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Belt and Road Initiative

  (Redirected from One Belt One Road Initiative)
Map of Asia, showing the OBOR initiative
China in red, Members of the AIIB in orange, the six corridors in black[1]

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also known as the One Belt One Road (OBOR) (Chinese: 一带一路) or the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road (Chinese: 丝绸之路经济带和21世纪海上丝绸之路), is a development strategy adopted by the Chinese government involving infrastructure development and investments in countries in Europe, Asia and Africa. "Belt" refers to the overland routes, or the Silk Road Economic Belt; whereas "road" refers to the sea routes, or the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.[2] Until 2016, the initiative was officially known in English as the One Belt and One Road initiative but the official name was changed as the Chinese government considered the emphasis on the word "one" prone to misinterpretation.[3]

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

The Chinese government calls the initiative "a bid to enhance regional connectivity and embrace a brighter future".[4] Independent observers, however, see it as a push for Chinese dominance in global affairs with a China-centered trading network.[5][6]

Contents

Vision and scopeEdit

The initiative was unveiled by Xi Jinping in September and October 2013 during visits to Kazakhstan and Indonesia[7], and was thereafter promoted by Premier Li Keqiang during state visits to Asia and Europe. The initiative quickly was covered by the official media intensively, and became the most frequently mentioned concept in the official newspaper People's Daily by 2016.[8] "Indeed, B&R is a connectivity of system and mechanism (Kuik 2016). To construct a unified large market and make full use of both international and domestic markets, through cultural exchange and integration, to enhance mutual understanding and trust of member nations, ending up in an innovative pattern with capital inflows, talent pool, and technology database."[attribution needed][9]

The initial focus has been infrastructure investment, education, construction materials, railway and highway, automobile, real estate, power grid, and iron and steel.[10] Already, some estimates list the Belt and Road Initiative as one of the largest infrastructure and investment projects in history, covering more than 68 countries, including 65% of the world's population and 40% of the global GDP as of 2017.[11][12]

The Belt and Road Initiative addresses an "infrastructure gap" and thus has potential to accelerate economic growth across the Asia Pacific area and Central and Eastern Europe: a report from the World Pensions Council (WPC) estimates that Asia, excluding China, requires up to US$900 billion of infrastructure investments per year over the next decade, mostly in debt instruments, 50% above current infrastructure spending rates.[13] 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".[14]

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. Then Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli, who was also a member of the 7-man Politburo Standing Committee then, was named leader of the group, with Wang Huning, Wang Yang, Yang Jing, and Yang Jiechi being named deputy leaders.[15]

In March 2014, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang called for accelerating the Belt and Road Initiative along with the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor[16] and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in his government work report presented to the annual meeting of the country's legislature.

On March 28th, 2015, China's State Council outlined the principles, framework, key areas of cooperation and cooperation mechanisms with regard to the initiative[17].

Infrastructure networksEdit

The Belt and Road Initiative is geographically structured along several land corridors, and the maritime silk road.[18] Infrastructure corridors encompassing around 60 countries, primarily in Asia and Europe but also including Oceania and East Africa, will cost an estimated US$4–8 trillion.[19][20] The initiative has been contrasted with the two US-centric trading arrangements, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.[20] These programmes aimed at encompassing countries, financially, receive the support of Silk Road Fund and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank; technically, are guided by B&R Summit Forum.

Silk Road Economic BeltEdit

 
The Belt and Road Economies from its initial plan[21]

The Silk Road Economic Belt (SRB) is the overland interconnecting infrastructure corridors.[2] 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 (Chinese: “丝绸之路经济带”) and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road.[22] 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 and Russia to Europe. The Central belt goes through Central Asia and 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.[23]

The land corridors include:[18]

  • The New Eurasian Land Bridge runs from Western China to Western Russia through Kazakhstan, and includes the Silk Road Railway through China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany.
  • The China–Mongolia–Russia Corridor will run from Northern China to the Russian Far East. The Russian government established Russian Direct Investment Fund and China Investment Corporation, a Chinese government investment agency, partnered in 2012 to create the Sino-Russian Investment Fund, which concentrates on opportunities in bilateral integration.[24][25]
  • The China–Central Asia–West Asia Corridor will run from Western China to Turkey.
  • The China–Indochina Peninsula Corridor will run from Southern China to Singapore.
  • The Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor, runs from southern China to Myanmar and is officially classified as "closely related to the Belt and Road Initiative".[26]
  • The 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), also classified as "closely related to the Belt and Road Initiative,"[26] which is a US$62 billion collection of infrastructure projects throughout Pakistan [27][28][29] that aims to rapidly modernize Pakistan's transportation networks, energy infrastructure, and economy.[30][31][28][29] 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.[32]

21st Century 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 the sea route corridors.[2] It 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.[33][34][35]

The Maritime Silk Road initiative was first proposed by Xi Jinping during a speech to the Indonesian Parliament in October 2013.[36] 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 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.

