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From Spain to Poland, Fighting Out the Belt and Road Spirit in Europe

Oct. 9, 2017 (EIRNS)—The largest-yet academic event in Spain on the opportunities offered by the Belt and Road Initiative was held in Santiago de Compostela, in the northern region of Galicia on Oct. 6, jointly organized by the IGADI international relations think tank in Galicia and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Opened by the Mayor of the city, more than 50 participants came from China, including scholars and media from both the national and provincial level, to meet with Spanish scholars from Galicia and elsewhere, to hash out the potential role of Galicia, Spain and Europe in this great international project. Spain’s immediate participation ranges from the Yiwu-Madrid train to the maritime corridors, both across the Atlantic and Mediterrean.

According to El Correo Gallego, two other such conferences will be held this year in Paris and Rome, under the same title: "European Forum on the Chinese Development Model."

Such conferences are crucial for bringing the nations and cultures of the world together in a common project. Xinhua reported that a major theme of the two-day "Third China-Central and Eastern Europe Conference on Cross-Cultural Dialogue, Education and Business," held in Ohrid, Macedonia last Friday and Saturday, was on the need to examine cultural differences between the nations involved, in order to avoid "misunderstandings" which "arise through sloppy thinking," as one Hong Kong professor put it. Professors from Macedonia, China, the U.S., Australia, Serbia, Romania, India, Hungary, and Slovenia, etc. participated.

Similarly, the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM), the China-CEEC Think Tanks Network, CASS, and the Chinese Embassy in Poland held an all-day conference on Sept. 14 in Warsaw, on the subject, "How Belt & Road Influences China-CEE Relations? Opportunities and Challenges." Xinhua reported that Poland’s Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Development, Pawel Chorazy, in his keynote speech, "stressed the need for a more balanced collaboration that would see win-win for both sides." For his part, China’s Ambassador to Poland, Xu Jian emphasized that "the Belt and Road Initiative was proposed by China but belongs to the world."

A summary of the conference by former Polish diplomat Marcin Przychodniaka, now with the PISM, indicates the conference was a hard-nosed discussion of different concerns of the European participants on the BRI and China’s 16+1 program with the Central European countries. Chinese participants emphasized that these projects need to be viewed in

"a long-term perspective.... In the summary, both sides acknowledged that Belt & Road is far more of an initiative than a precise action plan, and 16+1 should be considered as a useful platform to facilitate regular contact between Central Europe and China,"

he concluded.