Maritime Silk Road

By : Nata Kesuma | Wednesday, December 06 2023 - 20:03 IWST

Maritime Silk Road
Maritime Silk Road - Wenzhou, China - The vast sea is boundless, but for hundreds of years, countless people's exploration across the ocean has presented a more complete and fuller world to the public, and has further promoted global economic, trade and cultural exchanges.

During the maritime exchanges between the East and the West, the Maritime Silk Road was born, which not only amazed the West with the spices, silk and porcelain from the East, but also witnessed the mutual learning of civilizations facilitated by the Italian missionary Matteo Ricci and other westerners who crossed the sea to explore the East.

On Oct. 3, 2013, China proposed to jointly build the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Together with the Silk Road Economic Belt proposed on Sept. 7 of the same year, they constitute the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has renewed the splendid history of economic, trade and cultural exchanges between the East and the West.

To mark the tenth anniversary of the BRI, the 2023 Mayors Exchange Conference on Maritime Silk Road City Influence was held from Nov. 24 to Nov. 25 in southeast China's coastal city Wenzhou, another high-level international gathering to promote communication and cooperation of BRI countries after the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. 

Nearly 400 guests, including municipal officials, experts and scholars from 15 countries of Asia, Europe, Africa and America, gathered in Wenzhou, an important Maritime Silk Road hub, according to the Executive Committee. They held roundtable discussions on building a harmonious and symbiotic business system and promoting the culture heritage of the Maritime Silk Road in a bid to tap the opportunities for cooperation and development of the trade route.

The Maritime Silk Road is born of openness and prospers from exchanges. The cities along the trade route have a distinctive pioneering spirit, of which Wenzhou is a typical representative. Since ancient times, the wealthy coastal city has played an important role on boosting trade and cultural ties with its global reach, commercial vitality, cultural legacy and active exchanges.

In Jiangxin Islet in the middle reaches of Oujiang River in the north of Wenzhou, two ancient pagodas built in Tang Dynasty and Song Dynasty respectively stand in the islet's east and west. For more than 1,000 years, they have been known as the oldest lighthouses on the Maritime Silk Road.

Across the river, Song Dynasty docks, sunken ships and tons of porcelain fragments and the ruins of Shuomen Ou Ancient City were unearthed from the site of Shuomen Ancient Port in Wenzhou, demonstrating the prosperity and continuity of the ancient Maritime Silk Road.

In the 13th century, Chinese envoy Zhou Daguan, a Wenzhou local, visited Cambodia during the Angkor period. He not only brought Chinese culture to Cambodia, but also wrote A record of Cambodia, which was a vivid account of the friendly exchanges between the Chinese and Cambodian people at that time. It's the only historical material in the world that reflects the prosperity of the Angkor Dynasty.

"I believe that Mr. Zhou Daguan's spirit can inspire all of us - whether artists, historians, or friends from all walks of life - to explore the unknown, to carry on our cultural legacies, and to forge closer international friendships," said Cambodian Prince Sisowath Tesso.

Through the ages, Wenzhou remains an influential hub along the Maritime Silk Road, contributing a unique role in facilitating peer city communication and cooperation.

In recent years, Wenzhou Port's foreign trade container business has developed rapidly, with an expanding foreign trade route network and growing route service capacity. The port's near-ocean routes can reach Russia, South Korea, the Philippines and other countries, and has 15 foreign trade routes in total.

In 2018, Wenzhou set up a high-level official team to promote economic and trade exchanges between Wenzhou and the BRI countries and regions. So far, the city's trade volume with the BRI countries has exceeded 640 billion yuan. In the past decade, Wenzhou's trade with the BRI countries surged from 53.33 billion yuan to 147.05 billion yuan.

Nurtured by the pioneering spirit of the Maritime Silk Road, open-minded Wenzhou people have been seizing the opportunities of promoting the high-quality development of the BRI and higher-level opening-up.

Now Wenzhou has 36 sister cities and friendly exchange cities worldwide, and 380,000 Wenzhou people are living and working in nearly 60 BRI countries. Multinational private Wenzhou firms like Tsingshan Holding Group have ventured overseas to expand foothold in BRI countries, which have set up the largest number of state-level overseas economic and trade parks for a prefecture-level city.

In addition to establishing an exchange platform, the two-day event also unveiled a report on the influence of China's Maritime Silk Road cities and the top 10 most influential Chinese Maritime Silk Road cities. A cooperation initiative on the innovative development of Maritime Silk Road cities was jointly launched, opening a new chapter for peer city communication and cooperation.

The conference's host city Wenzhou, with its people playing important roles in facilitating cross-border economic and cultural exchanges as well as the excavation of the Maritime Silk Road landmark heritage Shuomen ancient port, posts high rankings in several indices and made into the shortlist.

The joint development of the BRI pursues development, advocates win-win results, and delivers hope. Wenzhou will seek maximized integration into this road of peace, prosperity, openness, innovation, and civilization, said Wenzhou mayor Zhang Zhenfeng.

"We sincerely hope to take this conference as an opportunity to cooperate pragmatically and work together for win-win results by means of city and people exchanges to inject new impetus into promoting the high-quality development of the BRI," Zhang added.

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