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Enhancing people-to-people connectivity via our youth generation

Editor: Qian Ding 丨CCTV.com

02-13-2017 15:15 BJT

Editor’s foreword: CCTV.com has invited foreign experts, business people and students to submit articles or short videos on China's Belt & Road Initiative (B&R), to share opinions on B&R or stories with China. We are featuring a special series on the topic for our readers.

By Seah Wen Yan Jaslyn, Singapore, final-year undergraduate student at School of International Studies, Peking University

Proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, the Belt & Road initiative (B&R) has become the centerpiece of the nation’s economic diplomacy. Beyond physical connections, it aims to boost connectivity across countries in five core areas: policy coordination, infrastructure, trade, finance integration and people-to-people ties.

Major projects have been implemented in a multitude of sectors to build stronger linkages among countries. Nonetheless, emerging doubts towards Beijing’s intentions have highlighted the necessity of public diplomacy for the initiative.

Establishing people-to-people bonds could be one of the most challenging but essential tasks for the B&R, which has been welcomed by many countries since it offers a plethora of enticing opportunities for mutual gains. Nevertheless, establishing robust people-to-people ties does not appear to be a straightforward task.

The B&R initiative encompasses 65 countries running across 3 continents, each with its own political system, culture, ideology and socio-economic status. Such diversity makes countries prone to misunderstandings and conflicts.

People-to-people interactions at all levels of society could promote mutual understanding among nations. Youths, as leaders of tomorrow, can enhance people-to-people connectivity among nations.

The advance of globalization has resulted in waves of students moving across the globe in pursuit of higher education. More Chinese students are seeking overseas studies, with 523,700 Chinese students studying abroad in 2015, according to the Chinese Ministry of Education.

Meanwhile, China’s magnetism as a studying destination has also surged, luring 397,635 international students to the country in 2015, offering amazing opportunities for Beijing to engage the youths and to foster deeper understanding between China and other countries in the B&R.

Last semester as an international student studying in Peking University, I joined a study trip organized by China’s State Council Information Office to Xingtai City in Hebei Province to learn more about the nation’s poverty alleviation efforts.

The writer was in the "China in Foreigners

The writer was in the "China in Foreigners' Eyes, Targeted Poverty Alleviation in Xingtai Hebei Activities" project photo by Xie Weijian

We visited national-level poverty stricken counties - Nanhe and Lincheng Counties - and learned about poverty alleviation models that focused on boosting agricultural production, tourism, livestock farming and local enterprises.

The writer was in the "China in Foreigners

project photo by Xie Weijian

The trip was an eye-opener allowing me to gain a first-hand understanding of China’s progress and challenges in poverty reduction efforts. Beijing should provide international students with a more objective picture of the country’s culture and national development.
With a rising number of foreign students studying in Chinese institutions, local Chinese students and international students have enjoyed greater opportunities to engage in cross-cultural communication that enhance their knowledge of different cultures. Yet, a general lack of interactions between local and international students still persists today.

In order to foster deeper mutual understanding among youths of different nationalities, more can be done to promote platforms for youth exchanges under the B&R initiative. Instead of adopting a top-down implementation approach, more resources can be put aside to support youth-initiated platforms and activities, which promote people-to-people exchanges in the B&R.

Through friendships forged, youths can capture insights into different paths of development taken by China and other countries, as well as each country's unique foreign policy, culture, and way of life.

Self-initiated activities give youths a chance to take greater ownership, so they can appreciate the B&R’s significance.  

A successful B&R initiative should not only physically connect countries, but connect people. While much as been discussed about the potential benefits on a national level, strong people-to-people bonds provide a pillar of public support for its smooth implementation.
The strengthening of people-to-people connectivity via youths can ensure strong success of B&R in the long run. 

(The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com)

Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

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