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Research studies

One Belt One Road Initiative: A win-win Partnership

 

Prepared by the researcher – Dana Nabil Khalil Abu-Haltam – Master’s Degree in diplomatic studies – University of Jordan, Amman Jordan

Democratic Arab Center

Journal of Afro-Asian Studies : Seventh Issue – November 2020

A Periodical International Journal published by the “Democratic Arab Center” Germany – Berlin. The journal deals with the field of Afro-Asian strategic, political and economic studies

Nationales ISSN-Zentrum für Deutschland
ISSN 2628-6475
Journal of Afro-Asian Studies
 :To download the pdf version of the research papers, please visit the following link

Abstract

In September 2013, the Chinese president Xi Jingpin announced his vision of a “Silk Road Economic Belt” during his visit at the Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan. The initiative aims to promote economic integration by building transport, linkages and energy infrastructure along the historical routes for the ancient Silk Road as early as 2,000 years ago, to deepen and expand the surface, sea, and air linkages with more than 60 countries all over Asia, Africa and Europe. This study will discuss the main purposes and goals for this initiative to China and will examine the challenges that face this initiative. In addition to that, this paper will study the implications of the initiative on the participating countries all from Africa–Asia and Europe. And the US perspective and point of view to this new One Belt One Road OBOR or what it known also the Belt and Road initiative BRI or B&R.

Introduction:

The Chinese Silk Road is the most ancient overland trade route in the world. It established when China officially open trade with the west. It was a network of trade routes connecting China and with the Europe and Middle East. Established since Han Dynasty period 130 B.C. when China officially opened trade with the West[1].

The Silk were sent westward, and wools, gold, and silver were going to the east. Buddhism and Nestorian religious also received via this road and the interaction between the civilizations. It also carried goods and ideas between the two great civilizations of Rome and China.

“Routes extended from the Greco-Roman metropolis of Antioch across the Syrian Desert via Palmyra to Ctesiphon (the Parthian capital) and Seleucia on the Tigris River, a Mesopotamian city in modern-day Iraq”.

 Seleucia, routes passed eastward over the Zagros Mountains to the cities of Ecbatana (Iran) and Merv (Turkmenistan), from which additional routes traversed to modern-day Afghanistan and eastward into Mongolia and China[2]. But in 1453 A.D. the Ottoman Empire boycotted trade with China and the road were no longer used[3].

In the fall of 2013, President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) announced to invoke the ancient Silk Road and present the new One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative. And the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road that spans China visa Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East and make China closer by constructing investment and trade networks using hyper-efficient infrastructure and new institutional linkages. And the maritime road that starts from China and cross South China Sea, Indian Ocean, and Suez Canal to Europe[4].

Figure 1: Map of One Road, One Belt/21st-century Maritime Silk Road

  • Source: Liu Zhongyun, The Economic and Trade Cooperation of China with Countries along the Belt and Road, Xing Zhi College of Xi’an University of Finance and Economics Xi’an, China.

It comprises about 65 countries and 900 projects with an investment volume of 850 billion dollars[5]. This new initiative is supported by Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), various international development banks and Chinese Silk Road Fund[6]. It is not new idea to the country, according to Tim Summers, it is original a development plan for China since 1980s[7].

As China’ economic develop, its global role becomes more sensitive and powerful. China has begun to advocate a greater role for itself in the international order. It has also established itself as a global leader with the OBOR Initiative. This OBOR initiative is a signature that China promote trade and economic development by constructing transport links[8].

The sources of finance: As one of the largest projects in the world history, OBOR requires a huge amount of finance. The Chinese government has already declared for USD 40 Billion from its side. The other funding institutions like China Investment Corporation, Export Import Bank of China, China Development Bank and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange have allocated the fund in 2015.

Research questions:

The main purpose of this study is to answer the questions:

1) What are the main goals of the One Belt One Road initiative?

