Bank shows that more than half of the
surveyed Chinese firms (57,6%) mainly sell their products to non-China countries while around
3% export back to China. The largest foreign markets for sale destination of Chinese firms are
USA (34%) and EU (11%).
S. Chorn et al.
China has also ranked as the largest importer to Cambodia, followed by Hong Kong.
Moreover, the import volume from mainland China has risen sharply in the last
5 years (Fig. 18.6). In addition to the increasing volume of trade with China in
recent years, trade with China has also been diversified; particularly, the number of
products traded has increased from 45 in 2000 to 318 in 2015 with mainland China
and from 118 in 2000 to 221 in 2015 with Hong Kong (Fig. 18.7).
Nonetheless, it seems that trade flows between Cambodia and China have still
been highly intense on few sectors. The top five products exported to China in 2015
were hides or skin products, textiles and clothing, machine and electronic products,
vegetables, and footwear (Fig. 18.8). On the other hand, the top five products
imported from China to Cambodia in 2015 were textiles and clothing, machines and
electronic products, metals, plastics or rubbers, and miscellaneous products
(Fig. 18.9). The statistics also indicate that the Cambodia’s import value from China
has been far much larger than her export value to China. Moreover, textiles and
clothing and machines and electronic products appear to have been the top products
included in both import and export flows.
The decomposition of traded products by stage of processing (SoP) as consumer
goods, intermediate goods, capital goods, and raw materials suggests that the largest
share of Cambodia’s imports is attributed in intermediates goods, accounting for
about 3 billion US dollars in 2015 while the largest share of exports is concentrated
in the form of consumer goods as shown in Fig. 18.10. Moreover, the mainland
China appears to trade more on intermediate goods and consumer goods than Hong
Kong and Macao (Figs. 18.11 and 18.12). The volume of trade flows in industrial
goods far exceeds that in agriculture and the rest industries as shown in Fig. 18.13.
The exports of industrial goods decreased from 2009 to 2012, yet increased again
after 2013. The exports of agricultural products to China appear to have increased
from 2012. However, the imports of industrial products have keep rising tremendously since the year 2000 as shown in Fig. 18.14.
Observing the Trade Complementarity Index (TCI) on trade between Cambodia
and China, it is suggested quite the same flow of the story. The general trend of TCI
between Cambodia and mainland China, on the one hand, has slightly increased
though a bit fluctuated in the last decade. The general trend of TCI between
Cambodia and Hong Kong and Macao, on the other hand, on overall performance
slightly decreased in the 2000s and early 2000s while it has just been gradually risen
in the last several years. Nevertheless, TCI of Cambodia’s trade with China has been
less than 20 (out of 100)—except TCI of Cambodia’s trade with Macao standing at
slightly higher than 20 between 2000 and 2007—which indicates that Cambodia’s
trade with those three regions is more intensified on only a few products. However,
comparing among the three regions, Cambodian’s trade with mainland China
tends to occur in more different types of products than with Hong Kong and Macao.
From 2014 onward, the value of TCI with mainland China has risen rapidly (see
Fig. 18.15).
In conclusion, Cambodia has enjoyed higher volume of trade flows with China in
the last few decades, in particular, the volume of trade flows—both exports and
Cambodia-China’s Trade Connectivity: Reevaluating the Trade Pattern…
imports—has increased from just around 600 million US dollars to more than 5 billion US dollars. However, it is suggested that trade between the two countries is still
carried out with high concentration on few product types although the number of
products has slightly increased. Imports tend to have more diversities than exports.
Also, the low degree of TCI along with the growing volume of trade flows suggests
that Cambodia trade with all three regions of China tends to be more intensified than
diversified regardless of minor upturn of TCI in the last few years. Furthermore,
Cambodia has had huge trade deficit with China. In other words, the export volume
of Cambodia to China still has been far outweighed by the import volume of
Cambodia from China (roughly 5 billion US dollars of imports compared to only
around 600 million US dollar of exports in 2015). Additionally, most of Cambodia’s
imports from China is mainly on intermediate goods while exporting back to China
is mainly on final goods in the same industry line. With all points mentioned above,
it is suggested that Cambodia’s trade pattern with China is in the form of intra-­
industry trade rather than interindustry trade. Had the study been extended or
included all of Cambodia’s trading partners when determining the trade pattern,
there might have been more possibility that the trade flows appear to be in the form
of interindustry trade pattern since the number of products traded is more widely
diversified and the volume is more intensified.
SWOT Analysis
To find out challenges faced by firms operating in Cambodia in trading with China,
the authors have come up with the idea of developing SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis which is endowed by primary data collected through in-depth interviews and the existing data, standing on the Cambodia
side on trade relation between Cambodia and China, which is synthesized from the
above analysis and complemented from primary data collected through in-depth
interviews with key informants and secondary data representation.
Good economic performance as indicated by the
stable foreign exchange rate, high economic growth
both GDP and GDP per capita, and inflation rate (see
Figs. 18.16, 18.17, and 18.18)
ppealing policies to attract foreign direct
investment, i.e., tax holiday, duty free, or relaxed
requirements for the imports of materials used in
garment and construction sectorsa (see Tables 18.1,
18.2, and 18.3 for index of economic freedom, index
of tax burden, and index of trade freedom,
Cambodia’s large trade deficit with
Lack of local supply of intermediate
goods while capturing only low ended
production value chain in the industries
Complicated custom procedures and not
yet fully efficient public services are
more concerned by [surveyed]
importing firmsc (see Table 18.4 for
index of government integrity)
Infrastructure bottlenecks and
underdeveloped logistics
I mprovement of logistic service and both soft and
hard infrastructure.
