Stephen Perry, Chairman of the 48 Group Club, is pictured in Beijing on May 13, 2017 before attending the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. [Photo: China Plus/Victor Ning]
An expert on China-UK relations said the “Belt and Road” initiative is a “centennial development plan” created by China that will transform the world economy.
Stephen Perry is Chairman of the 48 Group Club, a London-based trade association that has for decades championed bilateral ties between the UK and China. Perry talked to China Plus in an exclusive interview before attending the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.
Perry said he realized the “Belt and Road” initiative was going to be an impactful program after Chinese President Xi Jinping first proposed the idea in a speech during a visit to Kazakhstan in 2013.
“When I first heard him speak in Kazakhstan in 2013, I said to people ‘This is very significant,’” said Perry. “Of the enormous movement of people, ideas and trade, right from the western coast of Europe, right across the eastern coast of Asia, that he was talking about rebuilding up based on trains, energy and telecommunications. It was obvious that China was creating what I call a ‘centennial development plan,’” noted Perry.
Perry said just as the Industrial Revolution and the opening up of the American west had both transformed the world, the “Belt and Road” initiative is going to bring new impetus to the modern world economy.
“The Belt and Road is going to transform the world. It’s going to connect 85% of the population of the world by land. There is the sea route, which will connect southern Asia, southeastern Asia, right through to Africa, which is already beginning to opening up a lot of trade between Africa and Asia. When the Middle East hopefully can connect into it as well, you will have this fabulous (route) from the Pacific, to the Atlantic, through the Indian Ocean and the south Atlantic Ocean,” explained Perry.
Perry chairs the 48 Group Club, which was founded by his father Jack Perry and has promoted UK-China ties for more than six decades. The organization’s name derives from a 1954 trade mission by 48 businessmen from British companies to China.
Perry’s current visit to China will see him attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which will open on Sunday and feature an opening speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“The highlight of the agenda is going to be hearing President Xi Jinping speak. I have been listening to his speeches since he became the President of China. They are never just for the record. His speeches are always profound, well thought out and contain concepts which are new and innovative,” said Perry.
Perry said many of the world’s developed nations are beginning to realize the tremendous growth potential offered by the “Belt and Road” initiative. As the Brexit negotiations loom large, Perry said the UK stands to gain independence in its trade relations and from the global vision of the “Belt and Road” initiative.
“London is a respected financial center. And perhaps working with Chinese friends and local nations, we can help create new financial centers. We can help to create a new Silk Road law because there are unique features to the legal system and dispute resolution. And using some of our creative industries, our high technology, we should be able to find a number of areas for joint venture development with Chinese and local nations. So it could not have come at a better time for the British,” said Perry.
Perry is among the 1,500 guests from some 70 organizations in over 130 countries attending the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.