US expert on Belt & Road initiative

Added On November 5, 2016

The Belt and Road initiative, proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, has brought together over 100 countries and international organizations in Asia, Europe and Africa, via land and maritime networks.
In a recent exclusive interview, CNC Correspondent Jiang Zaiyi sits down with Patrick Mendis, an American expert on China. He talks about how the initiatives will transform the world and how to deal with the challenges brought by them. 
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) PATRICK MENDIS, Senior Fellow of Kennedy School in Harvard University
"I think it's going to be a transformative strategy that will not only change China but also those countries along. The Belt and Road initiatives are going to have positive, and possibly negative challenges coming along the way. But it is natural to have this kind of massive development project taking the lead by the Chinese government. It also has broader international approach especially through the Asian Infrastructure Investment bank (AIIB)."
The belt and road initiative refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
It aims at building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes.
Professor Mendis said the initiative will boost cooperation between China and the countries along the routes by strengthening people to people and cultural exchanges.
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) PATRICK MENDIS, Senior Fellow of Kennedy School in Harvard University
"And when I was in Shandong University a few days ago, foreign students from these countries are already studying in Chinese universities. They have brought intercultural benefits, brought Chinese people's likes to their culture and vice versa. 
In the cultural sector, the Chinese culture through the Confucius Institute will have positive impact on those countries. They will learn Chinese culture, Chinese history and how this strategy is going to impact their lives because these are the young generation who are in Chinese universities. And more and more Chinese students are going to other countries as well."
Professor Mendis also noted that there are a number of challenges and risks facing China and other countries along the routes while implementing the initiative.
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) PATRICK MENDIS, Senior Fellow of Kennedy School in Harvard University
"How we are going to manage and how we are going to promote as the project is going on. This is one part. The second part is education element. You need to keep these policy makers and these countries' leaders to be educated. These are challenges you are going to have, and you cannot hide them because they're in front of you. So you need to talk about it in front of everybody: This is the problem. How can we benefit from this?"
In order to better cope with the problems, Professor Mendis said the main thing is to build trust among those countries.
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) PATRICK MENDIS, Senior Fellow of Kennedy School in Harvard University
"I think the main thing is to build trust. Mutual trust between both Chinese people and workers and engineers, policy makers and also the military who are working and protecting the security of these people. This is also the case in Sudan or African countries. You need to provide the protection for these Chinese workers… I think there are three elements you need to develop trust. One is to, just like Chinese people need to know Chinese culture, where are the initiatives coming from. This is the best of China. That's why President Xi wants to rejuvenize the system and the Asian culture. Not only you need to know your own culture, when you go to other cultures, you need to know their cultures. And the second element is you need to know their history. What's kind of the historic incidents we have. For example, Sri Lanka and China. They have very good relationship because of the Buddhism. The third element is you need to know the current situation. The politics changes. Just like Myanmar, the new democratic Aung San Suu Kyi is now the leader. And China needs to work with her. China's rapidly changing also. You have economic reforms going on, legal reforms going on and more issues going on. Those changes bring in the young people to the leadership of Chinese universities and Chinese think-tanks and Chinese government. So you need to look at the new generation of the Chinese people and current situation."
As China is pushing ahead with the Belt and Road initiative, negotiations for the US-led Trans-Pacific Parternership, or TPP agreement, concluded earlier this year. Professor Mendis gave his opinions on how to compare the two.
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) PATRICK MENDIS, Senior Fellow of Kennedy School in Harvard University
"Everything is driven under philosophical level and in a practical sense. These two initiatives are commerce driven. And when you bind people through the trade, we can have a better life for each other. It's mutually beneficial relationship. There is evidence to support that through Chinese history this kind of strategy is best for China."
Talking about the China-US ties, Professor Mendis said he believed the relationship will remain strong.
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) PATRICK MENDIS, Senior Fellow of Kennedy School in Harvard University
"I think fundamentally our relationship between China and the U.S. is going to continue. Because beyond politics and rhetoric which you see in the campaign probably will change when they govern. When you come to govern, you need to look at everything rationally and logically and reason what is the best for America. So if you look at Sino-US relationship, it' s very intertwined between the two countries. Large economies, and trade relationship, and investment and people-to-people exchanges. The question is how can these two leaders of China and the US try to look to the future by looking backward in our own history. If you want to have a great future for both countries, we need to look at the back, these two countries'  histories and their interconnections. I think it is mutually beneficial and a win-win situation for both countries."