In the 21st Century, China has seen itself as a leader of the Developing World. In the early years of Communist China its leader Mao Zedong presented the country as a champion for the developing world and provided like-minded regimes with both military and development assistance.
In the 1970s, following Mao’s death, China focussed its “reform and opening” policy on developed that could help China advance economically and technologically. Simultaneously, China sought to gain access to and influence in developing countries.
Then in the early 1990s, China broadened its outreach to the developing world. China’s fast-growing economy needed raw materials for Chinese factories and new export markets for Chinese manufactured products.
Since 2013, under President Xi Jinping, China has embarked upon an ambitious initiative to advance China’s engagement with the developing world. Xi has promoted and extremely ambitious effort to build a vast web of roads, railways, ports, canals, and pipelines that link China to its neighbourhood and the wider world.
Originally labelled One Belt One Road and as of 2017 Belt and Road initiative, it included an overland “Silk Road Economic Belt and an over-water “Maritime Silk Road”. The land links Central Asia to South Asia, the Middle East, and onward to Africa and Europe; the latter envisions shipping routes through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean toward South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.
21st century has been dubbed as Asian Century with three countries at the helm of the growth. China, India and Japan. At the Dawn of Belt and Road Initiative, this is more about China in the developing world.
The Geostrategic location of Belt and Road Initiative:
The unique thing about China’s foreign policy is that it is exercising its foreign relation based on four rings. These four rings are the pillars of China’s plan for global dominance.
Ring 1: The Primary Strategy of Ring 1 is continued CCP (China Communist Party) in mainland China and its claimed territories (Hong Kong, Taiwan)
Ring 2: The Primary Strategy of Ring 2 is buffer. This means to restrict the United States from being the dominant force in economy and defence.
Ring 3: Sphere of Influence is the primary strategy of Ring 3 where China would want to limit access to the United States
Ring 4: Thus, a showdown time. Ring 4 is competition with the United States.
China wants a showdown where it wants to remain on friendly relations with the United States yet take bites out of America’s pie before eating its own.
Under Xi, Beijing is working to solidify its presence in Rings 2 and 3 and expand its involvement in the fourth ring. Since Xi came to power, he has pushed for the realisation of the “Chinese Dream”.
Read about How Xi Came to Power on Redder than Red: The Rise of Xi Jinping
The “Silk Road Economic Belt” and “21st Century Maritime Silk Road,” known originally as One Belt, One Road but subsequently dubbed the Belt and Road Initiative, represents China’s strategic path for achieving this community in the next thirty or more year.
The original Silk Road arose during the westward expansion of China’s Han Dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), which forged trade networks throughout what are today the Central Asian countries of Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, as well as modern-day India and Pakistan to the south. Those routes extended more than four thousand miles to Europe.
Such a network would expand the international use of the Chinese currency, the renminbi and break the bottleneck in Asian connectivity. In addition to physical infrastructure, China plans to build fifty special economic zones, modelled after the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, which China launched in 1980 during its economic reforms under leader Deng Xiaoping.
The projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are related to infrastructure development in the transport, energy, mining, IT and communications sector but also cover industrial parks. Special Economic Zones (SEZ), tourism and urban development.
China says the project is open to everyone, but it has also identified 65 countries along the Belt and Road that, since the early stages of the proposal, it has insisted will participate in the initiative.
Who all are participating?
There are 78 countries as China says are participating in the initiative, here are some of them
8 countries in South Asia: Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghan, Nepal, Maldives, Bhutan
11 countries in Southeast Asia: Mongolia, Russia, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei, East Timor.
5 Central Asia countries: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrghyzstan, Tajikistan
16 countries of West Asia and North Africa: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Iran, Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar, Jordan, Lebanon, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Palestine
16 central and eastern European countries: Poland, Rumania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Estonia, Croatia, Albania, Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina
The other six states of the CIS: Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova
China is carrying out all the transport, energy, mining, IT and communications sector but also cover industrial parks. Special Economic Zones (SEZ), tourism and urban development construction in this country.
China has never published any comprehensive list of all OBOR-related projects or deals. The initiative is vaguely conceived and described in the first place, perhaps to make it easier to bundle anything it wants into it. As leading players in the initiative, about 50 Chinese state-owned companies have invested in nearly 1,700 OBOR projects since 2013.
The flagship projects include the $46 billion China-Pakistan corridor, a 3,000km high-speed railway connecting China and Singapore, and gas pipelines across central Asia. The Belt and Road initiative has also entered regions as far as New Zealand, Britain and even the Arctic.
Who is funding this all?
The $113 billion in extra funding Xi promised will be disbursed through three different sources. These include the state-owned Silk Road Fund, which was officially launched in 2015 with $40 billion of initial capital, and two Chinese policy banks, the China Development Bank and the Export and Import Bank of China. Some analysts have warned (paywall) that some OBOR projects financed by these banks may lose money–maybe a lot of it.
What is happening in Europe?
Euro is a strong currency, the second strongest currency in the Euro region is Dollar. The Belt and Road initiative brings Chinese currency in direct competition to these currencies.
The deadly coronavirus outbreak is prompting delays and disruptions to China’s construction and investment plans overseas, risking years of planning and hundreds of billions of dollars in economic diplomacy.
Quarantine measures are preventing Chinese workers from making it to foreign building sites, domestic firms supplying overseas projects face acute labour shortages and fears are mounting that workers will inadvertently spread the virus to new locales.
The disease could have spread the disease to Italy and Spain on a much faster rate than it would have without the BRI.
Projects that have been affected since the virus emerged in December include a $5.5 billion high-speed rail line in Indonesia. There’s also a separate railway initiative in neighbouring Malaysia, construction projects in Sri Lanka and corporate expansion plans in Pakistan.
The disruption has exposed another pitfall of the region’s growing dependence on China’s backing for major infrastructure projects. Even as the pace of new coronavirus cases slows in China, host countries remain wary of avoiding future outbreaks, with deadly infection surging in places like Iran, Italy and South Korea serving as a warning about how quickly a small cluster can spin out of control.
Any so-called material thing that you want is merely a symbol: you want it not for itself, but because it will content your spirit for the moment- Mark Tawin