 2) What are the contexts of origin and challenges of OBOR initiatives?

 3) What is the implications of this initiative for the participated countries from Africa, Europe and Asia?

 4) What’s the United States of America point of view of this Initiative?

Hypotheses:

  • China propose One Belt One Road initiative to create for itself an important role in the political system to end the American hegemony.
  • China creates a win-win partnerships with the participating countries in the initiative.
  • China is affecting the global politics and will change a lot in the international politics in the future with the new One Belt One Road initiative.

Importance:

The importance of this paper is to be knowledgeable and aware of this new initiative and get to know the main purpose of Chinese foreign policies for building and proposing the One Belt One Road initiative in order to know whether it going to reflect to us positive or negatively.

Literature Review and previous studies:

Md Nazirul Islam Sarker, Md Altab Hossin, Xiaohua Yin, Md Kamruzzaman Sarkar, 2018, One Belt One Road Initiative of China: Implication for Future of Global Development

The study examined the suitability of One Belt One Road initiative for future of global development in economic, political, and cultural terms. The study argues that the initiative has a great potential for future of global development. It is also examined the origin, vision, strategy, opportunities and challenges that is facing the initiative. In addition to that this study contributes the ongoing debates on what if this initiative effect positively or negatively on the global especially future global development.

Ali Salah, 2018, The Belt and Road Project: How does China connect its economy with the outside world?

          This research examined the origin of this initiative and explore all the global trade routes and corridors also the Silk Road routes. It also studied the aims and motives of China for establishing One Belt One Road initiative. It also talked about the economic repercussions on the participating countries, and the difficulties and challenges that face China and the participating countries in this initiative.

Aims and Goals of the Initiative:

China is experiencing a very rapid economic growth in the world history. In 2012, the idea to “promote all-around improvements to China’s open economy” was discussed at the 18th national congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC). They call for coordinating bilateral, multilateral, regional and sub-regional cooperation as well as promoting interconnection with neighboring countries. In 2013, CPC Central Committee proposed that China should focus on building Silk Road economic belt and a maritime silk road and accelerating the construction of infrastructure connecting China with neighboring countries and region. In 2015, the CPC Central Economic Work Conference proposed to “do a good job of OBOR initiative construction and implementation”. This initiative involves three continents (Asia, Europe, and Africa)[9].

The goal of One Belt, One Road initiative is to make China a global power and strengthen China’s position in the world. China emphasizes that OBOR comes without any political strings attached, as it is helping in securing Chinese natural resources as well as expanding and strengthening Chinese hegemony[10].

It is also aiming to promote free flow of economic factors, deep integration of markets and a highly efficient allocation of sources. In addition, it develops and improves transport infrastructure across the BRI region (remove physical barriers) to improve international bilateral trade. Furthermore, of higher standards, and jointly creating an open, inclusive, and balanced regional e, it encourages “the implied countries to achieve economic policy coordination and carry out broader and more in-depth regional cooperation economic cooperation architecture that benefits all”[11].

In terms of security, China also wants to speed up development of Central Asia, which could have stabilizing effect on Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. And to build an overland route that they can used extensively during any potential military confrontation on the seas. All of these narration infrastructure constructions (sea ports, railroads, and airports) are advocated by China using Chinese labor for economic and security.

Also, China is aiming to strengthening the position of the Chinese currency (Yuan) internationally, as well as to Increase its influence in the regional and global. This initiative is using the soft power of China in competition with the United States of America level, by building new huge investments across the world to expand their influence and provide an alternative development model[12]. And to Strength China’ presence in the Eurasia region because of its geostrategic important.

