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“Belt & Road” initiative boosts outbound economy of Ningbo
2019-08-04Text Size: A A A

Recently, the “2019 domestic and foreign scholar exchange activity on the Silk Road”, sponsored by the Office of the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission, and hosted by China Daily, the Office of Zhejiang Cyberspace Affairs Commission, the Office of Jiangsu Cyberspace Affairs Commission and the Office of Gansu Cyberspace Affairs Commission, started its tour to Ningbo for a field inspection of the innovative achievements of Ningbo, a major city along the Silk Road Economic Belt.

A city boosted by marine elements

Since early in the history, Ningbo, a typical coastal city inSoutheast China, has been a good example of the integration of various cultures and the prosperity of outbound economy.

Ningbocommercial group

When looking back at the history, one can find that the great labor practice of the ancientNingbopeople has passed down some precious spiritual heritage to the later generations: self-reliance and boldness to blaze new trails. Despite the limited popularity capacity of land resources, the hardworking and intelligent local people have neither complained and trusted to luck nor fought for land use. Instead, they have looked far and started maritime trade: shipping such Chinese specialties as silk, tea, china, sugar and rice paper to the outside world via sea, and importing such foreign products as spices, herbs and jewelry intoChina.

In addition to going out to do business with foreign countries, theNingbomerchants have also become a trade port for greeting foreign merchants.Ningbowas called as “Mingzhou” in the ancient time, and has been an important port in theEast Chinaarea since the Tang and Song Dynasties. Ibn Khordadhbah, a prominent Arabian geographer in the 9th century, wrote in his work that there were four major trade ports inChinain his time, including Jiaozhou,Guangzhou, Quanzhou andYangzhou. Later, the biggest trade ports becameGuangzhou, Quanzhou and Mingzhou (Ningbo). The in early Northern Song Dynasty, among the three ports,Guangzhouwas the most prosperous, Mingzhou ranked No.2, and Quanzhou, No.3. 

A harmonious trade community

Besides the hard work and intelligence, the second secret of the success of theNingbocommercial group is its inclusiveness. TheJiangsuandZhejiangarea is by no means the only place in the world to have such a prosperous port trade, however, not many places can be so harmonious and open asNingbois.

The Venice merchants are famous for being good at doing business, but the exhibits in the St Mark Basilica are the rare treasures grabbed from Constantinople. The Italians had their own business districts in the ports along the Mediterranean coast, but there have long been economic disputes, political confrontations and religious conflicts with the locals. As for their image in the eyes of the world, it is fixed by “The Merchant of Venice” by Shakespeare. It is quite another picture in the ports ofZhejiangProvinceand other parts ofChina: regardless of skin color, religious beliefs and ethnic cultures, people can pull together harmoniously to create wealth and share their lives. With the basic concept of “being harmoniously different” and the general value of “Don't do to others what you don't want others to do to you”, the Chinese people are joining hands with people from other countries to promote the peace and prosperity of the local area and even the whole East Asian and Southeast Asian area. With thousands of years of labor practice and mutually beneficial and win-win cooperation, people of all ethnic groups have gathered in the Jiangsu and Zhejiang area to establish close relationships, even form blood times on the basis of ethnic integration, and eventually form a “community” for the same purpose.

From this point of view, the issue of "building a community of shared future inEast Asia" advocated by President Xi Jinping on various occasions in recent years has its origin and basis. Historical facts have proven that the "community" itself is a plant rooted in the deep historical soil and constantly absorbing nutrients from the times. As long as the plant is carefully cultivated, it will grow up steadily, with its blooming branches sheltering the later generations and its abundant fruits benefiting the neighbors.

Of course, while amazed by the ancient people’s wisdom and virtues, one cannot neglect the dark side of the history, which may be more worth reflecting.

During the thousand years’ navigation and trade history of theJiangsuandZhejiangarea, the most miserable lessons are the wars and slaughters, especially the Japanese piracy alongChina’s eastern coast. According to historical records, the eastern coast ofChinawas repeatedly plundered by the Japanese piracy during the Hongwu Period of early Ming Dynasty, and the situation was only improved during the Yongle Period. Then during the Jiajing Period, the Japanese piracy again became a big problem.

In their fighting with the Japanese piracy, the people ofJiangsuandZhejiangarea built a lot of coastal defense works and water villages, set up defense stations and made warships. As a result, they got a lot of hard-won victories with their arduous struggle. However, after the Yongle Period, with the malfunction of the government, the whole coastal defense system along the southeastern coast began to decay, leading to the raging of the Japanese piracy during the Jiajing Period. Fortunately, the army led by Qi Jiguang fought bravely and won the final victory.

The historical lessons must be learned, that is, there will be no maritime trade without strong national defense. The economy can never be developed or people’s livelihood improved without the strengthening of the national defense army force. It is a must to enhance the national defense while we are focusing on the economic development. The developing planning of a province or a city must be well connected with the national policies.

At the turn of the Ming and Qing Dynasties,China’s powerful and prosperous development seems to bring a bright light to the country and the people of the south-east coast. However, the policy of “avoiding contacts with other countries over the sea” became the fetters for the trade development. The historical facts make people realize that the strong national strength, if used correctly, like to resist foreign aggression, will benefit the people, but they can be counterproductive if they are used in the wrong direction.

As some scholars have analyzed, the Chinese people, especially the southern coastal residents, have the natural instinct of making money by doing business, as long as there is no external administrative high-pressure means to suppress them. Both history and reality show that if they are given full freedom and effective interest protection, they can be quite successful in doing business.

