文｜海尔格·策普·拉鲁旭（Helga Zepp-LaRouche）国际席勒学会创始人兼总裁 翻译｜王晓波
An only bystander ?
——Once the United States joins the Belt and Road
Initiative, A New Paradigm for Mankind can begin
by Helga Zepp-LaRouche, Founder and President of the German Schiller Institute
While initially almost all US thinktankswere negative concerning China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), or simplyrefused to even take note of it, there has recently been a shift. Except forthe hardcore Neocon thinktanks, several now have started to report about thetremendous business opporunities the New Silk Road project would also mean forUS enterprises. But especially since the very successfull, despite difficultcircumstances, summit between President Xi Jinping and President Trump inMar-a-Lago, Florida.
The most obvious of many areas of suchcooperation naturally would be the link between the Belt and Road Initiative andthe planned $1 trillion infrastructure project Trump has promised in hiselection campaign, which is supposed to be presented in May. There are severalroadblocks to be overcome for this to happen.
The infrastructure requirements of the USare enormous due to decades of long non-investment by the previousadministrations. Except those Americans who have actually been in China, mostof them have no idea how far behind US infrastructural development is ascompared with China. The Washington-Boston 736 km Acela“high speed”line averagespeed is only 105 km/h with only very short segments at 145 km/h, by nomeans high speed as compared to theapproximately 130,000 kilometers of China, over 50 times as much! The roads arein terrible, dangerous condition, and so are the bridges, sanitation systems,etc, but their use is still extensive. For a trip between Washington and New York one has to pay thesubstantial amount of $115 in tolls and gas per car.
The American Society of Civil Engineers ata recent conference put out the estimate that the real infrastructureinvestment requirements are actually $4.5 trillion.There is no way thefinancing of either these amounts will come from the private equity market, asrepresentatives of this sector in recent discussions with President Trumpexpressed prohibitive conditions, such as a 11-12% return per annum, and a fullreturn of the capital invested within ten years. Also problematic is the ideathat the infrastructure should be financed by a toll system, which would maybework narrowly in densely populated areas, but not at all in thinly inhabitedones. But the very idea, that there should be an immediate direct return oninfrastructure, misses completely the function of infrastructure for thegeneral economy.
The quality and density of infrastructurerepresents the precondition for the productivity of an economy as a whole, anda modern economy requires approximately 50% of its total expenditures for theexpansion and modernization of infrastructure, since the life expectancy ofvarious categories is between 20 and 50 years. A well planned infrastrucureplatform is an integrated system of high-speed rail lines, waterways, highways,energy production and distribution, communication, as well as so-called soft infrastructuresuch as health and education systems, etc. The higher the technologicaldevelopment and productivity of an economic space is becoming, the moreimportant the speed and efficiency of the transport and density ofinfrastructure in general will need to be, since all the various levels ofproduction into semi-finished and finished goods work together like acomplicated maschine, where each part has a role for a harmonious function.Thus, the return on the infrastructure investment is actually measured by theincrease of the productivity of the entire economy, and the financing thereforecan not be left to the private investor, but it has to be the responsibility ofthe state, who is devoted to the common good of the national economy.
If President Trump would simply requestCongress to fund the infrastructure program by the Federal budget, he would runinto the same opposition of the Democrats and part of the GOP that alreadyprevented the repeal of Obamacare. And if China and other foreign investors wouldsimply invest by means of the private equity market, provided that would beallowed, these investments would be exposed potentially to the fluctuations ofthe markets.
Due to decades long policies of outsourcingto cheap labor countries, the US manufacturing sector presently lacks acomplete upstream and downstream industry chain, which is another impediment.China on the other hand, has such a complete upstream and downstream industrychain, and it also has a vast experience in building of modern infrastructuresystems, not only from its experience in China itself, but also having builtthem in other countries.
China could therefore not only help thosecities with the greatest transportation needs, such as New York, Los Angeles,Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington DC, but it could also help toreplicate what China is doing domestically, namely to connect all major citieswith fast train systems. For regions like the one between New York, New Jerseyand Philadesphia for example, an integrated infrastructure system like theplanned system for“Integrated Transport Development”of theBeijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, would make a lot of sense, since people arelosing every day many hours in commuting back and forth between living quartersand work. While it takes only five hours to travel the distance of 800 milesfrom Beijing to Shanghai at an average speed of 185 mph (298 km/h), it takes 19hours from New York City to Chicago, about the same distance!