Implications of the Initiative on the Participated Countries:

Participating in the initiative represents a great opportunity to develop countries’ infrastructure, such as roads, ports, electricity networks and cables. It will stimulate investments in other economic sectors and generate more job opportunities and eliminates unemployment. What really encourage developing countries to deal with China is that the latter affirms the principle of zero interference in the internal affairs of countries (unlike Western countries), as they reject a conditionality political, and this is within the framework of the so-called (Beijing Consensus), where the Chinese government emphasizes equality between countries, mutual trust and balanced economic cooperation, which is why developing countries see that China can be an alternative to Western countries, especially since China is a permanent member of the Security Council that has the right to veto, so establishing strong relations with China could save it from sanctions from the Security Council.

This initiative also help in reducing the time of transporting goods through these new corridors and the new infrastructure, which will be established within the framework of this initiative.

The “Chinese Belt and Road” initiative was supposed to contribute by investing in buildings the infrastructure in raising the level of employment within the countries participating in this initiative. But projects are often awarded to Chinese institutions rather than local institutions, the Chinese are not only using Chinese goods and equipment, but also bring to labor a Chinese workers, instead of employing local workers. But going back to one of the reasons behind this initiative is the slowdown in growth in the Chinese economy had led to surplus in production capacity, especially in large infrastructure development projects in which Chinese companies have gained good experience, and the initiative can make room for the export of this production capacity and technological skills of that would be a pull factor for the local economy. But At the end, China is the one who support the investments financially and it is at the end a win-win partnership, the local country get developed in many aspects and China use its production and excess capacity.

In Kazakhstan, China’s desire to purchase agricultural lands in the regions through which the initiative is passing has led to an increase the concerns of the local population, aimed at extending the rent law of agricultural land to foreign investors from ten to twenty-five years, and a series of protests from the people led to the withdrawal of this project[13].In 2020 the new Covid-19 virus pandemic effect the whole world witnessed a collapse in the economy, affecting billions of people business as well as countries economy. But China doing its part and while defeating the epidemic and recovering the economy China announced that it is willing to give priority to “strengthening communication and coordination with partners in the “Belt and Road” initiative, focusing on providing support in five areas. One is to support the “Belt and Road” partners affected by the epidemic, especially developing countries, to fight the epidemic and restore economic and social development within the US$2 billion international aid plan announced by President Xi Jinping. Second, in the process of vaccine development and use, actively consider the needs of partners in the “Belt and Road”, and support platforms such as the “Belt and Road” International Science Organization Alliance to carry out anti-epidemic technology exchanges and cooperation. The third is to conduct technical communication and coordination with partners in the “Belt and Road” as soon as possible, and negotiate the establishment of convenient channels for cross-border movement of people and goods. The fourth is to hold a video conference of transnational transportation ministers with partners in the “Belt and Road” to jointly maintain the smoothness and safety of the international industrial chain, supply chain and logistics system. The fifth is to strengthen innovation cooperation with partners in the “Belt and Road”, jointly develop “Silk Road E-commerce”, and promote cooperation in smart city construction and green development.”[14]

The Initiative Challenges:

The first difficulty and challenge of this initiative is economic one. Most of the participating countries do not have financial abundance that suffers from poor infrastructure, high inflation and low level of development. Which will cost China an extra cost also most of the project costs will be borne by China and the Chinese supply institutions such as China Development Bank[15] and This caused cancellation or postponement of the implementation of some projects, for instance, in Thailand, a project of an express train between China and Singapore was postponed due to lack of funding[16].

Second one is the fear of the participating countries that suffer from difficulties in financing their obligation to become dependent on China and that China control it. For example, some quarters in Myanmar are concerned the Chinese investments in the port of Kyaukpyu, which Beijing seeks to use as an alternative to “Malacca Strait”.

With investments estimated at about 9 billion dollars, or about 14% of the country’s gross national product, with the possibility of Myanmar’s debt being unable to pay

And Fears that Beijing will pursue the debt strategy.

But an example that China is use debt-asset swap strategy that Pakistan and Sri Lanka defaulted on and entered Chinese debt, and after negotiations with Beijing, they agreed on “debt-asset swap, that is, the signing leasing contracts for those assets. For example, Chinese companies have leased the Sri Lankan port of Hambantota for about 99 years also the areas adjacent to the Pakistani port of Gwadar have been leased for about 43 years [17].

