Young people from across the globe should play their role as a bridge to enhance people-to-people bonds in an effort to facilitate Belt and Road research and exchange, Head of a South Korean Think Tank on China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) said recently in an interview.

Qu Huan, co-President of the Korea Belt and Road Institute and President of the Korea-China Cultural Friendship Association, said before heading to Beijing for this year’s Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation that young scholars can play a crucial part in people-to-people exchanges among countries participating in Belt and Road building.

“There is a necessity to offer them a long-term platform for exchange of opinions and to help them enhance their mutual understanding and friendship through dialogue and discussion,” Qu said, adding that by doing so, more countries will be able to understand the significance of the Belt and Road Initiative in a more holistic manner.

Since the establishment of the Korea Belt and Road Institute, strengthening youth exchange has been a major focus of their work, she said.

“Young people can deepen their understanding of the Belt and Road Initiative and then bring their insights back to their home and help the locals know the initiative more objectively,” Qu said.

“The Belt and Road Initiative is beyond boundaries and can be as inclusive as an ocean that admits hundreds of rivers and we ultimately look to the future and the young people.”

“The Belt and Road Initiative is like an ocean and everybody can find opportunities that suit their needs. Those who own ocean-going ships go fishing in the deep sea and those who live by the seaside dig shells and seek kelp, on one condition that we must work together to maintain a good ecological environment of the ocean,” Qu said.

In February, the first Belt and Road International Youth Forum co-hosted by the Korea Belt and Road Institute and the Korea-China Cultural Friendship Association brought together more than 200 young scholars from 78 countries and regions for dialogue on the Belt and Road Initiative. Qu said she was impressed by the huge enthusiasm and strong interest of the youngsters.

“An important topic of the youth forum was for them to discuss how to promote people-to-people exchange and build mutual trust and friendship. At first we had worries if there would be wide participation, but it turned out that the heated discussion far exceeded our anticipation,” she said.

“They were so eager to learn more about and exchange their views on the Belt and Road Initiative, which we had totally not expected. They had their own points of views and are very willing to express and share them with others,” Qu said.

Speaking of the significance of the think tank exchange, Qu said there are still some people who hold misconception for the Belt and Road Initiative and lack full understanding of it.

“By hosting forums and carrying out exchange among think tanks, experts and scholars from different countries all over the world gather together and exchange their opinions to help each other get more of the overall blueprint and the bigger picture of the Belt and Road Initiative, so as to avoid partial understanding,” she added.

In this process, exchange at the think tank level also requires more programs that are sustainable, Qu said.

“We cannot expect to achieve long-term effect by giving one lecture alone, but instead we need to have more dialogue platforms that allow more people to join in and pool their ideas on the Belt and Road Initiative,” she said.

“This kind of effort is not necessarily a visible project, but it will without any doubt touch people’s heart and help bring them closer to each other.”

Editor’s note: The article reflects the author’s opinion only, and not necessarily the views of editorial opinion of Belt & Road News.