Commentary: Historic opportunity in connectivity at Europe and China's hands

Source: Xinhua| 2018-10-19 17:19:37|Editor: Yamei
Video PlayerClose

by Xinhua Writer Tian Dongdong

BRUSSELS, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- Though geographically interlocked, connectivity between Asia and Europe was insufficient for a long time in history.

Things have changed dramatically in recent years. About fours years ago, there were only two or three trans-border cargo trains running every week from China, Asia's Far East, to Germany's Duisburg, the largest inland port in West Europe.

Now the number has octupled to 25. By the end of August, those freight trains had made over 10,000 journeys between China and Europe, up from just 17 in 2011.

On the sea, a new water-land express linking Asia's Far East with Central and Eastern Europe via Greece's Piraeus port has shortened the transit time by seven or ten days.

In the sky, over 600 flights shuttle between China and European cites every week, with mutual visits exceeding 6.6 million in 2017 alone.

The increased numbers can be fairly attributed to signature projects of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, including the China Railway Express and China-Europe Land-Sea Express Route. Carrying various cargoes, containers and visitors, those trains, freighters and flights help people along the routes get richer and better connected.

With huge potential still waiting to be explored, the prospect of Euro-Asia connectivity is lucrative and promising, presenting a historic opportunity to both China and Europe.

For connectivity, infrastructure comes first, and the demand is huge.

Data from the European Union (EU) showed an annual 792-billion-euro (910.8-billion-U.S. dollar) demand in such economic infrastructure areas as energy, transport, water and sanitation, and telecoms in Europe, excluding a yearly gap of 163 billion euros (187.5-billion-dollars) for health, education and social housing investment.

The gap is wider in Asia. The Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank estimated the continent needs 1.7 trillion dollars for infrastructure per year until 2030. But some believed merely half was met in 2016.

What's more, the two continents are more willing than ever to be better connected. For people living there, connectivity improves lives.

Efficient transport systems allow families to spend more time together. Ports and roads give access to markets and farmers. Energy distribution systems can heat and illuminate homes.

For countries, efficient and sustainable connectivity contributes to economic growth and jobs, global competitiveness and trade, as well as flows of goods and services between Europe and Asia, helping them move towards a more cooperative approach to world politics, global stability and regional economic prosperity.

The alignment of different connectivity plans offers optimism too. For instance, in mid-September, the EU released its version of "the Belt and Road Initiative." Some say the two are natural rivals. But for the EU, it looks for synergies and commonalities, and for China, healthy competition is not a bad thing.

As the EU said in a statement, "connectivity is not possible if systems and networks are not interoperable ... the European Union will continue to engage with China ... to create synergies and to find commonalities."

But the risk of wasting this historic opportunity also exists. With a zero-sum mentality, some Western media leave no stone unturned to mud-sling Europe-China cooperation.

The propaganda campaign against China is specifically harmful as it undermines the foundation of mutual trust and understanding between the two sides, including their people.

While those media are right to point out differences between the two sides, the fanfare of "China threat" is poisonous and raises the alarm.

In the face of the historic opportunity to enhance connectivity and common prosperity, it is hoped that the distracting noises will die down while vision, wisdom and good faith will prevail.