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One Belt One Road Initiative

Map of Asia, showing the OBOR initiative
China in red, Members of the AIIB in orange, the six corridors[1] in black

The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road, also known as the One Belt and One Road Initiative, (OBOR), The Belt and Road, (B&R) and The Belt and Road Initiative, (BRI, official translation) is a development strategy proposed by Chinese Government that focuses on connectivity and cooperation between Eurasian countries, primarily the People's Republic of China (PRC), the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and the ocean-going Maritime Silk Road (MSR). The strategy underlines China's push to take a larger role in global affairs with a China-centered trading network.[2][3] It was unveiled by Xi Jinping in September and October 2013 for SREB and MSR respectively. It was also promoted by Premier Li Keqiang during the state visit to Asia and Europe and the most frequently mentioned concept in the People's Daily in 2016.[4] It was initially called One Belt and One Road, but in mid-2016 the official English name was changed to the Belt and Road Initiative.[5] In the past three years, the focuses were mainly on infrastructure investment, construction materials, railway and highway, automobile, real estate, power grid, and iron and steel.[6] By various estimates, the BRI is one of the largest infrastructure and investment mega-projects in history, covering more than 68 countries, equivalent to 65% of the world's population and 40% of the global GDP as of 2017.[7][8]

The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road
Traditional Chinese 絲綢之路經濟帶和21世紀海上絲綢之路
Simplified Chinese 丝绸之路经济带和21世纪海上丝绸之路
One Belt, One Road
Traditional Chinese 一帶一路
Simplified Chinese 一带一路

Contents

VisionEdit

The Belt and Road initiative is geographically structured along 6 corridors, and the maritime silk road.[9]

  • New Eurasian Land Bridge, running from Western China to Western Russia through Kazakhstan.
  • China–Mongolia–Russia Corridor, running from Northern China to Eastern Russia
  • China–Central Asia–West Asia Corridor, running from Western China to Turkey
  • China–Indochina Peninsula Corridor, running from Southern China to Singapore
  • China–Myanmar–Bangladesh–India Corridor, running from Southern China to Myanmar
  • China–Pakistan Corridor, running from South-Western China to Pakistan
  • Maritime Silk Road, running from the Chinese Coast through Singapore to the Mediterranean

Infrastructure networksEdit

The area of the initiative is primarily Asia and Europe, encompassing around 60 countries. Oceania and East Africa are also included. Anticipated cumulative investment over an indefinite timescale is variously put at US$4 trillion or US$8 trillion.[10][11] The initiative has been contrasted with the two US-centric trading arrangements, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.[11]

A prime example of the network is the Silk Road Railway departed in 2013, which goes through China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany as a land connection between Asia and Europe.

Bridging the 'infrastructure gap' in Asia and beyondEdit

The Belt and Road Initiative is expected to bridge the 'infrastructure gap' and thus accelerate economic growth across the Asia Pacific area and Central and Eastern Europe: World Pensions Council (WPC) experts estimate that Asia excluding China will need up to $900 billion of infrastructure investments per year during the next 10 years, mostly in debt instruments. They conclude that current infrastructure spending on the continent is insufficient by 50%.[12] "The gaping need for long term capital explains why many Asian and Eastern European heads of state "gladly expressed their interest to join this new international financial institution focusing solely on ‘real assets’ and infrastructure-driven economic growth".[13] The Global Times hosts a news desk dedicated to the Belt and Road Initiative.[14]

Silk Road Economic BeltEdit

 
The Belt and Road Economies from its initial plan[15]

When Chinese leader Xi Jinping visited Astana, Kazakhstan and Southeast Asia in September and October 2013, he raised the initiative of jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road.[16] Essentially, the 'belt' includes countries situated on the original Silk Road through Central Asia, West Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. The initiative calls for the integration of the region into a cohesive economic area through building infrastructure, increasing cultural exchanges, and broadening trade. Apart from this zone, which is largely analogous to the historical Silk Road, another area that is said to be included in the extension of this 'belt' is South Asia and Southeast Asia. Many of the countries that are part of this belt are also members of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). North, central and south belts are proposed. The North belt would go through Central Asia, Russia to Europe. The Central belt goes through Central Asia, West Asia to the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean. The South belt starts from China to Southeast Asia, South Asia, to the Indian Ocean through Pakistan. The Chinese One Belt strategy will integrate with Central Asia through Kazakhstan's Nurly Zhol infrastructure program.[17]