In addition, the Chinese leaders’ disclosure that the goal of strengthening the regional and international standing of China is to establish a new global economic order in which China has a strategic position, away from the hegemony of the major powers and the largest target is the United States, China has refused US hegemony since the end of the Cold War and has explicitly declared the American with the latter’s logic in using forcee and imposing sanctions on states[18].

Another challenge is the Security aspect and the foreign interest in Interfering in China’s internal affairs and tarnishing China’s image. The region’s proximity to Afghanistan makes China vulnerable to the transmission of terrorism and extremism to it, and the transfer of terrorist groups to it, which constitutes a state of instability for China.

Another challenge is the existence of old hostilities for China with some of its neighbors is an obstacle to the success of the Belt Initiative – The road, like its relationship with India due to the border dispute over areas of the border up to 4 Thousands of kilometers[19].

United States of America point of View of the New Chinese One Belt One Road Initiative

Great power countries used to adopt the global order to reflect their own interests and preferences. For years, China focused on peaceful rise in decision making of its foreign policy. Despite the lack of soft power in Chinese government, China considered economic interests are potentially a more effective instrument to advance their foreign policy interests. Due to that, in 2013 one belt one road initiative aimed to improve Chinese open economic level and maintain economic cooperation, investments, energy infrastructure projects, tourism, education, transport and culture areas. It was also initially a plan aimed to promote the bilateral relations of China and its neighbor and this initiative played not only economic role but also play significant role in building political relations with other countries.

Chinese one belt one road initiative is the largest project of the century, investments in more than 60 countries representing 70 % of the world’s population, 75 % world’s energy reserve and 55 % of its gross national product. And it could threaten the hegemony of the United States of America. The world’s great powers in the OBOR area have exert a huge effort to enhance their regional influence. Hilary Clinton, Secretary of U.S. State, in July 2011 in Chennai, India proposed the “Greater Central Asia” idea and the concept of “New Silk Road”. Clinton also advocated for the establishment of a link between South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia and economic and transport developed network. The purpose of the proposal is to maintain the leadership position of America and weaken China’s influence in the region. For example, the plan proposes that neighbouring countries in Afghanistan should invest to maintain the role of the United States in the region. The United States has also promoted the “rebalancing of Asia and the Pacific” initiative, “using the territorial disputes that surround China’s maritime territories,” continues to strengthen the military power of Asia and the Pacific, “firmly supporting its allies in these field and related disputes, and finally implementing the balance between China and its neighbours. ” Offshore initiative[20]. The goal of One Belt, One Road initiative is to make China a global power and strengthen China’s position in the world. China emphasizes that OBOR comes without any political strings attached, as it is helping in securing Chinese natural resources as well as expanding and strengthening Chinese hegemony[21].

Trump administration endeavored to “help South Asian nations maintain their sovereignty as China increases its influence in the region.” And updated the partnership of the QUAD, which includes the United States, Australia, India and Japan.

China has begun to advocate a greater role for itself in the international order. It has also established itself as a global leader with the OBOR Initiative. China sought to create economic frameworks or new international institutions that work as parallel alternatives to replace US-led regimes, such as the dollar based on financial system. BRI and AIIB were considered a challenge for the American foundations of economic orders and introduced as the beginning of “Sino-Centric” period[22].

America is concerned that China’s political investment in BRI projects will lead to security activities outside China and initiatives led by China[23]. For example, China does not care about the environmental or labor rights of the recipient countries. America is concerned that China will use its economic power to replace the liberal norms that prevail in the post-war international economic order of the international system [24](Chance, 2016, p.18). As China’s ability to influence the international order grows, US academics are not sure of the long-term goals of China’s foreign policy. The United States is also not sure of the principles of its policies.

