The white paper titled “The Belt and Road Initiative: A Key Pillar of the Global Community of Shared Future” released by China’s State Council Information Office on Oct. 10 Photo: CFP
Over the past decade, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has become a highly acclaimed platform for international cooperation, while research on the BRI gains momentum and widespread attention. As such, it has become imperative to consider the development of an independent knowledge system specific to the initiative.
Kalyan Raj Sharma, chairman of the Nepal China Friendship Forum; Norbert Molina Medina, a professor from the Center of African and Asian Studies at the University of Los Andes in Venezuela; and Wang Yiwei, deputy director of the Academy of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era at Renmin University of China (RUC), who is also a Jean Monnet Chair Professor at RUC, recently accepted interviews from CSST and shed light on issues concerning the BRI knowledge system.
Involving multiple disciplines
In Sharma’s opinion, the BRI knowledge system represents a vast area of study which includes many sub-branches of research and involves such disciplines as economics, sociology, and ecology.
As Sharma expounded, first, the BRI is a massive economic development initiative that is expected to have a significant impact on the global economy. Economists can help to analyze the economic costs and benefits of the BRI, as well as its impact on trade, investment, and development.
Second, the BRI is a huge social project that has the potential to impact the lives of millions of peoples around the globe. Sociologists can help to understand the social impacts of the BRI, such as its impact on migration culture, inequality, and social relations, Sharma said.
Third, the BRI is a major infrastructure project that will have a significant impact on the concept of green development. Ecologists can help to assess the environmental impacts of the BRI, such as its impact on deforestation, pollution, and climate change, he added.
Medina discussed the cultural studies involved in the BRI knowledge system. With the BRI project, researchers have been reflecting from different perspectives on history, economics, sociology, and cultural studies, thus drawing inferences regarding the magnitude of this project and its impact on a global scale. This has also led to the creation of significant numbers of documentaries, films, and printed or electronic works, or the celebration of various festivals and international events that have had a positive impact on the global understanding of China.
“After a decade of the BRI, I believe that the balance in cultural matters is very valuable, because in addition to China, we have also been able to get to know the other countries and cultures that are now part of the initiative. This is an aspect that cannot be underestimated or put in the background,” Medina said.
Comprehensive, unified system
When it comes to the independent knowledge system of the BRI, Wang pointed out that in the current era, as both China and the world undergo changes, the dynamics of their interaction are also evolving.
This means that the BRI itself also faces changes, Wang continued. In the case of multiple variables, whether BRI research can propose a comprehensive independent knowledge system would be a key issue that relates to “academic sovereignty.”
“Western civilization, derived from Greek and Hebrew civilizations, tends to focus on individualistic rationality and binary opposition. As Socrates said, ‘Know thyself.’ In contrast, Chinese civilization emphasizes collectivism and a harmonious culture,” Wang said.
In this sense, the BRI should extend beyond the simple mentality of subject division and knowledge classification, Wang said, adding that the ultimate aim is to form a comprehensive and unified independent knowledge system of its own.
“We should not rely on Western theories of geopolitics and neoliberalism to understand the BRI and its research,” Sharma suggested. “These theories are based on the experiences of Western countries and may not be fully applicable to the BRI, which is a complex and multifaceted project with its own unique goals and challenges.”
“It is important to remember that the BRI is all about multilateral cooperation and connectivity. It is not a political or economic tool for China to dominate its neighbors,” Sharma noted.
The BRI knowledge system embodies profound cultural elements, and aims to spread the principles of peace, inclusivity, diversity, respect, tolerance, harmony, and common development to the rest of the world, Medina said. Replacing conflict with understanding, cultural exchanges, and mutual learning has always been the core of the BRI knowledge system, which originated in China and belongs to the world.
A “symphony of civilizations,” written and played by all, it will encourage people from different cultural backgrounds to better know each other with understanding and trust, Medina concluded.