Maritime Silk RoadEdit

The Maritime Silk Road, also known as the "21st Century Maritime Silk Road" (21世纪海上丝绸之路) is a complementary initiative aimed at investing and fostering collaboration in Southeast Asia, Oceania, and North Africa, through several contiguous bodies of water – the South China Sea, the South Pacific Ocean, and the wider Indian Ocean area.[18][19][20]

The Maritime Silk Road initiative was first proposed by Xi Jinping during a speech to the Indonesian Parliament in October 2013.[21] Like its sister initiative the Silk Road Economic Belt, most countries in this area have joined the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Ice Silk RoadEdit

In addition to the Maritime Silk Road, Xi Jinping also urged the close cooperation between Russia and China to carry out the Northern Sea Route cooperation to realize an “Ice Silk Road.” to foster the development in the Arctic region. China COSCO Shipping Corp. has completed several trial trips on Arctic shipping routes, the Transport departments from both countries are constantly improving policies and laws related to development in the Arctic, and Chinese and Russian companies are seeking cooperation on oil and gas exploration in the area and to advance comprehensive collaboration on infrastructure construction, tourism and scientific expeditions.

East AfricaEdit

In May 2014, Premier Li Keqiang visited Kenya to sign a cooperation agreement with the Kenyan government. Under this agreement, the Mombasa–Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway was constructed connecting Mombasa to Nairobi. After completion, the railroad stretches approximately 300 miles (480 km) costing around $250 million USD.[22]

In September 2015, China's Sinomach signed a strategic, cooperative memorandum of understanding with General Electric. The memorandum of understanding set goals to build wind turbines, to promote clean energy programs and to increase the number of energy consumers in sub-Saharan Africa.[23]

Closely related networksEdit

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor are officially classified as "closely related to the Belt and Road Initiative".[24] In coverage by the media, this distinction is disregarded and the networks are counted as components of the initiative. The CPEC, in particular, is often regarded as the link between China's maritime and overland silk road, with the port of Gwadar forming the crux of the CPEC project.[citation needed]

China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)Edit

China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (Chinese: 中国-巴基斯坦经济走廊; Urdu: پاكستان-چین اقتصادی راہداری‎; also known by the acronym CPEC) is a collection of infrastructure projects currently under construction throughout Pakistan. Originally valued at $46 billion, the value of CPEC projects is now worth $62 billion.[25][26][27] CPEC is intended to rapidly modernize Pakistani infrastructure and strengthen its economy by the construction of: modern transportation networks, numerous energy projects, and special economic zones.[28][29][26][27] On November 13, 2016, CPEC became partly operational when Chinese cargo was transported overland to Gwadar Port for onward maritime shipment to Africa and West Asia.[30]

Financial institutionsEdit

AIIBEdit

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
 
  Prospective members (regional)
  Members (regional)
  Prospective members (non-regional)
  Members (non-regional)

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, first proposed by China in October 2013, is a development bank dedicated to lending for projects regarding infrastructure. As of 2015, China announced that over one trillion yuan ($160 billion US) of infrastructure projects were in planning or construction.[31]

The primary goals of AIIB are to address the expanding infrastructure needs across Asia, enhance regional integration, promote economic development and improve the public access to social services.[32]The Board of Governors is AIIB’s highest decision-making body under the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank Articles of Agreement.[33]

On June 29 2015, the Articles of Agreement of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the legal framework was signed in Beijing. The proposed multilateral bank has an authorized capital of $100 billion, 75% of which will come from Asian and Oceania countries. China will be the single largest stakeholder, holding 26% of voting rights. The bank plans to start operation by year end.[34]

Silk Road FundEdit

In November 2014, Xi Jinping announced plans to create a $40 billion USD development fund, which will be distinguished from the banks created for the initiative. As a fund, its role will be to invest in businesses rather than lend money for projects. The Karot Hydropower Project in Pakistan is the first investment project of the Silk Road Fund, [35] and is not part of the much larger CPEC investment.