Conclusion

China played an important role by announcing the new One Belt one Road initiative. It creates new friendships and partnerships with several countries, from which it create w win-win partnership between China and the participating countries as well. China is using the initiative for clear purposes as a soft power and peaceful policy. The initiative has some challenges, but China can get rid of them by concluding greater cooperation and providing a trustful environment for the participating countries.

America will take advantage of any opportunity to sabotage China’s project, given its knowledge to the importance of this initiative and its ability to make a markable changes in the global system.

Sources and References List

  1. com, Silk Road, History, https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-middle-east/silk-road, September 26, 2019, 18 August 2020.
  2. Michael A. Peters, The ancient Silk Road and the birth of merchant capitalism, Educational Philosophy and Theory, DOI: 10.1080/00131857.2019.1691481
  3. com, Silk Road, History, https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-middle-east/silk-road, September 26, 2019, 18 August 2020.
  4. Adrian Brona, One Belt, One Road: new framework for international relations?, Polish Journal of Political Science, Volume 4 Issue 2 (2018),58p.
  5. (Chua, A.C. (2017) One Belt One Road and Opportunities. http://www.centerforfinancialstability.org/research/Chua_OneBeltOneRoad_7_6_1 7.pdf)
  6. Adrian Brona, One Belt, One Road: new framework for internationalrelations?, Polish Journal of Political Science, Volume 4 Issue 2 (2018),59p
  7. Tim Summers, “China’s ‘New Silk Roads: Sub-National Regionsand Networks of Global Political Economy,” Third World Quarterly 37,no. 9 (2016): 1633, doi:10.1080/01436597.2016.1153415
  8. Layne, Christopher, 2018, The US–Chinese Power Shift and the End of the Pax Americana, International Affairs Journal, 5 January 2018, Volume 94, Number 1, p. 101
  9. Liu, Haiquan, 2017, The Security Challenges of the “One Belt, One Road” Initiative and China’s Choice, The Journal of Institute for International Relations, Vol. 23, Issue 78, p. 130-130.
  10. Nathan Hayes, The Impact of China’s One Belt One Road Initiative on Developing Countries, LSE International Development, 2017, Article.
  11. Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt And 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, 2015/03/28, Issued by The National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, And Ministry of Commerce of The People’s Republic of China, with State Council Authorization, March (2015), Part I: Background.
  12. Ali (Salah): “The Belt and Road Project: How does China connect its economy with the outside world?” Future Report,
  13. 7, 2018, 26 issue
  14. (Paulo Afonso) Brardo, OP. CIT, p 131
  15. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China.
  16. A study showing promising economic prospects for countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative
  17. http://arabic.news.cn/2018-04/19/c_137122245.htm, 2018-04-19
  18. Arab Democratic Center Publications, Germany: Berlin, First Edition 2019113
  19. Jonathan E. Hillman, China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Five Years Later, CSIS, 2018.
  20. Brzezinski, Zbigniew, The Great Chessboard, 2008, p.191.
  21. Arab Democratic Center Publications, Germany: Berlin, First Edition 2019, p. 127
  22. Liu, Haiquan, 2017, The Security Challenges of the “One Belt, One Road” Initiative and China’s Choice, The Journal of Institute for International Relations, Vol. 23, Issue 78, p.135.
  23. Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt And 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, 2015/03/28, Issued by The National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, And Ministry of Commerce of The People’s Republic of China, with State Council Authorization, March (2015), Part I: Background.
  24. Wethington, V. Swainson, 2015, United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, S. Dist. LEXIS 7421 (W.D. Okla., Jan. 22, 2016), p.16.
  25. Simeon Djankov, Cullen S. Hendrix, Robert Z. Lawrence, Sean Miner, Edwin M. Truman And Fredrick Toohey, 2016, China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Motives, Scope, And Challenges, Published at Peterson Institute for International Economic, p.25.

