Monday, 25 May 2015

The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road: An Indonesian Perspective

On 22 May 2015, the Embassy of Indonesia in Beijing was invited to participate in One Belt One Road: New Silk Road, New Starting Point for Cooperation and Exchange Seminar, which took place in Xi'an.  
The seminar was organized by the Municipal Governments of Xi'an and Quanzhou, which are the starting points of the Modern Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, respectively.  
The following is the speech that I presented in front of around 400 participants of the seminar, including local and national media people.

Ladies and gentlemen,
First and foremost, I would like to extend my sincerest appreciation to the Governments of Quanzhou Municipality, and Xi'an Municipality, for kindly inviting the Embassy of Indonesia to participate in this important conference.
Indeed, the invitation extended to our Embassy is a reflection of the high regard given by Chinese Government towards Indonesia, as an important player in efforts to concretely develop the One Belt, One Road initiative. 
Freshly following the visits of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Indonesia and Kazakhstan last month, I sincerely believe that the organizing of this conference is timely. The hope is that we will have frank and fruitful discussions on the values and challenges of the One Belt One Road initiative.
Since the introduction of the One Belt, One Road initiative in 2013, the Chinese Government has vigorously promoted this initiative in bilateral and multilateral forums.  China is also leading efforts to develop supporting institutions and mechanisms, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). 
Indeed, China is not only talking the talk, but also walking the walk.
Like many countries in the Asia-Pacific, Indonesia welcomes the One Belt One Road initiative as a contributing step towards building a more connected, more prosperous, and more peaceful region.  As one of the countries along the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, Indonesia recognizes that efforts to strengthen connectivity could directly lead to greater economic prosperity across the region.  
Such a shared interest in developing maritime connectivity can be traced to historical accounts linking Indonesia and China.  We all know of the seven voyages of Admiral Zheng He.  On each of his voyages to the Western Seas, Zheng He and his men spent time in Indonesia, to learn local traditions and introduce the locals to Chinese culture.  Stories of these friendly exchanges are very popular in Indonesia.
Today, as a country made up of over 17 thousand islands, Indonesia knows too well the importance of better maritime connectivity.  While Indonesia may be located strategically between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, without strong connectivity, it would be challenging for us to maximize on our geographic advantage.
We recognize that connectivity provides a basis for better flows of goods, people and services. This would spur business activities stemming from easy access and the development of regional production networks.  Better connectivity will bring products and services closer to consumers. Our aim should be to rid the Asia-Pacific of high-cost economy, and make the region more competitive and cohesive. 
Connectivity will also improve balanced growth and narrow the development gaps existing among countries in the Asia-Pacific.  It will spur more intensive investment cooperation, especially in infrastructure development, thus fostering sustainable and long-term growth.  Therefore, the One Belt One Road initiative must evolve along a win-win path, for both developed and developing countries. 
Ladies and gentlemen,
President Xi Jinping's state visit to Indonesia in October 2013 marked a new chapter in Indonesia-China relations, as our bilateral cooperation was elevated from "strategic partnership" to "comprehensive strategic partnership".  Moreover, it was during the visit to Jakarta that the idea of a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road was first introduced to the region.
In November 2014, it was Indonesian President Joko Widodo's turn to further elevate bilateral relations, as China became his first destination abroad since assuming the Indonesian leadership.  President Widodo is committed to deepening and widening bilateral cooperation in various fields, such as infrastructure, connectivity, as well as energy and food security. 
Moreover, President Widodo believes that China's 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is complementary to his vision of Indonesia as a "global maritime fulcrum".  What we want are: improved physical connectivity, better institutional connectivity, and stronger people-to-people connectivity.  With commitment, hard work, and close partnerships with neighboring countries, this is all within our reach. 
China is the biggest economy in Asia, and Indonesia the largest in Southeast Asia.  Together, our two countries should promote togetherness to convert our bilateral ties into a more solid cooperation that benefits not only our two peoples, but also the region as a whole. 
The One Belt One Road initiative could provide a platform for strengthening Indonesia’s maritime infrastructure and transportation. It could stimulate sectors such as ship building, power plants and seaports.  Indonesia could also take advantage of the trade routes opened by China to export its products to areas previously difficult to reach, such as Central Asia and Eastern Europe.
Indeed, greater infrastructure investments would benefit Indonesia, as it accelerates the development of the country's internal and external connectivity.  Maritime connectivity also opens opportunities for China to be part of efforts in realizing Indonesia's economic potentials. 
At the same time, because of Indonesia's geographical position and sheer size, these trends would contribute positively towards stronger connectivity in the Asia-Pacific as a whole.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Trade along the ancient Silk Road and maritime silk route was a significant factor in the development of many civilizations in the region. It opened up China and all the countries along the silk routes, to political and economic interactions, cultural exchanges, and people-to-people connections.
Against this backdrop, it is understandable that many countries have welcomed China's One Belt One Road initiative.  And it is understandable that efforts to implement the initiative has led to the prominent rise of certain Chinese cities, such as Quanzhou and Xi'an.
As a rising power, China’s economic development will continue to bring opportunities to its neighbors. Therefore, its attempts to develop new cooperative mechanisms are commendable. 
At the same time, China must be willing to listen to the rest of the region, especially in maintaining China's image as a friendly neighbor among the Asia-Pacific countries.  Cooperation can only be nurtured within a stable and peaceful environment.
The concept of a modern silk road belt and maritime silk road should not only be symbolic in nature, but also concrete in its implementation. The hope is that our efforts would contribute positively towards further fostering a sense of community, a shared identity, and an integration of interests in the Asia-Pacific.
In this Asian Century, it is in our hands to determine the fate of our peoples and our region as a whole. 
Thank you.