The United States would also benefitgreatly from the construction of entirely new cities, which could be located inthe very thinly populated areas in the central states of the US. They could bescience cities, as education and research centers, or they could be locatedwith other needed large infrastructure porjects, such as water managementprojects for the drought endangered regions of the Southwest. One such project,which is on the shelf since the Kennedy administration is the North AmericanWater and Power Alliance, NAWAPA, which has recently been upgraded for the 21stCentury.
On the other hand, such an upgraded USeconomy could also export into the expanding Chinese market where a middleclass of now approximately 900 million people is enjoying a quickly increasingbuying power, due to the structural reforms implemented by the Chinesegovernment. In 2016 the bilateral trade volume between the US and China wasalready $519.6 billion, bilateral investment grew to $170 billion in the sameyear. Over the last decade US exports to China grew 11%, Chinese investments tothe US grew 5.6%. The potential for all of these categories to grow, if the twocomplimentary economies of the US and China would link in the described way, isenormous.
Such US-China cooperation would naturallynot be limited to bilateral exchanges, but given the vast requirements for infrastructure, agriculture and industrialdevelopment in the world, joint ventures almost anywhere in the world would bea Win-Win- perspective for the United States, China, and the third partycountry. With the huge potential of the Belt and Road Initiative to developinto the World Land-Bridge proposed by the Schiller Institute in 2014, in thenot so distant future there can be the construction of a fast train system fromthe southern tip of South America in Chile and Argentina all the way up throughCentral and North America and via a tunnel under the Bering Strait connect tothe Eurasian Transport systems. This would provide the gateway for the UnitedStates to join the newly emerging Pacific-centered world. This would requirevastly impoving and expanding the Alaska railroad corridors through Canada andconnect that with the new rail line system in the US.
Such a perspective of approximately 40,000miles of modern electrified rail, about half of which should be fast trainsystems, will also mean an enormous investment into industrial production to supply the necessarygoods and materials, as well as the training and education of the skilled laborneeded to accomplish such a huge task. Especially for the training of the youth one can go back to theexperience of Roosevelt's CivilianConservation Corps, the CCC-programm, which contributed significantly to helplead the US out of the depression in the 30's. Roosevelt called the CCC ◊thegreatest peacetime movement this country has ever seen.“ It was created toaddress the dire lack of education and skills of the youth, a condition whichin todays America takes the form of a very large drug addiction and drugrelated crimes.
At the summit between President Trump andPresident Xi Jinping they decided to set up four permanent dialogues, one ofthem devoted to economic issues. Thisgroup of experts could start to explore the project of the US joining the BRIimmediately.
The most important aspect of the concept ofthe US joining with the Belt and Road Initiative however will be to inspire thewhole population with hope for the future, a better future for generations tocome, something which has been lost in the last five decades. It would alsodemonstrate, that President Trump's promise to make America great again, is notin contradiction to the interests of other countries, but that such a Win-Wincooperation would move the entire world into a new era of human civilization.If the two largest economies of the world would work together in this way,there will not be any problem on the planet which could not be solved.
If one studies the economic theory behindthe tremendous success of the Chinese economic miracle of the last 30 years,one will find that present Chinese economic policies, basing themselves on theeducation of its citizens, very much in coherence with the Confucian principleof lifelong learning and innovation, are actually very close to the economicprinciples of the American System of economy, as it was developed andimplemented by Alexander Hamilton, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, Henry C.Carey and Lincoln. All of these men understood that the most important sourceof wealth of a country is the development of the creative powers of their ownpopulation. And therefore, they designed a system of economy that furtheredexactly that in order to catalyze the greatest rate of scientific andtechnological progess and innovation.
It is also fascinating that the realspiritual father of the American Republic, Benjamin Franklin, was completelyexcited and inspired by the writings of Confucius, from whom he took theconviction that the moral enoblement of the the individual was the absolute keyfor the improvement of society. Franklin based his own system of moral teachingon Confucius, which was decisive for the spirit of the foundation of America. Avery similiar intellecutal closeness existed between President Lincoln and thefounding father of China.
The collaboration with the New Silk Roadshould therefore have a cultural dimension, and exactly like the ancient SilkRoad, lead to an exchange of art and philosophy. It should do so to bringforward the best traditions and highest expression of humanity of eachparticipating country, and in doing so, people will discover the unexpectedbeauty of the other cultures and this knowledge will lead to admiration andopen new horizons. The epoch of a community of a shared future is within reach.If President Trump and President Xi Jinping will join hands for this collaboration,both of them will have a place in history for having led Mankind to its truedestiny.