pecial treatment provided by the EU and the USA,
i.e., “Everything But Arms” scheme and the
relaxation of the “rule of origin” from the EU and
generalized system of preferences (GSP) from the
USA for travel goodsb
Good investment environment, i.e., low labor cost,
freedom of doing business, and reliable and integrated
financial system
Cambodia and China’s trade relation could be
deepened after the launch of the Belt and Road
Initiatives. Tourism can be one among the possible
potential sectors that Cambodia should promote as
China has adopted new approach which pushes her
people to travel out and migrate to other countries
not only for tourism purpose but also investing
Good macroeconomic and political stability will
attract more foreign direct investment, especially from
Chinese investors
S. Chorn et al.
ack of capacity to meet technical
standards required by importing
Lack of cost advantage in rice
production due to high price of fertilizer
and other inputs and less productive
Lack of local supply of intermediate
goods and diversification of Cambodia’s
production limits the potential of its
exports to China and other trading
partners and can also make Cambodia
vulnerable to external shocks
urrency depreciation of the
Cambodia’s main exporting
competitors relative to Euro and USD
leads to less competitiveness of
Cambodian exportse
Special treatments provided by the EU
Open and other supportive policies alongside with
better integrated financial system and low labor costs and the USA might be gradually
endow Cambodia with great advantage to attract more removed as Cambodia is now jumping
from low-income country to lowerforeign direct investment, not only from China but
middle-income country, so firms
also from other countries, to come to invest in
investing in Cambodia should be well
Cambodia to diversify its exported products, which
enable Cambodia to exploit more benefits from trade prepared to confront fierce competition
from other potential competitors
and reduce vulnerability from high concentration of
domestic production and export
Continuation of special treatments provided by the
EU and the USA still provides Cambodia a big
advantage for Cambodian export to those huge
markets, which still provides Chinese investors with a
great incentive to invest in Cambodia, so that trade
relation between Cambodia and China can be still
intensified and diversified
All managers known as the key informants from firms surveyed in garment and construction sector agreed that the Royal Government of Cambodia has had adopted good policies in promoting
the currently targeted sectors such as garment and construction through attracting foreign direct
investment. In particular, the import of materials for garment production from China is with minor
or without tariff. Similarly, the import of construction materials especially from China also happens with minor custom duty if the construction projects are highly related to infrastructure development, and if they are the government projects, the import of construction materials is completely
off from import duty
Cambodia-China’s Trade Connectivity: Reevaluating the Trade Pattern…
Although the key informants agreed with the fact that the Cambodian government has provided
investors with good policies in prioritized sectors, they also shared the same thought that ­sometimes
they have confronted with some difficulties related to custom procedures and supporting public
services, saying that they are not fully efficient yet. The system and coordination need to be
upgraded for better quality and efficiency. Experienced in working with a Chinese firm in Vietnam,
a logistic manager from one of the surveyed garment factories said that Cambodia should learn
from neighboring countries like Vietnam and Thailand to improve the related supporting public
It might wonder why mention about the EU and the USA. Cambodian exports are majorly concentrated in just few sectors, one of which is garment and footwear sector and is mostly invested by
Chinese investors. According to data from enterprise survey 2013 of the WB, around 67% of the
interviewed firms said the input materials used in these productions of the Chinese firms are from
the imports (either direct and indirect). According to the in-depth interviews with firms, most of the
input materials are imported from China. One respondent said his (garment) company does not
export to China because they also have their own factory in China. That China comes to invest in
Cambodia in this sector because they see the opportunity of being granted the special treatment of
exports from Cambodia to the EU and the US markets
A former production manager of a rice exporting manager said that the Cambodian rice being sold
in China is relatively more expensive than the Thai rice, not to mention about the Chinese rice,
given similar quality. This makes the Cambodian rice less competitive in China. For example, a
5 Kl bag of Cambodia rice costs around 13 USD, while the same amount of Thai rice costs less
than 10 USD
Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also known as One Belt, One Road (OBOR), is
China’s highly ambitious development project aimed at revitalizing the Chinese
ancient Silk Road and realizing the Chinese dream. BRI is perceived to have impacts
on many aspects of interconnectivity, one of which is trade exchange. Trade between
Cambodia and China has become noticeably prominent in the last few decades.
Over many years, trade between Cambodia and China has been moderately strengthened due to the increase in trade volume and number of traded products between the
two countries. The findings from our analyses have proved that trade between
Cambodia and China is in the form of intra-industry trade rather than interindustry
trade (IIT) due to three possible reasons as follows:
1. Trade between the two countries is still carried out with high concentration on
few product types although the number of products has slightly increased.
Imports tend to have more diversities than exports. Also, the low degree of TCI
along with the growing volume of trade flows suggests that Cambodia trade with
all three regions of China tends to be more intensified than diversified regardless
of minor upturn of TCI in the last few years.
2. Cambodia has had huge trade deficit with China. In other words, the export volume of Cambodia to China still has been far outweighed by the import volume
of Cambodia from China (roughly 5 billion US dollars of imports compared to
only around 600 million US dollar of exports in 2015).
S. Chorn et al.
3. Most of Cambodia’s imports from China are mainly on intermediate goods,
while exporting back to China is mainly on final goods in the same industry line.
With all points mentioned above, it is highly suggested that Cambodia’s trade
pattern with China is in the form of intra-industry trade.
Cambodian exports are majorly concentrated in just few sectors, one of which is
garment and footwear sector and is dominantly invested by Chinese investors.
According to data from enterprise survey 2013 of the WB, the majority of the interviewed firms said the input materials used in these productions of the Chinese firms
are from the imports. According to the in-depth interviews with respondents from
selected firms, most of the input materials are imported from China. One respondent
said his (garment) company does not export to China because they also have their
own factory in China. That China has come to invest in Cambodia in this sector
because they see the opportunity of being granted the special treatment of exports
from Cambodia to the EU and the US markets.
Cambodia is endowed by good economic performance as indicated by the stable
foreign exchange rate, high economic growth both GDP and GDP per capita, and
inflation rate, appealing policies to attract foreign direct investment that can promote trade connectivity, improvement of logistic service and both soft and hard
infrastructure, special treatment provided by the EU and the USA, and good investment environment, i.e. low labor cost, freedom of doing business, and reliable and
integrated financial system. Nonetheless, the kingdom has also been seen as having
some major constraints which may possibly pose impediments to her trade connection with China. Some of those constraints are included, but not limited to,
Cambodia’s large trade deficit with China, lack of local supply chain of intermediate goods while capturing only low ended production value chain in traded and
invested industries, complicated custom procedures and not yet fully efficient public supporting services, infrastructure bottlenecks and underdeveloped logistics,
lack of capacity to meet technical standards required by importing countries, and
lack of cost advantage in production due to higher cost of labor and input
For Cambodia to enjoy and sustain the benefits from trade connectivity with
China in the medium and long run, some policy recommendations have been made
as follows:
–– Firstly, Cambodia should push for more intensification of exports to China to
enhance its trade balance yet intensify and diversify its supply chain of intermediate goods within the focused traded industries domestically, either invested by
foreign firms or domestic firms, to exploit more benefits in trade.
–– Secondly, Cambodia will have to take advantage from the currently growing
traded sectors (both imports and exports) with China as an engine to diversify
Cambodia’s export to the rest of the world by establishing linkage to other potential industry to increase employment to sustain long-term growth. Particularly,
given the marginal gain contributed from garment and textile sector—which is
one of the most important traded sectors with China—is slowing down, there is
a need to enhance the linkage to other industries to boost other high-value-added
industry as soon as possible.
Cambodia-China’s Trade Connectivity: Reevaluating the Trade Pattern…
–– Thirdly, Cambodia and China’s trade relation could be deepened after the launch
of the Belt and Road Initiatives in 2013 by the Chinese President Xi Jinping. As
so, tourism can be one among the most potential sectors for Cambodia to promote as China has adopted new outward-looking approach which pushes her
people to travel out and migrate to other countries not only for tourism purpose
but also investing purpose. However, the Royal Government of Cambodia should
ensure rigid law enforcement that can restraint some improper and illegal activities committed by some foreigners staying within the Cambodia territory that
might disrupt social order of the country.
–– Last but not least, Cambodia still has to enhance its efficiency and competitiveness by reducing cost contributed by non-trade barriers such as delay in export
procedures, logistic performance and infrastructure, and custom clearance
Appendix 1: Pattern of Trade Between Cambodia and China
Source of data: The World Integrated Trade Solution (WITS) provided by the World
United Germany
States Kingdom
Fig. 18.1 Top 10 export destination of Cambodia in 2015 (in thousand US dollars)
S. Chorn et al.
China Thailand Vietnam Hong
Other Singapore Korea,
Kong, Asia, nes
Indonesia United
Fig. 18.2 Top 10 importers to Cambodia in 2015 (in thousand US dollars)
Export in 1000 USD
Import in 1000 USD
Trade Volume
Fig. 18.3 Total export and import with the three regions of China
Fig. 18.4 Volume of Cambodia trade with three regions of China
Cambodia-China’s Trade Connectivity: Reevaluating the Trade Pattern…
Fig. 18.5 Export from Cambodia to three regions of China
Fig. 18.6 Import from three regions of China to Cambodia
Fig. 18.7 Number of product traded between Cambodia and China
S. Chorn et al.
22,792 21,560
10,120 4,851 3,853
2,638 2,491 1,216
Fig. 18.8 Type of product exported to three regions of China in 2015
3,000,000 2,830,489
113,263 105,589
94,457 51,039 22,448 9,046 2,432
Fig. 18.9 Import to Cambodia from the three regions of China by products in 2015
Consumer goods
Intermediate goods
Export in 1000 USD
Capital goods
Raw material
Import in 1000 USD
Fig. 18.10 Trade in consumers, intermediate, raw material, and capital goods in 2015
