NSR Network, a Sabah based organisation, is scheduled to launch and conduct the inaugural New Silk Road (NSR) Asia Pacific Forum 2019 in Malaysia, on November 22.

The event at Promenade Hotel will focus on NSR’s impending impact, challenges and opportunities for Sabah SMEs, in particular tourism and environmental aspects, and commerce & trade, especially agricultural food products, along the Maritime Silk Road so as to seek mutual development and prosperity.

“To attract wider Asia Pacific region attention and participation, NSR Network has invited both international and local renowned academia, thought leaders, experts and speakers to participate and share their expertise, views and insight on NSR at the forum which will contribute significant and material effort to propel Sabah to greater prospects to realise as a regional and international convention centre,” said NSR Network Chairman Datuk Dr Wilson Yong.

He said this at a press conference at a restaurant at Jalan Tuaran.

Yong said the New Silk Road (NSR) would be about harnessing optimum opportunities and benefits while overcoming challenges and entrapment to attain sustainable mutual prosperity.

A proper and holistic grasp of NSR is crucial and vital in developing strategies to navigate through the intricacies of NSR.

“This NSR Asia Pacific Forum serves as a platform to identify, optimise and harness the huge opportunities and benefits created while managing challenges for stakeholders along the NSR Asia Pacific region generally, focusing on Sabah in particular, to create a win-win situation to attain sustainable mutual prosperity.

The one-day forum, among others, will focus on a deeper and proper understanding of NSR, its impending impact, challenges and opportunities for Sabah SMEs on social and cultural sectors, in particular tourism and environment, and commerce and trade, especially agricultural food products along the Maritime Silk Routes.

The New Silk Road, also known as The Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), is a grand vision and strategy for China to position itself as the leader of a new form of globalisation.

By March 2019, an overwhelming of 152 countries and world organisations across the world had inked documents and supported the NSR. With mutual collaboration and cooperation among these parties and coupled by China’s win-win strategy for participating countries, NSR have remarkably taken off swiftly and achieved formidable results.

However, along the way significant problems, fears and challenges were encountered, especially with the allegation and perception that NSR lacks transparency, a plan to remake the global balance of power, military expansion and an unsettling extension of China’s rising power, and raises the question of NSR projects’ sustainability and debt traps for the participating countries.

He said six years have passed since Xi’s NSR inception and on March 23, 2019, Italy became the first G7 country to sign on NSR during Xi’ visit there.

To allay fears and anxieties, Xi emphasised that NSR a two-way nature and wanted commercial exchanges to go both ways and for investment to flow in both directions.

Yong said nearer to home Sabah, being situated on the northern part of Borneo island and separated by the South China Sea and Sulu Sea from Peninsular Malaysia and surrounding countries, has to overcome this critical challenge to harness optimum benefits and opportunities as the NSR massive overland links of roads, highways, high-speed railway and bridges and so on are built or being built in Peninsular Malaysia and would have little, no or minimum economic impact and effect on and for Sabah.

He said even with its “central and strategic” geographical location/position, Sabah and the island of Borneo seems to have been left out of the “loop” in China’s proposed 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

“This is most unfortunate as Sabah has been trading with ancient China for over 600 years ago during Admiral Cheng Ho’s era with well documented historical records.

“As such, one of the key issues for this forum is to explore and formulate strategies on how best to lobby the Chinese authority/provincial governments to officially include Sabah and Borneo island into the ‘loop’ and ‘route’ of the proposed official 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, so that Sabah will be a full-fledged NSR country to harness and reap the optimum benefits and opportunities that come along.

“It’s most timely that this NSR Asia Pacific Forum focuses on the opportunities, impacts and challenges created and how to harness the huge opportunities and address such vast sea/ocean distance separation challenges and concerns to enhance and realise a truly win-win situation, especially for Sabah people, business community especially SMEs and small holders/farmers, particularly in Agriculture Food products and Tourism sectors as more than 98 percent of businesses in Sabah comprise of SMEs and small players.”

Yong said the forum is planned and specially organised for, and participated by business communities both local and Asia Pacific region, government leaders, policy-makers, business entrepreneurs, practitioners, academics, thought leaders and all interested individuals.

He said NSR Network has also invited Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, to officiate the forum with a keynote address.

The forum is supported by the Sabah State Government, Sabah State Ministry of Agriculture Development and Food Industry, State Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Chinese Consulate-General in Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia), Malaysia Maritime Silk Route Research Society, SME Association of Sabah and others.