AS the President of the United States has opened a newly formed void by withdrawing the US clutch in the international market, Chinese President on the other hand, is determined to fill the gap through the visionary initiative of One Belt and One Road (BRI).
BRI is an extraordinary example of Chinese President Xi Xinping’s determination to more inclusiveness for shared prosperity, development, and peace for the entire region and beyond. A significant aspect is that this pursuit by China is not challenging or influencing the other powers in the region rather, it has opened the door for cooperation and collaboration for the greater good of the humanity, linking this initiative to economic and political integration.
There is a clear rise of the Chinese economic world order that is looming at large over the international political economic horizon. Since the beginning of its economic growth, China has adopted the policy of economic cooperation on the basis of mutual trust and benefits. Instead of challenging other states’ influence, it has always remained in search of raw markets around the world to boost its domestic industry. Following the agenda of exploring raw markets, infrastructure development, power production and enhanced communication system have remained some of the main features of Beijing’s agenda of economic development.
The under-construction China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) ‘resulted in the true implementation of its agenda of economic development in Pakistan and China. Thousands of kilometers long- CPEC is aimed at connecting China with Pakistan by creating a network of railway tracks, construction of highway network, pipelines, and utility grids that will finally connect China with the Central Asian, West Asian and a part of South Asia states. China’s this multi-billion dollars project is part of its mega initiative ‘BRI’ which will connect Xinjiang- the largest province of China with Gwadar — deepest seaport of the world and is located in the province of Balochistan, providing both the states short access to the Arabian Sea.
Both regions have vast deserts and mountains that gravely need infrastructure and economic development. Besides, these provinces are home to many ethnic minority groups and diverse cultures. The CPEC project after completion would enable both Beijing and Pakistan to widen their horizon to reach new and better competitive markets for their goods and services.
Moreover, the route will provide an opportunity to Beijing to transport its oil supplies from the Middle East through pipelines to Xinjiang, reducing a considerable distance for Chinese ships. Thus, the project itself influenced the development of the entire region for the foreseeable future.
BRI comprises of more than physical connections, aims to create the world’s largest platform for economic cooperation, including trade, tourism, energy, power, oil and mineral, social and cultural. Further detailing, BRI action plan has two main components: the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (exhibit). The Silk Road Economic Belt envisions as many as three routes, connecting China with Europe via Central Asia, the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean and West Asia and the Indian Ocean via South Asia while the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is planned to create linkages among the regional waterways.
Over 60 countries, with combine gross domestic product (GDP) of approximately US$21 trillion, have expressed their interest in the “Belt and Road” initiative and efforts are being made to grab the attention of more countries. Nearly 30 heads of states, chiefs of International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the United Nations and delegates from across the globe converged in Beijing for the event, promoting China’s Belt and Road initiative, known as the Modern Silk Road. The major intention behind this vision is to build roads, railway tracks, power stations, pipelines and other infrastructure and communication development in order to link China with Central Asian states, Europe, and Africa by land and sea routes.
Around $900 billion of investments financed by a variety of China-backed banks are projected. Furthermore, rising western powers also deployed finances to develop markets for their own produced products and expand political spheres of influence as well as underdeveloped countries were happy to take the money. In fact, Beijing presents the Silk Road as a stimulus for trade in a world, striving with middling economic growth and stalling trade volumes.
Beijing has signed bilateral cooperation agreements with many of the states, including Hungary, Mongolia, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkey. A large number of projects are under construction, including a train route between Eastern China and Iran, which may be later expanded to Europe. New rail links with Laos and Thailand and high-speed-rail project with Indonesia are also part of ‘BRI.
To finance the projects, China established the $40 billion Silk Road Fund in 2014 and the bank has made investments in various key projects so far. These projects are being considered as start of BRI initiative; at the second stage the mega-project will make more comprehensive development. Beijing intended to develop six major economic corridors, including China-Mongolia-Russia, the New Eurasian Land Bridge, Indo-China-Peninsula, China-Central Asia-Western Asia, China-Pakistan, and Bangladesh-China-India and Myanmar. These corridors will be potential sites of energy and industrial clusters.
The Chinese leadership is well aware that by connecting the countries along the new Silk Road would enhance its share of benefits which would ultimately strengthen it’s the circle of friendship. For achieving this target, Beijing seeks interests of all parties into account so as to generate mutual benefits, including environmental management and closer cultural exchanges. China wishes to give full play to the comparative advantages of each country and promote all-around practical cooperation.
Subsequently, the initiative would positively affect the need of many countries along the Silk Road to improve their infrastructure and deeper their international trade relationships. More pertinent is that the project is the potential opportunity for Beijing to transform the economic well-being of the world in general and developing countries in particular. In addition, over 130 countries and more than 70 international organisations sent their representatives to attend China’s organized international cooperation summit -‘Belt and Road Forum’ held last year in May in Beijing.
Despite numerous opportunities that BRI can bring to China and other countries found along the new Silk Road, the project has various challenges to face. India’s opposition due to its concerns over the CPEC project turns the geopolitical environment inherently unstable in South Asia and the worlds powers’ adjustment of their policy towards this region might add to the uncertainty. This mix of international, regional, national and extremist factors might cause disruptive activities and threatening the security of BRI and its flagship project-CPEC.