Cambodia-China’s Trade Connectivity: Reevaluating the Trade Pattern…
Capital goods
Capital goods
Capital goods
Raw materials
Consumer goods
Intermediate goods
Consumer goods
Consumer goods
Intermediate goods
Raw materials
Capital goods
Consumer goods
Raw materials
Intermediate goods
Intermediate goods
Fig. 18.11 Export of intermediate goods to China in 2015
Raw materials
115,196 38,143
Capital goods
Consumer goods
Capital goods
Consumer goods
Intermediate goods
Raw materials
Raw materials
Intermediate goods
527,217 578,527
Fig. 18.12 Import of intermediate goods from China to Cambodia in 2015
Agricultural goods
Industrial goods
Fig. 18.13 Export product by sectors to the three region of China
S. Chorn et al.
Agricultural goods
Industrial goods
Fig. 18.14 Import product by sectors from the three region of China
Cambodia-Hong Kong
Fig. 18.15 TCI of Cambodia trade with mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macao
Appendix 2: Cambodia’s Economic Performance
Source of data: World Development Indicator, the World Bank (Extracted in March
Cambodia-China’s Trade Connectivity: Reevaluating the Trade Pattern…
Agriculture, value added (annual % growth)
Services, etc., value added (annual % growth)
Industry, value added (annual % growth)
GDP per capita growth (annual %)
Fig. 18.16 Growth rate of real GDP per capita and economic sectors 2004–2016 (in percentage)
Inflation, GDP deflator (annual %)
Inflation, consumer prices (annual %)
Source: World Development Indicator, the World Bank (Extracted in March, 2018)
Fig. 18.17 Cambodia’s inflation rate (2004–2016)
4,056.2 4,054.2
4,033.0 4,027.3 4,037.5
Source: World Development Indicator, the World Bank (Extracted in March, 2018)
Fig. 18.18 Official exchange rate 2004–2016 (LCU per US$, period average)
S. Chorn et al.
Appendix 3: Index of Economic Freedom
Source of data: The Heritage Foundation (Extracted in March 2017)
Index of economic freedom2 takes a comprehensive view of economic freedom
which is indexed from 0, perfectly repressed, to 100, perfectly free. For example,
countries ranking from 80 to 100 are recognized as free, 70.0–79.9 mostly free,
60.0–69.9 moderately free, 50.0–59.9 mostly unfree, and 0–49.9 repressed. Most,
somehow, focus on policies within a country, with the assessment on the liberty of
individuals to utilize their labor or finances without undue restraint and government
Tax burden, the last indicator in economic freedom to be included in this study,
is used to proxy the level of freedom from the tax burden, which also includes tariffs, being borne by individuals and firms. High tax rates reduce incentive and ability of investors to pursue their goals in the marketplace and thereby lower the level
of overall private-sector activity, which in turn hinders the flow of international
trade. High tax burden score means the governments permit individuals and businesses to keep and manage a larger share of their income and wealth for their own
benefit and use and, however, maximize economic freedom. Tax burden score
should have positive impact on trade flow.
Table 18.1 Index of economic freedom of Cambodia, mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macao
China (mainland)
Hong Kong
Cambodia-China’s Trade Connectivity: Reevaluating the Trade Pattern…
Table 18.2 Index of tax burden of Cambodia, mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macao
China (mainland)
Hong Kong
Table 18.3 Index of trade freedom of Cambodia, mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macao
China (mainland)
Hong Kong
S. Chorn et al.
Trade freedom is another aspect of economic freedom, which captures the degree
to which governments hinder the free flow of foreign commerce. Many governments place restrictions on their citizens’ ability to interact freely as buyers or sellers in the international marketplace. Trade restrictions can manifest themselves in
the form of tariffs, export taxes, trade quotas, or outright trade bans. However, trade
restrictions also appear in more subtle ways, particularly in the form of regulatory
barriers related to health or safety. Like other indexes of economic freedom, index
of trade freedom ranks from 0, perfectly repressed, to 100, perfectly free. Higher
index of trade freedom is expected to have positive impact on trade flow.
Government integrity is one of the aspects in the index of economic freedom3 by
The Heritage Foundation. This aspect captures the extent to which the trading
nations are free of the systemic corruption of government institutions by practices
such as bribery, nepotism, cronyism, patronage, embezzlement, and graft. Though
not all are crimes in every country or circumstance, these practices erode the integrity of government wherever they are practiced. By allowing some individuals or
special interests to gain government benefits at the expense of others, they are
grossly incompatible with the principles of fair and equal treatment that are essential ingredients of an economically free society. Index of government integrity ranks
from 0, perfectly repressed, to 100, perfectly free. For example, countries ranking
from 80 to 100 are recognized as free, 70.0–79.9 mostly free, 60.0–69.9 moderately
free, 50.0–59.9 mostly unfree, and 0–49.9 repressed. Government integrity is
expected to have positive impact on trade flow.
Table 18.4 Index of government integrity of Cambodia, mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macao
China (mainland)
Hong Kong
Cambodia-China’s Trade Connectivity: Reevaluating the Trade Pattern…
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Education publishing.
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of Cambodia.
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Chapter 19
Chinese Identities in Southeast Asia
Wei Chin Wong
The mass migration of Chinese labor predominantly from Fujian and Guangdong to
Southeast Asia has begun in the nineteenth century. By the 1940s, there were sizeable permanent Chinese settlements that easily could be found in Thailand, Malay
Peninsula, and Java and Borneo Islands (Purcell 1948; Freeman 1960; Somers
Heidhues 1992). According to the database of The World Factbook prepared by the
US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), up until July 2017, it is estimated that there
are at least 16 million ethnic Chinese found, respectively, in 7 countries in the contemporary Southeast Asian region, including 1,650,000 in present Burma/Myanmar,
around 680,000 in Thailand, 16,000 in Cambodia, 6,448,000 in Malaysia,
4,309,400 in Singapore, 40,000 in Brunei, and 3,120,000 in Indonesia. The demographical figures provided by this database are valuable particularly with regard to
the political significance as the figures genuinely posit recognition and determination toward the legal status and citizenship of which the Chinese enjoy in the
Southeast Asian countries they each reside since the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Meanwhile, it is no coincidence to explain why there is a common
tendency among the studies concerning on the subject of Chinese overseas in
Southeast Asia that have been generally focusing on Malay Peninsula, Singapore,
and Java and Borneo Islands as the highest proportions of the Chinese populations
are commonly found in these places. If we understand the numerical figures in connection with the indigenous Southeast Asian populations as shown in Table 19.1
below, it is not inappropriate to say that most of the ethnic Chinese populations are
minorities in their nations, except Singapore.
As a matter of fact, being a “Chinese” in Southeast Asia is almost without exception that they are patrilineally descended from the Chinese race from China in
W. C. Wong (*)
General Education Office, United International College, Zhuhai, China
e-mail: [email protected]
© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019
Md. N. Islam (ed.), Silk Road to Belt Road,
W. C. Wong
Table 19.1 The distribution of Chinese population in Southeast Asia today
Brunei Darussalam
The Philippines
Chinese population (%)
1,650,000 (3)
Less than 680,000 (<1)
16,000 (0.1)
No figure
No figure
6,448,000 (20.8)
4,309,400 (74.3)
40,000 (10.3)
3,120,000 (2)
No figure
No figure
Total population (July 2017 est.)
55 million
68 million
16 million
7 million
96 million
31 million
5.8 million
0.4 million
260 million
1 million
104 million
Source: The World Factbook, Central Intelligence Agency (The World Factbook, Central
Intelligence Agency. Retrieved from its library from the following link https://www.cia.gov/
library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/my.html. Accessed on February 8, 2018)
c­ onnection with their colonial migration background. However, it was not until the
late 1940s and the early 1950s that the studies concerning the population of the
Chinese overseas with special reference to their wide-ranging social activities and
commercial ventures have become available in the English texts. While there are
many scholars (social and economic historians in particular) offering the social history of Chinese migration and the factors that made the Chinese so formidable for
the colonial development of local economy before the World War II, there are also
scholars who confirm and suggest the reasons why there are different generational
Chinese who have had assimilated well in some Southeast Asian countries and less
so in others. Such findings suggest that the questions on how the Southeast Asian
Chinese define themselves within the Southeast Asian context and how they are
seen by the others spanning across national, geographical divides and historiography have been the substantial research concerns of many scholars.
