Full Text of Klaus Schwab’s Speech on the Belt and Road Forum

Distinguished Heads of State and Government

Esteemed Ministers, 

Fellow Heads of International Organizations…

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

What great progress has been made since President Xi Jinping addressed the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year. In his speech, which was considered by many participants to be a historical milestone, President Xi highlighted the importance of continued and increased global cooperation, as the best, if not the only way, to create a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable future. This One Belt One Road Initiative fully embodies this concept, and serves as a shining model for regional collaboration, development and growth.

In the coming days, I am sure that many commentators will reflect on the historical significance of the trade and exchange routes across Central Asia: their rise and fall over the last two-and-a-half thousand years as geo-economic power shifted with the changing fortunes of people and empires. And now we are opening a promising new chapter of historic development under the theme “Boosting Cooperation and Realizing Win-Win Development”.

That is why I am so enthusiastic about the One Belt One Road Initiative. It takes a long-term and holistic view, and makes a unique contribution to international cooperation and economic development in five important and innovative ways:

1. This One Belt One Road Initiative is based on the stakeholder approach. 
It fosters multilateral cooperation between nations, but it also requires the engagement of business. Here, I believe that the best way to develop a sustainable future is through the stakeholder concept, which I developed more than 40 years ago, and which is the basis of the World Economic Forum, the International Institution for Public-Private Cooperation. The basic principle for the success of the stakeholder concept is to find long-term solutions based on dialogue, and endorsed by the commitment and willingness to achieve the best outcome in the shared, long-term interest of all stakeholders.

2. This initiative seeks to leverage market forces in best ways. 
Market-driven globalization has lifted more than a billion people out of poverty and has been a significant driver in improving living standards around the world, but we all recognize that a purely market-driven global economy creates its own systemic challenges such as a lack of inclusion and risk-resilience. New models of collaboration are needed that respect our multipolar world of overlapping national, regional and global identities, as well as priorities, while striving – as President Xi put it in Davos – to “adapt and guide economic globalization, cushion its negative impact and deliver its benefits to all countries and nations.”

3. This initiative prepares best for the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
We must be conscious that the most significant and promising, but potentially disruptive context the world is facing is the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” – the transformative forces brought about by the fusion of technologies that are blurring the distinctions between the digital, physical and biological worlds.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution will completely alter how we produce, how we consume, how we communicate and how we live. It will redefine the relationship between citizens and the state. It will provide us with great opportunities for enhancing the lives of individuals and societies. It will allow, if we get it right, a much more human-centred approach, fostering not only material satisfaction, but also genuine individual and societal well-being for all.

That is why, next month, we are convening the 11th Annual Meeting of the New Champions under the theme of “Achieving Inclusive Growth in the Fourth Industrial Revolution”. Our hope is to foster collaboration towards this goal among the nearly 2,000 business leaders, policy-makers and experts who will join us from 27 to 29 June in Dalian, China. In the face of transformative change, a global summit on innovation, entrepreneurship, science and technology has never been so important to help prepare all stakeholders for the future.

4. This initiative is built on the open platform concept. 
“Open platforms” are one of the defining features of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – and we are seeing many new business models that are both digital and physical platforms: leveraging and sharing assets, capital and labour in new and unique ways. China has many examples of disruptive but enormously successful platform companies: Alibaba, Didi and Tencent, just to name a few. These experiences can be shared and will help to boost others.

We know these platform economy models are catalysing much more dynamic growth through their synergistic effects compared to traditional models. 

I would argue that the One Belt One Road Initiative is a pioneering, international framework based on this new platform concept. Under this concept, a platform does not need a leader; it needs a curator who acts as a catalyst and coordinator for ensuring win-win outcomes. China has assumed this role as a stakeholder with special responsibility.

By design, this initiative is an inclusive “platform” that covers all the area of the ancient overland and maritime Silk Routes, involving not only the countries connected by those routes, but also the international and regional organizations that wish to engage in mutual cooperation. This initiative respects the differences between countries and their various paths for development, not imposing a specific plan or ideological framework, but seeking to create common ground for cooperation and mutual benefit.