In January 2016, the Sanxia Construction Corporation began work on the Karot Hydropower Station 50 kilometres (31 mi) from Islamabad. This is the Silk Road Fund's first foreign investment project. The Chinese government has already promised to provide Pakistan with at least $350 million USD by 2030 to finance the hydropower station.[36]

The geoeconomics of continental integrationEdit

A new kind of multilateralismEdit

In his March 29, 2015 speech at the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference, President Xi Jinping said:

[T]he Chinese economy is deeply integrated with the global economy and forms an important driving force of the economy of Asia and even the world at large. […] China's investment opportunities are expanding. Investment opportunities in infrastructure connectivity as well as in new technologies, new products, new business patterns, and new business models are constantly springing up. […] China's foreign cooperation opportunities are expanding. We support the multilateral trading system, devote ourselves to the Doha Round negotiations, advocate the Asia-Pacific free trade zone, promote negotiations on regional comprehensive economic partnership, advocate the construction of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), boost economic and financial cooperation in an all-round manner, and work as an active promoter of economic globalization and regional integration[37]

Xi also insisted that, from a geoeconomic standpoint, the Silk Road Fund and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank would foster "economic connectivity and a new-type of industrialization [in the Asia Pacific area], and [thus] promote the common development of all countries as well as the peoples' joint enjoyment of development fruits."[38]

Leveraging China’s infrastructureEdit

The deliberate underinvestment in transportation infrastructure in the industrialized world after 1980 and the pursuit of short-termist export-oriented neoliberal development policies in most Asian and Eastern European countries[39][40] has allowed China to develop quietly its preeminence in civil works and modern land transportation technology including high speed rail.[41]

World Pensions Council (WPC) experts have argued the Belt and Road initiative constitutes a natural international extension of the infrastructure-driven economic development framework that has sustained the rapid economic growth of China since the adoption of the Chinese economic reform under chairman Deng Xiaoping,[37] which could eventually reshape the Eurasian economic continuum, and, more generally, the international economic order.[42]

Between 2014 and 2016, China’s total trade volume in the countries along Belt and Road exceeded $3 trillion, created $1.1 billion revenues and 180,000 jobs for the countries involved.[43] However, the worries in partnering countries are whether the large debt burden on China to promote the Initiative will make China’s pledges declaratory.[44]

Culture and educationEdit

University Alliance of the Silk RoadEdit

A university alliance centered at Xi'an Jiaotong University aims to support the Belt and Road initiative with research and engineering, and to foster understanding and academic exchange.[45][46] The network extends beyond the economic zone, and includes law school alliance to "serve the Belt and Road development with legal spirit and legal culture."[47]

OversightEdit

The Leading Group for Advancing the Development of One Belt One Road was formed sometime in late 2014, and its leadership line-up publicized on February 1, 2015. This steering committee reports directly into the State Council of the People's Republic of China and is composed of several political heavyweights, evidence of the importance of the program to the government. Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli, who is also a member of the 7-man Politburo Standing Committee, was named leader of the group, with Wang Huning, Wang Yang, Yang Jing, and Yang Jiechi being named deputy leaders.[48]

In March 2014, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang called for accelerating the Belt and Road Initiative along with the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor[49] and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in his government work report presented to the annual meeting of the country's legislature.

Derailed projectsEdit

According to Associated Press reports there are numerous stalled and aborted OBOR projects in several nations including the following:[50]