Since 2013, Southeast Asian region has been featured as an important base for
the development of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Under this collaborative
scheme, China’s government has often depicted the Southeast Asian Chinese as
“Chinese overseas” (Huaqiao Huaren 华侨华人) with shared Chinese identity outside China. Since then, the very definition of the “Chinese” in the Southeast Asia
context has posing an intricate problem to both scholars and nation-states in the
region. While there are Chinese descendants who no longer consider themselves as
“Chinese,” the recent studies illuminate that some people who are of Chinese
descent in Southeast Asia have been trying to take extra efforts to be resinicized
based on the concept of “Chineseness” in recent years, including attending Chinese
language course and learning Chinese calligraphy and Confucius lectures, in
response to the economic boom of the People’s Republic of China as well as the
increasing wave of ethnic Chinese investments back in the ancestral land since the
late twentieth century.1 Despite the concept of resinization is useful at explaining
The recent writings on sinicization due to the resurgence of China could be found in Peter
J. Katzenstein’s edited book Sinicization and the rise of China: civilizational processes beyond
East and West (London, New York: Routledge, 2012).
19 Chinese Identities in Southeast Asia
the unprecedented economic scheme of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Southeast
Asia by strengthening the cultural connections between China’s people and
Southeast Asian Chinese, the fact that how the Chinese communities have been
remarkably adaptable in what they had achieved in many countries of Southeast
Asia is largely downplayed and remained unexplored. This explains why it has
therefore been difficult to develop a clear picture of how the Chinese identities have
changed and why there can be so many Chinese identities in which people preserve,
recognize, and construct in the Southeast Asian contexts. To reconcile the differences of how China and the Southeast Asian Chinese should understand the concept
of “Chinese” in the contemporary Asian context, this paper examines the social and
cultural contexts in which the changes of Chinese identities have occurred in
Southeast Asia, in order to help both China and Southeast Asian countries to better
recognize and harness what “Chinese identity” means in the contemporary Asian
he Study of Chinese Communities in Contemporary
Southeast Asia
The subject of “Chinese” in Southeast Asia, as well as the direction for the study of
this subject, was recognized in the English academia after the publications of the
Chinese in Southeast Asia (Unger 1944) and The Chinese in Malaya (Purcell 1948)
since the late 1940s. The idea of studying the Chinese communities in the region
was believed to have inspired by both author’s personal life experiences in Southeast
Asia and their political training backgrounds in the West. Leonard Unger was a US
Ambassador to Laos and Thailand, respectively, in the 1960s and the early 1970s
(Roosa 1985). Victor Purcell, who had lived within the Malayan Chinese communities for more than 26 years while he was serving the Malayan Civil Service in the
Malay Peninsula, had expanded his studies to the whole Southeast Asian region in
later decades (Purcell 1980). Themes like inherent industrial skills and dominant
commercial roles played by the increasing numbers of Chinese migrant laborers
dwelled in the Southeast Asian region, including all former European colonies in
the region such as British Malaya, British Borneo, British Burma, French Indochina,
the Netherlands Indies, and the Philippine Islands, were seen as a great and stable
source of labor in maritime trade, plantation, mining, and the lumbering industries.
Since then, being a “Chinese” prior to the 1950s in Malay Peninsula and Java and
Borneo Islands has been widely understood by scholars as migrant communities
who happened to be living outside China mainly due to trade and economic purposes (Baker 1987; Freedman and Skinner 1979; Jackson 1961; Kuhn 2008; Reid
1996, 2011; Somers Heidheus 1992, 2003; Tagliacozzo and Chang 2011; Wang
1958, 1959, 1990; Yen 1986).
W. C. Wong
It is not inappropriate to understand that the colonial developments in both mining and plantation industry, which had brought worldwide importance in Southeast
Asia between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, were achieved
largely with the aid of Chinese labor from China (Mills 2003: 235). In the meantime, the contributions of local importance made by the Chinese migrant laborers in
trade and industrial craftsmanship during the colonial contexts of Southeast Asia
have also been identified as a crucial turning point to the business acumen of how
Chinese sojourners turned settlers. The development of Chinese settlements in
Southeast Asia later brought about the rise of Chinese nationalism and the emergence of the notion of Nanyang huaqiao (literally “Chinese nationals resided overseas in Southeast Asia” or more commonly known as “Chinese overseas” by English
writers) particularly among the first generation of Chinese immigrants in Southeast
Asia (Unger 1944: 217). The notion of huaqiao and Chinese nationalism were built
and manifested upon Sun Yat-sen’s idea of “race” and “nation” of Imperial China in
the late nineteenth-century Southeast Asian context in order to gain both political
and financial supports for his revolutionary movement back in China (Wang 1981a:
120, 1981b: 142, 1991: 6–7). Numerous teachers and journalists were henceforth
being recruited from China to Southeast Asia to propagate the ideas of Chinese
nationalism. Such nationalist sentiment finally reached its peak during Japanese
activities and invasion in China after the notion of huaqiao was widely adopted by
the Chinese settlers in Southeast Asia (Leong 1982; Yen 2008). Due to the rise of
such Chinese nationalist sentiments among the Chinese in Southeast Asia, they had
retained this Chinese national identity for generations and were hoping that they
could always had the option to return to their ancestral land, even though the
Southeast Asian-born Chinese descendants had been widely recognized as the colonial subjects by the colonial governments in the region. As a matter of fact, a plethora of old words such as “huaqiao,” “Chinese overseas,” “Chinese nationals,”
“Chinese subjects,” “colonial subjects,” and “Chinese settlers” were commonly
used to identify the position and status of the Chinese in the early twentieth century.
This may explain why the demographical statistics on numbers of Chinese population in most of the former colonial colonies often present a bewildering picture in
the early twentieth century when they each had to deal with the notion of “nationality” among the Chinese in the region (Unger 1944: 199; Vandenbosch 1947: 80).
After the end of World War II, the awareness of being huaqiao or Chinese overseas began to change when the Southeast Asian countries gained independence and
mainland China turned communist. According to Willmott’s studies, there were a
big number of the Chinese who developed their ambivalent attitude during the
1960s toward what they understood as Chinese overseas in Southeast Asia. Although
the majority Chinese who worked in Southeast Asia had emotionally wished the
resurgence of mainland China after 1949 could be able to upleave their status and
guarantee their livelihoods in the labor market without suffering discrimination or
restrictions as alienated outsiders; but in the meantime, they were also worried that
their act in capital accumulation in the Malay lands would cause them and their
­family back in China a series of social persecutions by the Chinese veteran officials
(Willmott 1966: 262). Most Chinese in Southeast Asia had therefore gradually
19 Chinese Identities in Southeast Asia
given up their identity as “Chinese overseas” (or Chinese nationalists) and began to
develop a local identity by referring themselves as “Chinese descent” (huayi) and/
or “ethnic Chinese” (huaren) based on the common ancestry (Wang 1988:10;
Suryadinata 1997: 1–2).
