Over the past two years, under the strong leadership of the Development Research Center of the State Council of China (DRC), and with the great support of the Steering Committee and all our members and partners, the Secretariat of the Silk Road Think Tank Network (SiLKS) has made positive progress in improving the governance mechanism, promoting cooperative research, database construction, knowledge sharing, international publicity and personnel exchange, and increasing regional membership in accordance with the SiLKS Three-year Work Plan(2019-2021)(hereinafter referred to as the Three-Year Work Plan) adopted at the SiLKS Annual Meeting 2018. Thanks to the efforts of the Secretariat, the Three-Year Work Plan was included in the deliverables of the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, thus further increasing the influence of SiLKS.
I. Fight COVID-19 pandemic together
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the DRC and the Secretariat have worked with SiLKS members and partners in solidarity and supported each other’s fight against the pandemic. The DRC and the Secretariat have expressed sympathy through letters for members and partners who have been seriously hit by the pandemic. Under the leadership and support of the DRC, the Secretariat managed to donate masks, share knowledge on the response to the pandemic, and drafted and published the SiLKS Online Annual Meeting 2020 Joint Initiative.
1. Send sympathy letters to members and partners
The Deutsche Gesellschaft fürInternationaleZusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and other SiLKS members and partners were the first to send sympathy letters to the Secretariat after the pandemic broke out. Meanwhile, Ma Jiantang, Secretary of the Leading Party Members' Group of the DRC, sent letters of sympathy to Director Mario Pezzini of the OECD Development Center, among others. The Secretariat made contact with and show sincere sympathy for SiLKS members and partners including the Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development (CIRSD), Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) of the UK, Elcano Royal Institute of Spain, Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP), Pakistan-China Institute, Central European Initiative (CEI), GIZ, and France China Committee.
2. Donate masks
Guided and supported by the DRC, the Secretariat overcame multiple difficulties at the special moment, such as the incoherent customs policies of different countries, varying standards of disease prevention supplies, severely restricted logistics, and inconvenience of communicating across different time zones, and successfully donated over 10,000 masks in nearly two months to members and partners like CIRSD, OECD Development Center and CEI based on their needs.
3. Compile COVID-19 Special Issues
The Secretariat has gathered and sorted out the information on members and partners’ response to COVID-19 and research findings in the pandemic’s impacts on global economy, society, governance, sustainable development and other areas, and produced three volumes of COVID-19 Special Issues. They were disseminated among and well received by relevant agencies in the Chinese government and SiLKS members and partners.
4. Draft and publish SiLKS Online Annual Meeting 2020 Joint Initiative
The SiLKS is an international think tank network committed to the Silk Road spirit, cooperation and common development. Under the leadership and guidance of the DRC, the Secretariat drafted the SiLKS Online Annual Meeting 2020 Joint Initiative and solicited comments from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and all participating members and partners in a bid to address the global threats of the pandemic and backlash against globalization. The Joint Initiative proposes that with compassion and solidarity, all parties should work together to fight COVID-19, deepen global partnership, reinforce the multilateral mechanism, and promote high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative in the post-pandemic era.
II. Improve governance mechanism
1. Revise SiLKS Guiding Principles
According to the Three-Year Work Plan and SiLKS development vision for the new era, the Secretariat revised the SiLKS Guiding Principles, which has been deliberated and adopted by the Steering Committee. The updated Guiding Principles makes clearer SiLKS’ mission, governance structure and responsibilities, and the rights and obligations of members and partners.
2. Recommend candidates for the new Steering Committee and Co-Chairs
In line with the Guiding Principles, the Secretariat recommended candidates and elected a new Steering Committee and two Co-Chairs after taking into consideration their contribution to SiLKS, regional representation and influence, among other factors. The Steering Committee consists of 9 members, includes two Co-Chairs, Mr. Ma Jiantang, Secretary of Party Leadership Group of DRC and Mr. Wanandi, Co-Founder of CSIS in Indonesia, as well as Executive Vice-Chairman of Századvég Foundation Mr. Barthel-Ruzsa, Chairman of Finance Center for South-South Cooperation Mr. Cai Esheng, Founding Chairman of Pakistan-China Institute Mr. Hussain Sayed, President of CIRSD Mr. Jeremić, Director of Globalization and Development Strategies Division in UNCTAD Mr. Kozul-Wright, Executive Secretary of African Capacity Building Foundation Mr. Nnadozie, Director of the OECD Development Centre Mr. Pezzini.
III. Advance cooperative research
The Secretariat entrusted the Institute of World Economy and Politics (IWEP) of Kazakhstan to conduct the research on Central Asia Macro Regional Trade Hub Jointly Built by China and Kazakhstan: An Integral Part of the Silk Road Economic Belt, which has been completed successfully this year.