Throughout the history ofChina, there seems to be a tricky paradox: from the perspective of the society, when the national capacity was low and the government's control of society was loosened, the people may have the opportunity to freely obtain development, but soon the blooming situation would be destroyed by the invasion of foreign enemies. For example, the so-called "germination of capitalism" in late Ming Dynasty was immediately engulfed by the invasion of Manchurian army. On the other hand, when it came to the reign of powerful emperors, like the Kangxi and Qianlong periods, the threat of invasion by foreign enemies was temporarily lifted, but the weight of administrative power would immediately oppress the freedom and innovation of the people. Similarly, from the perspective of the government, it seems that there is also a paradox between tight administration and loosened administration.

What is more ironic is that during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the “marine banning” was always in place to prevent the coastal residents from putting out to sea in order to resist the foreign enemies and protect the people, just like the “scorching the earth policy” of a landlocked country. However, just as is “rediscovered” by the domestic historians and overseas sinologists, this kind of self-weakening policy not only cannot fundamentally enhance the national strength, but will create estrangement and contradiction between the government and the society (and the people). The reason is quite obvious: how can the people earn a living without being allowed to fish and do business in such a place with a large population but little land as theJiangsuandZhejiangarea? Since they couldn’t make a living within the framework of the social system, the grassroots would gather to become a destructive force against the system. A new generation of scholars examined the composition of the armed forces of the piracy and pointed out that the leaders and members of the main force were mostly coastal residents. These people who were forced to take risks are not fundamentally different from the rebels such as Li Zicheng, and the indiscriminate killing of civilians also existed just like in the peasant uprisings, while some Japanese ronin were nothing more than mercenaries. Whether the statement is in line with the historical facts is yet to be further tested, but it provides us with a useful idea: the strengthening process of national strength should be in great harmony with the social forces to a moderate degree.

On the basis of the above-mentioned historian theory, one may have no difficulty in finding out the central problem: the relationship between economic development and security, and the relationship between maintaining social vitality and strengthening government administration. Then how to deal with the two groups of relationships? How to balance the security and innovation? These two questions are not only the major topics of the theoretical field but also the real-time problems confronted by the current decision-makers and practitioners.

As for the first question, the answer lies in the top design of the supreme leaders of the times. It involves many aspects, but the main question is whether the country will adopt the outbound development strategy or the self-contained inward-oriented strategy. Then the priorities of development can be set up according to the main strategy. The emperors Hongwu, Yongle, Kangxi and Qianlong are all regarded as wise monarchs in the Chinese history. However, limited by their times and their cultivation, they are limited in their vision and strategies. Born and brought up in the imperial palaces, they had no personal experience of the real life of the northwest inland area or the southeastern coastal area. They were content with the stability of the country. So in the beginning of the modern civilization, they buried themselves into the earlier success of their ancestors and missed the opportunity to develop like the other countries in the world. In the current time, the “Belt and Road” strategy is an excellent opportunity for the country’s development. With the great waves of globalization, the Chinese people are greeting the new challenges with the unprecedented courage and insights, and the unprecedented grand outbound development strategy. The rejuvenation of the maritime trade is a great blessing to the rejuvenation of the economy ofJiangsuandZhejiangarea.

Then as for the second question, the future success lies in the implementation of President Xi’s instructions of the socialist rule of law and the new type of cordial and clean relationship between government and business. In the history,Chinahad the punishment system instead of the law system, which is clearly out of place in today’s globalized world. When talking about the communist view of the rule of law, President Xi pointed out that there is a direct relationship between the rule of law and governance of a country. Thus, to solve the governance dilemma,Chinamust realize the law-based transformation of state administration. Meanwhile, the progress of all the procedures and the judgment of right or wrong must be based on the sacred laws.

TakeNingboand Zhoushan as an example. The maritime trade of the area reached a climax during the Song and Yuan Dynasties, but fell into a decline afterwards. Why is that? The major reasons include the war, the ban on maritime trade and waterway silting. The most agreed answer is the “regional economic recession theory”. According to the theory, the main factors for the development of a foreign trade port include not only the port’s geographical location and facilities, but also the macro economic environment of the province or even the state. No lasting prosperity of port trade is possible without the blooming manufacturing industry and the processing industry. In addition, with the increase of the personnel and capital flows, some qualified ports can upgrade from the trade or logistics center to a finance, talent and tourism center. This is quite obviously illustrated with the rise and decline of such port cities as Quanzhou,Hong Kong,SingaporeandBristol.

Fortunately, the Zhejiang Provincial Party Committee and Provincial Government and Ningbo Municipal Party Committee and Municipal Government have carried out the coordinated planning of the inland cities and coastal ports, which is not only an in-depth implementation of the “Belt and Road” strategy, but also a long-term plan for the economic development and people’s wellbeing.

A port to the outside world

As a city in the southeastern area of the Eurasian Continent,Ningbois witnessing great changes.

About 2,000 years ago, the ancientSilk Roadwas opened during the reign of the great Emperor Wudi of Han Dynasty. Now, with great intention to share the business opportunities with the neighboring countries,Chinaproposes to build the “21st century maritime silk road” community with a shared future. This is a great time!

As the ancient saying goes, great success lies in proper time and great minds. This is the time for changes, when the world’s center is transferring from the European and American area to the East Asian area. The “Belt and Road” strategy is a long-range program for the current and later generations. As one of the starting ports of the maritime silk road,Ningbois greeting its great opportunity for unprecedented development.

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