According to an anthropologist George William Skinner’s analysis, the shared
common Chinese ancestry and the retention of cultural behaviors among the Chinese
descendants in Southeast Asia should not be regarded as the only reliable guide to
define their Chinese identities, especially after they have gone through the widespread and generations of miscegenation in Southeast Asia since the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries (Skinner 1959). Besides interracial marriages, the regular contacts and commercial interactions between the Chinese communities and the indigenous and colonial populations also explain the reasons why the Chinese settlers
reorganized their social groupings based on their industrial skills and spoken dialects in order to better survive in the foreign lands. For instance, historian Mary
Somers Heidhues’s studies on the Hakka settlement in tin mining and pepper plantation industries in Bangka and Borneo provide a comprehensive demonstration of
how the formation of new Chinese identity was necessary for the competition in
local commercial opportunities. With special reference to business and trading acumen, anthropologist T’ien Ju-K’ang’s studies of the Chinese in Kuching, Sarawak,
argue the Chinese involvements and competitions in different commercial activities
during the colonial periods had marked the defining line for the development of different social groups among the Chinese communities, including the Hokkien,
Teochew, Hakka, and Henghua. The label on these different Chinese social groupings was intertwinely connected with the colonial government’s favor in patronage
system. For example, the British colonial government recognized the industrial
abilities of the Chinese based on the language and native backgrounds they developed in Sarawak. The Hokkien and Teochew enjoyed their special political privileges in arranging monopolies of commerce and trade in Sarawak in the past
eventually contributed to a reason why they become the city dwellers in the present
Sarawak society. Communities that received less or no political patronage from the
British colonial government, such as Hakka and Henghua, on the contrary, have
remained poor and generally lived in the outskirts of the towns with relatively lower
socioeconomic positions since the colonial times (T’ien 1953, 1983).
Several anthropological studies concerning on Chinese settlements in Southeast
Asia are also available since the 1970s. Core elements like traditional values, biological heritages, and primordial sentiments back in their native ancestral villages
are dominant factors to illustrate how and why the Chinese transplanted their “original” (ancestral) living patterns from China to Malaya (Li 1970; Moese et al. 1979).
While such traditional primordial values provide great advantage to study the methods on how Chinese sustained and preserved their cultures in the foreign Malay
context, Maurice Freedman and William Skinner, who were two of the most prominent anthropologists on the studies of Chinese communities in Southeast Asia
between the 1950s and the 1970s, have referred the idea of the strength of Chinese
cultural values (including traits and patterns transmitted by and to Chinese members
from South China in Southeast Asia) as “myth” as the existing studies could not
W. C. Wong
usefully explain why Chinese culture has been whittled away and how great numbers of people of Chinese descent have been totally absorbed into non-Chinese society in Southeast Asia (Freedman and Skinner 1979: 45). The question of total
assimilation and integration has therefore become an important issue to be addressed
in the studies of the Chinese in Southeast Asia, particularly after the rise of newly
established independent states in the 1940s and the 1950s.
etention of Multiple Identities of the Chinese
in Southeast Asia
The question of being Chinese and of becoming un-Chinese has represented the
core element of social scientists’ analysis concerning the Chinese identities in
Southeast Asia since the 1950s. Since the 1970s, historian Wang Gungwu has formulated an insightful and comprehensive classification to cover all types of possible
identities among the Chinese in Southeast Asia after his extensive review of the
previous publications. Table 19.2 below shows the variation of possible Chinese
identities in Southeast Asia as Wang suggests since 1988, including historical identity, Chinese nationalist identity, communal identity, national (local) identity, cultural identity, ethnic identity, and class identity.
From the above table, we can see that the key components of the multiple Chinese
identities in Southeast Asia are due to the combination of the following compelling
factors: the self-perception of the Chinese, the stereotypes of non-Chinese, the history of Chinese migration since the nineteenth century, and the ethnic Chinese relationships with the Southeast Asian states and China. I attempt to list some relevant
instances to each type of identity and to see how the concepts of multiple identities
might overlap, coexist, and sometimes conflict with each other for the aim to better
guide the position of the contemporary Chinese communities in Southeast Asia.
Firstly, being a Chinese before the World War II was tended to be oriented more
toward the strong identification with the sense of nationalism in China with the
formation of Chinese nationalist identity, i.e., Chinese overseas or huaqiao in the
colonial context as most of the Southeast Asian states were largely European
colonies. After the Southeast Asian countries attained national independence
and when China underwent changes due to the Cultural Revolution during the
1960s and the 1970s, the Chinese nationalist identity henceforth underwent change
and gradually replaced by the locally formed national (local) identity. By referring
to the idea of shared common ancestry that may involve different degrees of acculturation, national (local) identity is adopted generally by those Chinese descents
and individuals (huayi) who have come to share and adopt the indigenous Southeast
Asian languages and/or intermarried with the indigenous population (i.e., Baba and
Nyonya in Singapore and Malay Peninsula, Peranakan in Java, and Chinese mestizos in the Philippines).
19 Chinese Identities in Southeast Asia
Table 19.2 Variation of Chinese identities in Southeast Asia
Types of
No. identities
Derived from the persisting past Chinese values but is
now encapsulated in a broader and much more useful
concept of cultural identity
Dying in most countries if not actually dead
Built upon the communalist road to gain political
influence in the region. It might be diminished and
replaced by the more neutral and less aggressive concept
of ethnic identity
Common identity to the vast majority of Southeast Asian
Chinese and is an important part of almost any mix of
identities currently among them. This kind of identity
could be regarded and used as legal and official political
identity in the public
This identity may be used interchangeably with the
traditional historical identity, but it is less useful for those
who believe that racial origins are still important to
determine the idea of identity
Identity which has been used to correct cultural identity
on this point of racial origins. It is also more specific in
conveying the idea of political purpose in the fight for
legitimate minority rights and gain sympathy in the
contemporary time
Class identity Identity formed conditionally in response to the political
and social pressures (i.e., assimilation in the new state)
based on the class interests for other people. This identity
is usually across ethnic and national boundaries
Applicable to
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Malaysia and
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
and other
Source: Wang, The Study of Chinese Identities in Southeast Asia, pp. 9–10
Secondly, awareness of being a Chinese in Southeast Asia rests predominantly
upon the Chinese consciousness to preserve the culture in their everyday lives,
which mainly presents in traditional family values and identification and loyalties
on dialect group and clan origins (i.e., Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka, Teochew,
Hailam, etc.): Chinese historical identity. This historical identity has been produced
and manifested mainly among the pioneering Chinese settlers in Southeast Asia
since the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century, while the colonists and
indigenous authorities in the region had found the traditional cultural values as useful and less aggressive tool to self-regulate the Chinese to play their economic roles
successfully in the colonies. Many Chinese scholars tend to understand the Chinese
historical identity as equivalent to “unchanging Chineseness” that enabled the
Chinese descendants in Southeast Asia to sustain their traditional Chinese ancestral
values and clan origins (Kuah-Pearce and Hu-DeHart 2006; Li 1995; Liu and Zhang
2007; Zeng 2003, 2004). These studies are valuable due to the efforts the scholars
made to provide a fuller picture concerning the way how different Chinese dialect
W. C. Wong
groups and their voluntary organizations (namely, the “Chinese huiguan”) among
the different Chinese dialect groups in present Singapore and Malaysia have
remained a key component to help perpetuating the cultural sense of “Chineseness”
transcending the regional limits and geographical boundaries. However, there has
also been a major change in the content of the Chinese historical identity after the
1950s. As Wang Gungwu explains another type of identity, Chinese cultural identity
has been formed among the locally born Chinese descendants not merely to retain
the traditional family and clan values but also express their readiness to acquire
Western education and religion for the possibilities of strengthening multilingual
alliances and acculturation across societies (i.e., English-educated Chinese, Chinese
Christians, and Malay-educated Chinese).
