BEIJING, May 17, 2017 -- The two-day Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation has just concluded, with some 1,500 guests from over 130 countries attending, among them Dr. Robert Lawrence Kuhn, a prolific U.S. expert on China issues.
Kuhn, who has written and edited more than 25 books and is a much sought-after commentator on China, had some compelling things to say about the Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes.
The forum was the fourth event on the Belt and Road Initiative Kuhn attended, and he has been following the initiative's progress closely since it was first proposed in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping. He sat down with Xinhua on the sidelines of the forum to speak about this historic event.
Kuhn called Xi's keynote speech at the opening of the forum on Sunday "a grand vision for the Belt and Road."
"This is a change of the Belt and Road from theory and preliminary ideas, from a blueprint to a roadmap, from ideas on paper to projects on the ground," he said, adding that Xi put the initiative in its historical context of East meets West on the Silk Road and showed how much the world needed the Belt and Road Initiative to combat poverty and extreme inequalities that breed instability.
However, Kuhn stressed that the Belt and Road Initiative was not charity by any means. "It is not foreign aid, which is good at times, but it is often not sustainable," he said.
"The Belt and Road starts at the foundation, and builds infrastructure, so it enables the host countries, the developing countries, some very poor countries, to be able to develop their own economies ... You can't develop an economy without a foundation of infrastructure," he said.