In 2019, the Secretariat started a research in China’s Belt and Road Initiative and International Rules: Compliance, Improvement and Innovation. Researchers of SiLKS members and partners offered strong support in the surveys conducted over the phone and online. In 2020, the Secretariat will seek various forms of cooperation with relevant members and partners on the research in High Quality Belt and Road Cooperation: Progress, Challenges, and Solutions.
IV. Build Belt and Road databases
The Secretariat kept a close eye on BRI-related information, continuously updated the databases of BRI experts, projects and cooperation mechanisms and built the public opinion database. The project database has been uploaded to the eSiLKS platform, which all members and partners can access for free with their accounts. Other databases will be made available to members and partners as needed.
1. Expert database: It contains the basic information and important research outcomes of over 70 well-known BRI experts and scholars.
2. Project database: It contains more than 2,700 of China’s investment and contracting projects of over US$1,000,000 in Asia, Europe and Africa from 2013 to 2019. Cooperation is underway on project data and research with the relevant bodies of the National Development and Reform Commission.
3. Cooperation mechanism database: It contains over 50 mechanisms for international Belt and Road cooperation.
4. Public opinion database: Based on Google's Global Database of Events, Language and Tone (GDELT), it has collected more than 16,000 international media reports on BRI-related international rules since January 2017.
V. Enhance international publicity online and offline
1. Upgrade online platforms and publish information regularly
The Secretariat redesigned and upgraded the eSiLKS online platform to improve user experience. 65 pieces of information were regularly published or reposted during the past two years.
The Secretariat opened the SiLKS WeChat official account to regularly publish the important BRI-related activities and original research results of members and partners, as well as the latest BRI-related research results of world-renowned think tanks. With more than 60 articles published over the past two years, the official account has gained wide attention in China.
2.Compile and issue SiLKS Newsletter
The Secretariat compiled and issued three editions of the bimonthly SiLKS Newsletter in Chinese and English. The newsletters covered members’ and partners’ important BRI-related activities and major research results and contained summaries of BRI-related policies and documents of countries along the Belt and Road, as well as general knowledge about the BRI.
VI. Step up exchanges and mutual visits to forge closer ties between members and partners
Over the past two years, the DRC firmly supported the development of the Secretariat and actively promoted exchanges and cooperation under the SiLKS framework. During their 20 visits to SiLKS members and partners, the heads and research fellows of the DRC were warmly received and conducted research visits relating to Belt and Road cooperation. In May 2019, Mr. Ma Jiantang visited the OECD Development Center. In September 2019, he visited the Századvég Foundation in Hungary and the Center for Strategic Research of Turkey and planned to sign an MOU with the Századvég Foundation. The heads of the DRC also met on various occasions with the heads of members and partners such as the IWEP in Kazakhstan, CIRSD in Serbia and the Belarusian State University. At the same time, SiLKS members and partners further stepped up their mutual visits.
In July 2019, Mr. Bouasone Bouphavanh, former head of the Lao National Economic Research Institute, visited China at the invitation of the DRC and met with Mr. Ma Jiantang and Vice President Wang Anshun. The DRC coordinated for the delegation to meet Mr. Xiao Yaqing, the then head of the State Administration for Market Regulation, Mr. Chen Zhaoxiong, Vice Minister of Industry and Information Technology, and Mr. Han Jun, Vice Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. The DRC also arranged in-depth research visits in China for the delegation. In April 2019, Mr. Hussain, head of the Pakistan-China Institute, visited the DRC, where he delivered an academic speech and exchanged views with DRC research fellows on Belt and Road cooperation.
VII. Actively expand membership and enhance regional representation
In April, 2019, Mr. Long Guoqiang, Vice President of the DRC, met with the delegation led by Mr. Richard Kozul-Wright, Director of the Globalization and Development Strategies Division in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), to push for UNCTAD’s accession to the SiLKS.
From October 30 to November 6, 2019, Secretary-General Tao Pingsheng led a delegation to Ethiopia and Kenya, where they conducted research on the BRI, visited think tanks and international organizations, and invited multiple Africa-based institutions to join SiLKS. At this year’s annual meeting, five new members and partners, namely, UNCTAD, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the African Capacity Building Foundation of the African Union, the Policy Studies Institute in Ethiopia and African Economic Research Consortium officially joined SiLKS, further enhancing its influence and regional representation.
Looking forward, under the leadership of the DRC and the support of the Steering Committee as well as members and partners, the Secretariat will fulfill its duties and actively enhance academic exchanges, collaborative research, mutual visits, knowledge sharing and international publicity among SiLKS members and partners, in order to build SiLKS into a think tank alliance and cooperation platform with international influence, and provide intellectual support for high-quality Belt and Road cooperation in the post-COVID era.