Race frictions or ethnic inequalities are recurrent problems, if not ubiquitous
phenomena in plural societies around the globe (Van den Berghe 1981; Horowitz
1985). After the rise of independent nation-states in Southeast Asian region since
the late 1940s, ethnic conflict and antagonism appear to be widespread in Federation
of Malaya2 (covered both Malay Peninsula and Singapore). The phenomena of multiethnic population in present Singapore and Malaysia have been a substantial
byproduct of European colonial practices after segregating the local Malays from
the foreign immigrant populations both economically and geographically
(Hirschman 1986: 356). While the plural societies were formed not solely with
sharply divergent cultural traditions but also economic gains between the indigenous Malay population and the descendants of immigrants from India and China, it
shows remote possibilities to achieve interethnic alliances and assimilation among
the impenetrable ethnic communities. As a matter of fact, many of the local governments are still considering their ethnic Chinese citizens as “half” Southeast Asians
in the region. The indigenous populations may be suspicious and found it unacceptable for the Chinese to retain their Chineseness due to the widely divergent cultural
populations that may create unstable demographic balance in their nation
(Suryadinata 1997: 20). As a repercussion, the identity of ethnic Chinese in present
Malaysia is often estrange in pair or cluster with other dominant ethnic groups in the
nation, i.e., Chinese-Malays-Indians. Under this circumstance, the reinforcement of
covering both communal and ethnic identity (i.e., Malaysian Chinese Association
(MCA), The Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia (Huazong), Singapore
Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA), etc.) is therefore necessary as
an alternative to fight and protect the social and political rights under the modern
concept of “nation-state” and “citizenship” (Anderson 1991:11).
Last but not least, the class identity has been constructed and used among the
Chinese in Southeast Asia for the possibilities of transcending ethnic boundaries in
The Federation of Malaya was a federation existed between February 1, 1948, and September 16,
1963, based upon the colonial territories of British Malaya since 1786, of which included the former Straits Settlements, Federated Malay States, and the Unfederated Malay States. The Federation
of Malaya later became independent on August 31, 1957. In 1963, Malaysia was officially formed
as a sovereign nation-state with present Singapore, North Borneo, and Sarawak Crown Colonies.
Two years later, Singapore was separated from Malaysia and became a sovereign nation in 1965.
19 Chinese Identities in Southeast Asia
terms of commercial profit making. Prior to the 1950s, the conventional interpretation of the Chinese as industrial and commercially skillful population has long been
fostered in connection with the political economy and racial ideology in colonial
Malaya (Begbie 1967: 315; Andaya and Andaya 1982: 142). In some instances, the
class identity may combine and manipulate the cultural identity of either being a
“Hokkien merchant” or “Chinese educated capitalist” as a critical catalyst to ensure
one’s business opportunities and domination. Yet, the projection of this class identity has been fragmentary as it gives a distorting image that the majority of the
Chinese are wealthier than the indigenous Malay population, thereby exposing the
Chinese communities to a series of racial conflicts and political persecutions,
including the May 13 incident of Malaysia happened in 1969 and May riots of
Indonesia in 1998.
The review of the study of Chinese communities in Southeast Asia in this paper
reveals how the issues of multiple identities of the Chinese in Southeast Asia have
been shaped not solely by the migratory and colonial experiences, but the identities
may change and retain in response to the present political contexts. Wang Gungwu’s
classification for the variation of Chinese identities in Southeast Asia, as always, has
offered us empirical instances to questioning why the tendency to understand the
“Chinese” in Southeast Asia and China as culturally integrated entity is still appropriate in the future. In most occasions, the formation of these multiple identities is
advised to come to terms with Southeast Asian national sentiments, manifesting
their efforts to promote the economic, culture, and educational systems for the sake
of the Southeast Asian countries. But in some cases, the Chinese are encouraged to
exercise and highlight their communal and cultural identity as an alternative to protect their social and political rights in the plural societies. In this sense, being a
Chinese in Southeast Asia is no longer essentially a matter of self-identification
solely in terms of ancestry or primordial force. Although those who identify as
Chinese in Southeast Asia in the present time are almost without exception the legal
citizen of each Southeast Asian nation-state, we should understand the underpinning mechanism of retaining or changing different identities are adhesively bonded
with the divergent ethnic communities in modern plural societies since the colonial
The conventional China’s interpretation of Southeast Asian Chinese as “Chinese
overseas” is founded upon the supposedly primordial ties existing around the globe
among the Chinese population living outside China. In this view, it reflects a long-­
standing assumption within the majority of the Chinese immigrants that there is a
universal shared Chinese identity which spans across racial and geographical
divides. In most occasions, emphasis is usually placed on the primordial bond or
extended kinship feelings that formed only within the Chinese immigrant communities in the host countries. This conceptual interpretation offers a single explanation
W. C. Wong
that the cultural identity has been the great source of constant patriotic sentiments
that would provide unconditional mutual aid and emotional supports for the Chinese
immigrants. Meanwhile, it fails to recognize the wide-ranging and variable activities in the cultural and socioeconomic adaptation of Chinese populations in the new
nations of Southeast Asia.
The development of Chinese scheme in the Belt and Road Initiative would inevitably integrate China with Southeast Asian countries not just in its transnational
commercial activities, and the scheme would also foster their empirical knowledge
in regard to the tremendous variation and patterns of cultural system, religious
beliefs, and multiple ethnic identities across the Southeast Asian nations. In fact, a
static and constant understanding about the Chinese identity in Southeast Asia cannot serve to explain the variable social behaviors. Though discovering the Chinese
identities is by no means a single ancestry criterion to understand the Chineseness
