AIM Macau meets the Belt and Road

April 28th, 2017 No Comments

In late 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping introduced a new foreign relations strategy called “One Belt One Road”. For China and other countries involved, the initiative is designed to create “people-to-people” bonds based on historical connections and cross-cultural communications, which are projected to play a significant role in shaping trade, infrastructure projects, and international security in the future. The former Deputy Director of China’s Insurance Regulatory Commission Zhou Yanli highlighted the importance of cultural factors by suggesting that a fundamental point about the initiative is cultural communication:

Indeed, only through cultural communication can one establish a communication paradigm, and only then can one realize the ‘Belt and Road’ development strategy, push forth the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative’s construction and create projects in reality. [i]

Despite passive attitudes toward trade in the past, the “Belt and Road” strategy requires China’s active engagement with 65 countries along the old Silk Road from Asia through the Middle East and Europe, and on a “Maritime Silk Road” that links countries around the Pacific Rim, including North and South America. This will involve using “cultural communication” in ways that will yield mutual benefits, not only for commerce, but for all countries.

Recently, Professor Feng Da Hsuan, Director of Global Affairs and Special Advisor to the Rector at the University of Macau, wrote in “Chinese Social Sciences Today” that examples of how the “Belt and Road” strategy might work in practice can be drawn from the appearance of several Indian-Americans who are now presidents of major universities in the United States and CEOs of such corporations as Microsoft, Google, Pepsi Cola, and MasterCard.[ii] Feng argues that in addition to their abundant qualifications, these individuals have clearly mastered “the art of cultural communication” by interacting with people outside their comfort zones, as well as transforming the mindsets of their individual organizations.

I would suggest that the creation of a new organization based in Macau, Los Angeles, and San Francisco called the “Alianca Internacional Macaense” (AIM) may be Macau’s contribution to the “Belt and Road” initiative.

Introducing AIM Macau

The Alianca Internacional Macaense is a cultural and trade organization that was founded by ten (10) Diaspora and local associations in 2014, and registered in 2016. I have the honor of being elected its first president, which occurred during a general meeting in Toronto Canada. An AIM member is also a board member of the Conselho das Communicades Macaense (CCM) in Macau. A key feature of AIM’s appeal is a network of cultural Portuguese professionals, entrepreneurs, and technical experts in the United States, Canada, and Europe. They are among 1.5 million descendants of Macau and over 42 million people of Portuguese ancestry around the world.

AIM utilizes this network to develop partnerships between governments, educational institutions, and businesses in China and the United States, Canada, and Portugal. Our mission is to utilize the common Luso-Asian connections of our members and their own professional skills to share expertise in environmental solutions, energy efficiency, technology, finance, construction, sustainable agriculture, higher education, and bio-medical services, following China’s “One Belt One Road” strategy based on cultural communication.

As president of AIM, one of my advisors is Mr. Bian Tao, Deputy Director General, Coordination Department of the Liaison Office to the Central Peoples Government in Macau. Mr.Tao has spent 26 years working in Macau, and is well regarded for his efforts to preserve its culture and maintain open lines of communication with the local community.

Mr. Tao’s advisement, which does not include formal ties to the Liaison Office, involves shared opinions on Macau, higher education, and the international Macanese Diaspora. Both Mr.Tao and I support efforts to extend China’s “Maritime Silk Road” to include the United States and Canada through AIM’s global network of Macau’s descendants, who currently live in 35 countries around the world. We also share interests in diversifying Macau’s economy by using its historic culture as a bridge to involve Macanese now working in many well-known companies and venture capital firms.

The potential to find common ground with the Belt and Road initiative through the Macanese Diaspora seems like a radical concept. But on reflection it implies the involvement of all Luso-Asians across national borders regardless of language. The attempt to communicate through identity, tradition, and heritage thus provides an added dimension to international relations that is only possible when cultural communication is the initial point of contact. That is one of the reasons why AIM was created: to explore China’s venture into this uncharted territory, particularly in regions such as Macau that are seeking economic diversification.

Conclusion

The close association of cultural and economic diversity should be familiar to anyone with links to Macau.[iii] Its history includes the continual interaction of Luso-Asian families who migrated to the region from the 17th to the 19th centuries, with succeeding waves of immigrants from throughout Southeast Asia, often through language, religion, and inter-racial marriage, which helped solidify cultural and commercial ties.[iv] In the coming weeks, we will explore this theme in more depth, and highlight parallels that are relevant to present day Macau and the global economy. There will also be periodic updates as AIM develops. I encourage anyone who is interested in this new organization to visit its site on Facebook at “Alianca Internacional Macaense – International Macanese Alliance”, or at https://www.facebook.com/IMA.Americas/.

Notes:

[i] Remarks at “The Commercial Press and the Forum of the “Belt and Road” 100 conference” in Beijing on Nov. 5, 2016.

[ii] Professor Feng Da Hsuan, “Cultural communications: Challenge, Opportunity of the ‘B & R’,” Chinese Social Science Today: 4, April 13, 2017.

[iii] Some of my initial impressions (from 2015) on cultural and economic diversity were expressed in an article: “Macau’s Culture as an Economic Asset”, which can be found at http://www.macstudies.net/culture-as-an-economic-asset/.

[iv] See the article by Sheyla S. Zandoni,“Global Diversity, Local Identity, and Multicultural Practice in Macau”, Intercultural Communications Studies, Vol. XVII: 1, 2009:19-32.

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