  • Nepal - US2.5 billion: $2.5 billion Budhi Gandaki Hydro Electric Dam Project was canceled by Nepal in November 2017 for the violation of bidding rules.
  • Hungary: European Union is investigating Hungary-Serbia high-speed railway project build by Chinese contractors for the violation of bidding rules.
  • Myanmar - US3 billion: $3 billion refinery contract to China was terminated after financing issues.
  • Pakistan - US22.3 billion: $10 billion Karachi rail project and $260 million Gwadar airport were stalled and US12 billion Diamer-Bhasha Dam in Gilgit-Baltistan was cancelled due to ownership stake.
  • Thailand - US15 billion: High-speed railway was cancelled in 2016 for not subcontracting sufficient work to Thai companies.
  • Tanzania - US11 billion: Bagamoyo Port was stalled due to financing issues.
  • Sri Lanka - 1.5 billion: Hambantota Port led to Sri Lanka running into financial problems due to the high interest rate of loan given by Chinese, leading to assets transfer to China.
  • Asia, Africa, and the Middle East projects: BMI Research database of Asia, Africa and the Middle East shows many projects are too vague and some are planned up to 30 in the future.

Motivation and controversyEdit

MotivationEdit

Practically, developing infrastructural ties with its neighboring countries will reduce physical and regulatory barriers to trade by aligning standards.[51] Additionally China is also using the Belt and Road Initiative to address excess capacity in its industrial sectors, in the hopes that whole production facilities may eventually be migrated out of China into BRI countries.[52]

A report from Fitch Ratings suggests that China's plan to build ports, roads, railways, and other forms of infrastructure in under-developed Eurasia and Africa is out of political motivation rather than real demand for infrastructure. The Fitch report also doubts Chinese banks' ability to control risks, as they do not have a good record of allocating resources efficiently at home, which may lead to new asset-quality problems for Chinese banks that most of funding is likely to come from.[53]

The Belt and Road Initiative is believed by some analysts to be a way to extend Chinese influence at the expense of the US, in order to fight for regional leadership in Asia. [54][55] China has already invested billions of dollars in several South Asian countries like Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan to improve their basic infrastructure, with implications for China's trade regime as well as its military influence. China has emerged as one of the fastest-growing sources of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into India – it was the 17th largest in 2016, up from the 28th rank in 2014 and 35th in 2011, according to India’s official ranking of FDI inflows.

Analysis by the Jamestown Foundation suggests that the BRI also serves Xi Jinping's intention to bring about “top-level design” of economic development, whereby several infrastructure-focused state-controlled firms are provided with profitable business opportunities in order to maintain high GDP growth.[56] Through the requirement that provincial-level companies have to apply for loans provided by the Party-state to participate in regional BRI projects, Beijing has also been able to take more effective control over China's regions and reduce "centrifugal forces".[56]

Another aspect of Beijing's motivations for BRI is the initiative's internal state-building and stabilisation benefits for its vast inland western regions such as Xinjiang and Yunnan. Academic Hong Yu argues that Beijing's motivations also lie in developing these less developed regions, with increased flows of international trade facilitating closer economic integration with the China's inland core.[57] Beijing may also be motivated by BRI's potential benefits in pacifying China's restive Uighur population. Harry Roberts suggests that the Communist Party is effectively attempting to assimilate and pacify China's Uighur community by creating economic opportunities and so reduce separatism and ensure social harmony between Han settlers and the native population.[58]

In Hong KongEdit

During his 2016 policy address, Hong Kong chief executive CY Leung's announced his intention of setting up a Maritime Authority aimed at strengthening Hong Kong’s maritime logistics in line with Beijing's economic policy.[59] Leung mentioned "One Belt, One Road" no fewer than 48 times during the policy address,[60] but the small amount of detail presented, in addition to the macro-economic measures related to the initiative, led commentators to complain of the address's irrelevance to Hong Kong people because it skirted over matters of importance to them.[61][62]

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

ReferencesEdit

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  4. ^ 钱钢: 钱钢语象报告:党媒关键词温度测试,2017-02-23,微信公众号“尽知天下事”
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  6. ^ General Office of Leading Group of Advancing the Building of the Belt and Road Initiative (2016). "Belt and Road in Big Data 2016". Beijing: the Commercial Press. 
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  15. ^ Based on <一帶一路規劃藍圖> in Nanfang Daily
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  55. ^ Jamie Smyth, Australia rejects China push on Silk Road strategy, Financial Times, 2017-03-22
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  61. ^ "【政情】被「洗版」特首辦官員調職瑞士". 
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External linksEdit