and their roles in Southeast Asian region, it is not inappropriate to postulate that
China would also further explore the cultural and language diversity of Southeast
Asia, studying how the ethnic divisions are socially constructed, institutionalized,
and modified in the region. The knowledge would benefit both China and Southeast
Asia in the long run.
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Access, 66, 69, 114, 171, 179, 195, 196, 206,
210, 212, 282, 286, 287, 293
Acupuncture, 262, 263, 266, 267, 270
Adaptation of China, 101, 338
Africa, 7, 11, 14, 26–28, 32, 37, 62, 66, 67, 70,
96, 99, 100, 126, 133, 135–137, 141,
178, 181, 193, 211, 215, 244,
265, 283, 284
Agreements, 31, 136–139, 147, 150, 153, 159,
182, 187, 218, 222, 226, 265, 284, 288,
296, 297, 299, 301, 302, 307, 308
Air pollution, 203, 205, 218–220,
223, 225, 236
Airports, 194, 197, 205–209, 212, 215, 280
Ajitasena, 110
Alarmist vision, 300
Alexander the Great, 62, 96, 290
Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, 301
The America-led West, 39, 53, 54, 56, 57
American University of Beirut, 65, 66
Amoghavajra (705–774), 109
Ancestors, 262, 266, 267, 270
Ancient civilizations, 25
Anti-China sentiments, 85, 295, 300, 303
Arabic scripts, 123
Arab world, 53, 54, 57, 61, 89, 280
Arbitration, 149, 150, 153–155, 170
Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB),
129, 140, 218, 280, 284
Asian, 3, 35, 39, 61, 80, 95, 105, 122, 147,
167, 180, 207, 218, 264, 280, 293, 329
Authority, 55, 82, 140, 149–151, 197, 199,
201, 203, 208, 228, 239
Autocratic decision, 288
Āvataṃsaka Sūtra, 107, 108, 114, 115
© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019
Md. N. Islam (ed.), Silk Road to Belt Road,
Awakening lion, 40, 43, 44
Awareness, 20, 37, 40, 114, 142, 150, 194,
196, 201, 236, 261, 263, 273, 287,
332, 335
Ayurvedic, 269
Baba, 334
Balance, 39, 51, 163, 227, 262, 264,
311, 316, 336
Balanced business, 279
Bandung Conference, 87, 88
Bangka, 333
BEAM plus, 239, 242, 244–248, 253, 255, 256
Beck, U., 57
Beijing, 8, 9, 16, 17, 26, 29, 32, 33, 36, 69, 75,
80, 81, 84, 86, 88, 122, 133, 134, 152,
194, 197–199, 205–207, 209, 217, 265,
285, 295, 297, 300
Beirut, 63, 64
Beirut College for Women, 66
Beliefs, 99, 101, 160, 169, 172, 180, 261,
263–265, 271, 272, 288, 291, 338
Belt and Road alternative, 47
Belt and Road (B&R), 3, 34, 55, 75, 102, 128,
151, 193, 215, 236, 283, 307
Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), 3, 4, 8, 10, 12,
13, 15–21, 25–39, 46, 65, 75, 89, 142,
147–155, 193–212, 215–229, 236–238,
252, 255, 261–273, 283, 293–303, 307,
314, 315, 317, 330, 331, 338
Bilateral trading, 15, 283, 297, 308–310
Biodiversity, 207, 224
Blight, 63, 64
Bolashak, 301
Bonshakuji, 113
Bonshakuji mokuroku, 113
Borneo, 168, 329, 331, 333, 336
Brain drain, 66
British Malaya, 331, 336
Buddhism, 6, 17, 25, 33, 34, 36, 76–79, 82,
84–91, 105, 106, 111, 113–115, 123
Building Environment Assessment Systems
(BEASs), 235–255
Building Research Establishment
Environmental Assessment Method
(BREEAM), 238, 239, 241–248, 253,
255, 256
Bureaucratic complexities, 285
Byzantium, 62, 63, 70, 96
Cambodia, 77, 123, 133, 186, 193–212,
307–326, 329, 330
Capital, 6, 9, 13, 27, 32–34, 49, 55, 61–63,
65–67, 97, 99, 100, 105, 107, 109, 114,
129, 137, 167–172, 205, 227, 280, 289,
295, 296, 298, 312, 320, 332
Capitalism, 21, 39, 61, 64, 65
Carbon emissions, 218, 223–225, 227
Central Asia, 3, 5, 17, 30–32, 35, 46, 54, 77,
79, 90, 95–97, 99, 101–103, 107, 110,
129, 139, 236, 280–282, 294, 298, 301
Ceremonial relationship, 54–55
Challenges, 20, 21, 31, 39, 45, 46, 57, 70, 91,
122, 148, 152, 155, 165, 166, 169, 170,
172, 211, 216, 223–229, 279–291,
298–300, 308, 313
Chang’an, 6, 32–34, 96, 105–116
Chaos, 51, 68, 69, 169
Childbirth, 264, 267, 271
Children, 141, 151, 164, 169, 267
China, 3, 25, 39, 61, 75, 95, 105, 121, 147,
159, 175, 195, 215, 235, 262, 279, 294,
307, 329
China Chamber of International Commerce
(CCOIC), 150, 152, 153
China Council for the Promotion of
International Trade (CCPIT),
150, 152, 153
China Dream, 126
China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, 135
China Islamic Association, 82, 88
China Merchants Port Holdings Company
Limited (CMHI), 221
China Merchants Ports (CMPorts),
221, 225–227
China returning to herself, 51, 52
China’s history, 27–30, 33, 35, 38
China’s modernisation, 42, 51, 126
China’s One Belt One Road Initiative
(OBOR), 33, 175–188, 261–273,
279–291, 307, 315
China’s uniqueness, 28
Chinese, 3, 25, 39, 62, 75, 96, 105, 121, 147,
159, 175, 193, 218, 243, 261, 280, 293,
307, 329
Chinese brand, 30
Chinese communities, 131, 140, 264, 331,
334, 337
Chinese Diaspora, 170
Chinese dream, 81, 307, 315
Chinese history, 143
Chinese identities, 329–338
Chinese Language Bureau (Hanban), 136
Chinese NGOs, 135, 136
Chinese overseas, 75, 84, 329, 330,
332–334, 337
Chinese (regional) world order,
42, 52, 54, 55
Chinese settlements, 329, 332, 333
Chinese Universities Overseas Branch
Campuses, 138–139
Christianity, 17, 79, 82, 84, 85, 87, 90
Christians, 63, 77, 78, 84, 90, 91, 98,
100, 336
Civilisational mission, 49, 58
Civilisational revival and maintenance, 42
Civilisation-state, 40–42, 47–50, 54, 56
Civil society, 197, 207, 296
Class identity, 334–337
Coal, 215, 218, 224, 227
Coastal policy, 140
Collaboration, 55, 64, 111, 137, 149, 150, 153,
155, 165, 166, 169, 172, 193, 203, 238,
265, 280, 287, 297, 301, 302
Collaborative territorial spaces, 128–132,
140, 143
Collective symbolic submission, 55
Colombo, 216, 221–225, 228
Colombo Port, 216, 221, 222, 225, 228
Colonial, 45, 97, 102, 160, 330, 332–334, 336,
Colonialism, 21, 50, 67, 290
Commercial, 5, 6, 10, 26, 36, 52, 61, 100, 103,
148–155, 181–183, 188, 220, 222, 225,
237, 240, 256, 289, 330, 331,
333, 337, 338
Communal identity, 334, 335
Communitarianism, 58
Communities, 63, 84, 98–100, 121, 126, 131,
140–142, 155, 167, 170, 186, 195, 196,
206, 207, 239, 241, 242, 253–255, 331,
333, 334, 336, 337
Community of common destiny, 56
Comparative advantages, 286, 309
Competitiveness, 20, 47, 61, 141, 171, 221,
243, 286, 309, 310, 314, 317
Complementarity, 38, 151, 261, 262, 303,
308–310, 312, 313
Complex, 26, 49, 67, 82, 91, 149, 151, 167,
176, 297
Concessional loans, 134
Confinement, 264, 267, 270, 271
Conflict management, 147–155
Conflict of interest, 153
Confrontational, 48, 152, 153
Confucian ideology, 123
Confucian worldview, 41
Confucianism, 25, 42, 85, 91
Confucius classrooms, 136
Confucius Institutes, 8, 18, 76, 136–138, 175,
187, 301
Connectivity, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12–14, 21, 26–32,
34–37, 75, 121, 123, 126, 128, 129,
132–142, 162, 193, 215, 229, 236,
263, 265, 271–273, 280,
287, 288, 307–317
Constraints, 100, 228, 307–317
Construction, 14, 28, 29, 32, 34, 56, 67, 131,
147, 198, 201–203, 205–207, 209, 211,
212, 217, 220, 222, 225–227, 235–238,
240–242, 246, 248, 249, 253, 254,
279, 280, 286, 287, 296, 297,
311, 313
companies, 255, 311
projects, 28, 148, 151, 194, 198, 199, 245,