Chance, Alek, 2016, American Perspectives on The Belt and Road Initiative Sources of Concern and Possibilities for Cooperation, Institute for China-America Studies 1919 M St. NW Suite 310 Washington, DC 20036,p.18.

[1] History.com, Silk Road, History, https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-middle-east/silk-road, September 26, 2019, 18 August 2020

[2] Michael A. Peters, The ancient Silk Road and the birth of merchant capitalism, Educational Philosophy and Theory, DOI: 10.1080/00131857.2019.1691481

[3] History.com, Silk Road, History, https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-middle-east/silk-road, September 26, 2019, 18 August 2020.

[4] Adrian Brona, One Belt, One Road: new framework for international relations?, Polish Journal of Political Science, Volume 4 Issue 2 (2018),58p.

[5] (Chua, A.C. (2017) One Belt One Road and Opportunities. http://www.centerforfinancialstability.org/research/Chua_OneBeltOneRoad_7_6_1 7.pdf)

[6] Adrian Brona, One Belt, One Road: new framework for internationalrelations?, Polish Journal of Political Science, Volume 4 Issue 2 (2018),59p

[7] Tim Summers, “China’s ‘New Silk Roads: Sub-National Regionsand Networks of Global Political Economy,” Third World Quarterly 37,no. 9 (2016): 1633, doi:10.1080/01436597.2016.1153415

[8] Layne, Christopher, 2018, The US–Chinese Power Shift and the End of the Pax Americana, International Affairs Journal, 5 January 2018, Volume 94, Number 1, p. 101

[9] Liu, Haiquan, 2017, The Security Challenges of the “One Belt, One Road” Initiative and China’s Choice, The Journal of Institute for International Relations, Vol. 23, Issue 78, p. 130-130.

[10] Nathan Hayes, The Impact of China’s One Belt One Road Initiative on Developing Countries, LSE International Development, 2017, Article.

[11] Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt And 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, 2015/03/28, Issued by The National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, And Ministry of Commerce of The People’s Republic of China, with State Council Authorization, March (2015), Part I: Background.

[12] Ali (Salah): “The Belt and Road Project: How does China connect its economy with the outside world?” Future Report,

 p.7, 2018, 26 issue

[13] (Paulo Afonso) Brardo, OP. CIT, p 131

[14] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, Wang Yi: China is willing to provide support in five aspects to partners in the “Belt and Road” initiative 2020-06-18

[15]A study showing promising economic prospects for countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative

 http://arabic.news.cn/2018-04/19/c_137122245.htm, 2018-04-19

[16] Arab Democratic Center Publications, Germany: Berlin, First Edition 2019 p.113

[17] Jonathan E. Hillman, China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Five Years Later, CSIS, 2018.

[18] Brzezinski, Zbigniew, The Great Chessboard, 2008, p.191.

[19] Arab Democratic Center Publications, Germany: Berlin, First Edition 2019, p. 127

[20] Liu, Haiquan, 2017, The Security Challenges of the “One Belt, One Road” Initiative and China’s Choice, The Journal of Institute for International Relations, Vol. 23, Issue 78, p.135.

[21] Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt And 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, 2015/03/28, Issued by The National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, And Ministry of Commerce of The People’s Republic of China, with State Council Authorization, March (2015), Part I: Background.

[22] Wethington, V. Swainson, 2015, United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7421 (W.D. Okla., Jan. 22, 2016), p.16.

[23] Simeon Djankov, Cullen S. Hendrix, Robert Z. Lawrence, Sean Miner, Edwin M. Truman And Fredrick Toohey, 2016, China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Motives, Scope, And Challenges, Published at Peterson Institute for International Economic, p.25.

[24] Chance, Alek, 2016, American Perspectives on The Belt and Road Initiative Sources of Concern and Possibilities for Cooperation, Institute for China-America Studies 1919 M St. NW Suite 310 Washington, DC 20036,p.18.

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