ProjectsEdit

East AfricaEdit

KenyaEdit

In May 2014, Premier Li Keqiang signed a cooperation agreement with the Kenyan government to build the Mombasa–Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway connecting Mombasa to Nairobi. The railway cost US$3.2bn and was Kenya's biggest infrastructure project since independence. The railyway was claimed to cut the journey time from Mombasa to Nairobi from 9 hours by bus or 12 hours on the previous railway to 4.5 hours. In May 2017, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta called the 470km railway a new chapter that "would begin to reshape the story of Kenya for the next 100 years".[37] According to Kenya Railways Corporation, the railway carried 1.3 million Kenyans with a 96.7% seat occupancy and 600,000 tons of cargo in its first year of operation. Chinese media claim that the railway line boosted the country's GDP by 1.5% and created 46,000 jobs for locals and trained 1,600 railway professionals.[38]

EthiopiaEdit

Ethiopia's Eastern Industrial Zone is a manufacturing hub outside Addis Ababa that was built by China and occupied by factories of Chinese manufacturers.[39]. According to Chinese media and the vice director of the industrial zone, there were 83 companies resident within the zone, of which 56 had started production.[40].

However, EIZ has yet to serve as a catalyst for Ethiopia's overall economic development due to many factors including poor infrastructure outside the zone. Discrepancies between the two countries' industries also mean that Ethiopia cannot benefit from direct technological transfer and innovation.[41]

From October 2011 to February 2012, Chinese companies were contracted to supersede the century-old Ethio-Djibouti Railways by constructing a new electric standard gauge Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway. The new railway line, stretching more than 750km and travelling at 120km/h, shortens the journey time between Addis Ababa and Dijbouti from three days to about 12 hours.[42] The first freight service began in November 2015 and passenger service followed in October 2016.[43]

EuropeEdit

Freight train services between China and Europe were initiated in March 2011.[44] The service's first freight route linked China to Tehran. The China-Britain route was launched in January 2017[45] As of 2018, the network had expanded to cover 48 Chinese cities and 42 European destinations, delivering goods between China and Europe. The 10,000th trip was completed on 26 August 2018 with the arrival of freight train X8044 in Wuhan, China from Hamburg, Germany.[46] The network was further extended southward to Vietnam in March 2018.[47].

The China-Belarus Industrial Park is a 91.5-square kilometre special economic zone established in Smolevichy, Minsk in 2013. According to the park's chief administrator, 36 international companies have settled in the park as of August 2018.[48] Chinese media claim the park will create 6000 jobs and become a real city with 10,000 residents by 2020.[49]

AsiaEdit

IndonesiaEdit

In 2016, China Railway International won a bid to build Indonesia's first high-speed rail project, the 140-km Jakarta-Bandung HSR. It is claimed that the service will shorten the journey time between Jakarta and Bandung from more than three hours to forty minutes[50] The project, initially scheduled for completion in 2019, was delayed by issues with clearing land.[51] By June 2018, China Railway announced that it was undergoing licensing, financing and land acquisition, and had employed more than 2000 locals to work on the project.

PakistanEdit

The China–Pakistan Economic Corridor is a major BRI project that was encompasses investments in transportation, energy and maritime infrastructure.

MalaysiaEdit

Under the Premiership of Najib Razak, Malaysia signed multiple investment deals with China, including a US$27 billion East Coast Rail Link project, pipeline projects worth more than $3.1 billion, as well as a US$100 billion Forest City in Johor.[52] During the 2018 Malaysian general election, then-opposition leader Mahathir Mohamad expressed disapproval of Chinese investment in Malaysia, comparing it to selling off the country to foreigners.[53] Upon election as Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir labelled the China-funded projects as "unfair" deals authorised by former prime minister Najib Razak and would leave Malaysia "indebted" to China.[54]

In August 2018, at the end of an official visit to China, Mahathir cancelled the East Coast Rail Link project and two other pipeline projects that were awarded to the China Petroleum Pipeline Bureau that have been linked to corruption at state fund 1MDB,[54] citing a need to reduce debt incurred by the previous government.[55][56][57][58]

"It will be deferred until such time we can afford, and maybe we can reduce the cost also if we do it differently."