253, 314
Consumers, 5, 141, 164, 263, 290, 312, 320
Cooperation, 3, 8, 10, 12, 15–17, 19, 20, 26,
31, 50, 56, 65–70, 75, 99, 132, 136,
137, 148, 150–153, 161, 204, 236, 237,
243, 245, 252, 280, 282, 284, 287,
296–299, 301, 302, 307
Corruption, 211, 289, 300, 326
Cosmopolitanism, 57, 58, 170, 172
Cost-effectiveness, 151–153, 248
Country of Origin Image (COI), 262
Cross-border, 148–151, 153, 155, 287
Cultural basins, 121, 126, 132–143
Cultural exchanges, 10, 17, 19, 26, 29, 34, 53,
65, 76, 97, 105, 113, 136, 138, 142,
265, 272, 273, 302
Cultural inclusiveness, 148, 155
Culture, 25, 50, 61, 76, 95, 105, 122, 160, 175,
245, 261, 288, 295, 334
Dalai Lama, 86, 90
Damascus, 62, 63
Daoxuan (596–667), 106
Datang neidian lu, 106, 108
Death Penalty of China's strategic resource, 37
Deficits, 282, 289, 311, 313, 315, 316
Democratic authoritarianism, 57
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen
(DGNB), 239, 241–246, 255, 256
Developments, 7, 26, 39, 61, 89, 97, 114, 121,
147, 159, 175, 215, 236, 262, 279, 295,
307, 330
Dezong (r.779–805), 110
Dharmachandra, 110
Dialect groups, 335–336
Diet, 47, 264
Dietary practices, 263, 264
“Dirty” technology, 299
Dispute resolution advocate, 153
Diversification, 303, 310, 314
Dongge, 108
East-West shipping route, 221
Ecological civilization, 217, 235–255, 299
Economic, 4, 26, 39, 61, 75, 96, 121, 147, 159,
172, 175, 215, 236, 279, 293, 307, 330
Economic blood vessel, 36
Economic growth, 11, 13, 65, 103, 127, 133,
161, 167–169, 185, 218, 221, 253, 254,
279, 283, 287, 290, 291, 294, 299, 307,
313, 316
Economic integration, 148, 155, 159, 172,
193, 285–287, 295
Economic performance, 307, 313, 316, 322
Economies of scale, 309
Education, 9, 17–19, 66, 121, 133, 136–139,
141, 163, 164, 167, 168, 172, 175, 177,
181, 186, 188, 194, 206, 240, 254, 256,
263, 265, 273, 288, 301, 303, 336
Efficiency, 151, 162, 217, 219, 221, 226, 247,
248, 309, 315, 317
EIA report, 201, 203, 206, 210–212
Eichū (743–816), 113
Emerging economies, 8, 9
Emigrant villages and hometowns, 128
Emperor Kanmu (r. 781–806), 113
Emperor Saga (r. 809–823), 114
Emperors Wen and Yang of Sui, 30
Emperor Wu of Han, 27, 29, 33–35, 96
Empowerment, 151
Enforceability, 153
Enforcement, 150, 208, 211, 212, 227, 317
Enterprises, 31, 48, 55, 81, 171, 238, 297, 299,
302, 311, 315, 316
Environment, 4, 100, 162, 176, 195, 218, 235,
236, 262, 288, 300, 314
Environmental assessment, 201, 202, 238,
239, 245, 299
Environmental commitment, 217
Environmental degradation, 194, 216, 235
Environmental framework, 20, 129, 194, 195,
203, 205, 211, 212, 218, 252
Environmental impact assessment (EIA),
193, 195–205, 209, 211, 228
Environmental impacts, 14, 194–196,
198, 202, 205–208, 223, 227,
228, 236, 238
Environmental protection, 154, 197, 198, 201,
203–205, 217, 228, 237
Epistemic hegemony, 39, 40, 53, 57
Ethnicity, 168, 263, 273
Ethnokinship, 271–273
Eurasian continent, 293
Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), 295, 296,
298, 303
Europe, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 26, 27, 30–32, 39, 45,
46, 53, 61–64, 66, 68, 96, 97, 99–101,
126, 129, 136–138, 166, 168, 175, 185,
193, 215, 225, 236, 264, 265, 281, 284,
European Union (EU), 11, 150, 155, 166, 308,
Everything But Arms, 314
Exchanges, 4, 26, 53, 75, 95, 105, 136, 147,
236, 265, 300, 307
Exclusionary practices, 53
Expansionist, 39, 46, 133, 142
Experiences, 14, 21, 25, 40, 50, 51, 63, 67, 84,
86, 89, 111, 151, 152, 155, 159–173,
176, 177, 183, 186, 193–212, 237, 262,
266, 269, 270, 272, 300, 331, 337
Experts, 64, 121, 153, 154, 197, 199, 200, 202,
207, 209, 211, 219, 284, 294, 295, 298,
299, 302, 303
Exports, 8, 9, 12, 43, 50, 282, 285, 290, 294,
299, 302, 309, 311–319, 321, 326
External policies, 307
Factor endowment difference, 310
Factor endowments, 309, 310
Fairbank, J., 39, 48, 49
Family, 41, 48, 64, 66, 99, 134, 148, 150, 151,
167, 171, 172, 183, 184, 186, 187, 208,
262, 264, 267, 269, 270, 273,
332, 335, 336
Fa Xian, 84, 86
Flows, 61, 121, 122, 131, 133, 140, 143, 162,
164, 171, 265, 270, 272, 283, 287, 297,
299, 300, 309–313, 315, 324, 326
Foreign aids, 132–135, 140
Foreign direct investment (FDI), 131, 283,
284, 294, 307, 313, 314, 316
Form of connecting, 28
Frameworks, 17, 18, 20, 39, 41, 48, 53, 82, 83,
129, 132, 133, 142, 147, 165, 167, 177,
180, 194–196, 203, 205, 208–212,
216, 218, 227, 252, 288, 297,
302, 310
France, 30, 62, 137
Francois I, 62
French Indochina, 331
Garment factories, 311
GB/T 50378, 239, 243–245, 248,
253, 255, 256
Genbō (d.746), 113
Generalized system of preferences (GSP), 314
Generations, 26, 27, 30, 64, 67, 106, 115, 126,
162, 171, 224, 225, 262, 270, 273,
301, 332, 333
Geopolitical, 16, 97, 102, 122, 128, 283,
Gift cycle, 55, 56
Goal-attainment, 41
Global East, 122, 126, 128, 129, 132
Global environmental standards, 229
Global Innovation Exchange (GIX)
programme, 139
Globalization, 8, 12, 37, 66, 68–70, 175,
280, 290
Global rebalancing, 53, 54
Global West, 122, 129, 132
Goods, 3, 5, 6, 8, 12, 15, 17, 27, 55, 56, 61,
95, 97, 101, 132, 206, 225, 286, 287,
290, 293–295, 297, 299, 300, 309,
312–314, 316, 320, 321
Governances, 10, 98, 227, 248, 250, 251
Government-Organized Non-Governmental
Organization (GONGO), 135
Governments, 9, 10, 15, 18, 30, 34, 39, 51, 55,
75, 76, 79, 81, 84, 85, 88–90, 96, 98,
112, 127, 128, 133, 135–137, 142, 147,
155, 159, 161–163, 167–170, 172,
181–183, 185, 186, 194, 196, 197, 199,
201–203, 206, 209, 212, 221, 239, 242,
280, 284, 287, 289, 296, 299, 301, 302,
309, 313, 317, 324, 326, 330,
332, 333, 336
Grand Canal system, 27, 28, 30
Great construction projects, 28
Great Wall, 28, 29, 33–36
Greece, 61, 290
Green building, 220, 235–255
Green growth, 218
Green policy, 216, 227
Guidelines, 194, 202, 204, 205, 210,
219, 223, 227
Haji diplomacy, 88, 90
Hakka, 333, 335
Halal, 263
Hambantota, 221–229
Hambantota port, 216, 221–223, 225–229
Heckscher-Ohlin (H-O) model, 309, 310
Hegemonic framing, 57
Herbalism, 266, 270
Historic connectivity, 26–30
Hobsbawn and Ranger, 121, 128
Hokkien, 333, 335, 337
Holistic, 148, 152–155, 279–291
Hong Kong, 16, 35, 58, 76, 150,
159–160, 238, 264, 290,
297, 311
Hong Kong SAR, 238, 239, 241, 242, 244,
248, 253, 255
Hot and cold foods, 264, 267
Huaqiao, 330, 332, 334
Huaren, 330, 333
Huilin (737–820), 111
Humanitarian aids, 8, 67, 132–136, 140
Human’s wills, 27
Humoral theory, 264
Identities, 27, 84, 91, 98, 160, 169, 179, 263,
288, 329–338
Imagining China, 39–58
Impacts, 4, 14, 21, 43, 64, 65, 69, 79, 95, 99,
101–103, 112, 113, 115, 121, 140–142,
150, 177, 181, 194–198, 200, 202–207,
209, 211, 212, 215, 217, 218, 223, 224,
226–229, 236, 238, 245, 253, 285, 286,
302, 307, 315, 326
Implementation, 30, 32, 34, 82, 83, 149, 168,
193, 198–204, 208, 211, 212, 218, 227,
228, 236–238, 243, 248, 252, 256, 265,
272, 290, 295, 296, 299–303
Imports, 31, 114, 290, 308–316, 318–322
Increasing return to scale (IRS), 309, 310
Indian, 5–8, 10, 35, 86, 91, 96, 100, 101,
106–110, 115, 135, 139, 167, 16