We are therefore fully committed to supporting One Belt One Road to succeed by integrating this initiative into the World Economic Forum’s strategies. First, we offer to help to act as we do in all major regions of this world as a catalyst for integration and development of the One Belt One Road Initiative. Second, at our Annual Meeting in Davos we will discuss how to further strengthen cooperation and support the initiative’s future. We will work hard to integrate China even more into our global systems and the work of our new Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. To this end, this week, we have signed a further collaboration with the NDRC to leverage the World Economic Forum’s platform for Belt and Road in the best possible ways.

5. This initiative is the positive narrative the world needs. 
Since the One Belt One Road Initiative was launched in 2013, the world economy has come under increasing downward pressure. Traditional frameworks of regional peace and cooperation are being torn apart by nationalist forces who blame various externalities, such as “refugees”, “terrorists” or even “the global elite” for their citizens’ feelings of being ignored, left out or left behind. 

The One Belt One Road Initiative can be a model for other regions to follow in order to deal with such challenges. Strong regional cooperation is a major building block for successful global cooperation. In a world that is becoming more multipolar, more interconnected, more driven by fast and often disruptive change, we have to combine global responsibility with regional, national and local roots; and to strive for global harmony in regional diversity.

All of this is an important context for the One Belt One Road Initiative, and why it is so important for the global economy that the discussions here are substantive and implementable. The countries encompassed by the Belt and Road account for nearly two-thirds (2/3) of the world’s population and at least one-third (1/3) of global GDP. Unlocking new sources of value along the trade route and – more importantly, finding the way to share this value with everyone – is the most important responsibility of the leaders gathered here. The One Belt One Road Initiative should be the locomotive of a global, economic train – moving into a more prosperous, more inclusive future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

Please let me close with a few thoughts and aspirations for the coming days’ work.

We know that innovation holds the key to unlocking new growth models. As President Xi reminded us in Davos, the “G20 leaders reached an important consensus at the 2016 Hangzhou Summit, which (was) to take innovation as a key driver and (…) new driving force of growth for both individual countries and the global economy.”

Already since the launch of this initiative, we have seen increasing support of the initiative from government, business and other stakeholders of the society within and beyond the Belt and Road region. Moreover, great progress has been made, for example:

· Improving the connectivity: 
Solid progress has been made in some flagship projects, such as Indonesian High Speed Rail between Jakarta and Bandung; Rail between Budapest, Hungary and Belgrade, Serbia; Rail between Kunming, China and Vientiane, Laos along with ongoing collaboration in building and developing ports and infrastructure. 

· Strengthening the human connection and exchange: 
More than half of the international students studying in China come from the Belt and Road countries. The collaboration at the grassroots level has also shown promise and progress.

Let us take advantage of this opportunity to develop a One Belt One Road that embraces the full potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Let us think not only of the physical connectivity that infrastructure will bring, but also about cyber-physical connectivity: how to bring “Internet for All” as well as building the arteries for trade and exchange; how to leverage new technologies to facilitate the flow of goods with big data, smart tagging, artificial intelligence and predictive networks. 

Connectivity is not just road and rail; it is pipelines and digital fibre highways; it is the ongoing financial flows to sustain and maintain them. We know that increasing internet bandwidth increases local GDP growth, but if goods ordered on-line cannot be delivered due to poor roads, then we cannot achieve the full potential of such investments. Connectivity is the new meta-pattern of our era and a key driver of our future economy.

I understand that there is a Chinese saying:

Yāo Xiǎng Fù Xiān Xiū Lù” / “If you want to get rich, build a road.” 

I would update this to say: “If you seek prosperity, build connectivity.” 

Let’s make this initiative a core element of the vision outlined by President Xi on 17th January in Davos: the vision of an integrated, open and collaborative world.

From: World Economic Forum 

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