In addition, Mahathir also threatened to deny foreign buyers a long-stay visa, prompting a clarification by Housing Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin and the Prime Minister's Office.[59]

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng later announced that the East Coast Rail Link project was "still being reviewed" and further negotiated to see if drastic cost cuts are possible. The government also said it would continue to be part of China's BRI.[60]

Sri LankaEdit

China's main investment in Sri Lanka was the Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port, mostly funded by the Chinese government and built by two Chinese companies. It claims to be the largest port in Sri Lanka after the Port of Colombo and the "biggest port constructed on land to date in the century". It was initially intended to be owned by the Government of Sri Lanka and operated by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority, however it incurred heavy losses and the Sri Lankan government was unable to service the debt to China. In a debt restructuring plan on 9 December 2017, seventy percent of the port was leased and port operations were handed over to China for 99 years, relieving Sri Lanka of about US$1 billion of debt.[61][62] This led to accusations that China was practising debt-trap diplomacy.[63]

The port's strategic location and subsequent ownership by China spurred concern over China's growing economic footprint in the Indian Ocean and speculation that it could be used as a naval base for the Chinese Navy. However, the Sri Lankan government promised that it would be "purely intended for civilian use".[64]

LaosEdit

Construction of the 414-kilometre Vientiane–Boten Railway began on 25 December 2016 and is scheduled to be completed in 2021. It will be China's first overseas railway project that will be directly connected to China's railway network.[65] Once operational, the Laos-China Railway will be Laos' longest and connect with Thailand to become part of the proposed Kunming–Singapore railway, extending from the Chinese city of Kunming and running through Thailand and Laos to terminate at Singapore.[66][67] It is estimated to cost US$5.95 billion with 70% of the railway owned by China, while Laos's remaining 30% stake will be mostly financed by loans from China.[68] However, it faces opposition within Laos due to the high cost of the project.[69]

ThailandEdit

In 2005, Chinese pharmaceutical company Holley Group and Thai industrial estate developer Amata Group signed an agreement to develop the Thai-Chinese Rayong Industrial Zone. Since 2012, Chinese companies have also opened solar, rubber, and industrial manufacturing plants in the zone, and the zone expects the number is expected to increase to 500 by 2021.[70] Chinese media have attributed this to Thailand's zero tax incentives on land use and export products as well as favorable labor costs, and claimed that this it had created more than 3000 local jobs.[71]

In December 2017, China and Thailand began the construction of a high-speed rail project linking the cities of Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima, which will be further extended to Nong Khai to connect with Laos, as part of the planned Kunming–Singapore railway.[72]

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.[73] Leung mentioned "One Belt, One Road" no fewer than 48 times during the policy address,[74] but details were scant.[75][76]

Financial and research institutionsEdit

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.[77][78] The network extends beyond the economic zone, and includes a law school alliance to "serve the Belt and Road development with legal spirit and legal culture".[79]

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.[80]

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.[81] The Board of Governors is AIIB's highest decision-making body under the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank Articles of Agreement.[82]

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.[83]

Silk Road FundEdit

In November 2014, Xi Jinping announced plans to create a US$40 billion 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, [84] 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 US$350 million by 2030 to finance the hydropower station.[85]

CommentaryEdit

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[86]

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".[87] A research indicates that Belt and road initiative actually represent efficient allocation of resources. It also promotes the economic globalization, multilateral cooperation and win-win.[88]

Leveraging China's infrastructure expertiseEdit

China is a world leader in infrastructure investment.[89] In contrast with the general underinvestment in transportation infrastructure in the industrialized world after 1980 and the pursuit of export-oriented development policies in most Asian and Eastern European countries,[90][91] China has pursued an infrastructure-based development strategy, which has resulted in engineering and construction expertise and a wide range of modern reference projects from which to draw, including roads, bridges, tunnels, and high-speed rail projects.[92]

Members of the World Pensions Council (WPC), a non-profit policy research organization, have argued the Belt and Road initiative constitutes a natural 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,[86] which could eventually reshape the Eurasian economic continuum, and, more generally, the international economic order.[93][94]

Between 2014 and 2016, China's total trade volume in the countries along the Belt and Road exceeded $3 trillion, created $1.1 billion revenues and 180,000 jobs for the countries involved.[95] However, the worries in partnering countries are whether the large debt burden on China to promote the Initiative will make China’s pledges declaratory.[96]

NeocolonialismEdit

There has been concerns over the project being a form of neocolonialism. For example, in 2018 Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad cancelled China-funded projects, and warns "there is a new version of Colonialism happening".[54] Some Western governments and Africans have accused the Belt and Road Initiative of being neocolonial due to what they allege as China practice of debt trap diplomacy to fund the initiative's infrastructure projects.[97] On 14 September, 2018 at the 39th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, India objected over China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). India emphasized that the "China–Pakistan Economic Corridor" (CPEC) project ignores New Delhi's essential concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity. [98]

MotivationEdit

Practically, developing infrastructural ties with its neighboring countries will reduce physical and regulatory barriers to trade by aligning standards.[99] 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.[100]

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.[101]

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.[102][103] 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.[104] 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".[104]

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.[105] 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.[106][107]

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

ReferencesEdit

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