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by Moritz Rudolf
In autumn 2013, Chairman of the CCP and President of the PRC, Xi Jinping, announced the “One Belt, One Road (OBOR)” initiative. This core element of a more pro-active Chinese foreign policy comprises of the land-based “Silk Road Economic Belt”, and the “Maritime Silk Road of the 21st Century”.
The OBOR initiative by far exceeds the development of linear connections between Europe and Asia. In fact, Beijing strives to establish a comprehensive Eurasian infrastructure network. Trans-regional corridors are to link the land and sea routes. As the primary investor and architect of the Eurasian infrastructure networks, Beijing is creating new China-centred pipeline, railway and transport networks. In addition to this the Chinese leadership is focused on the expansion of deep-sea ports, particularly those in the Indian Ocean.
With the OBOR the Chinese leadership is primarily pursuing three main goals:
From an economic perspective, China strives that the development of new trade routes, markets and energy sources will result in growth impulses and at the same time reduce dependencies. Projects linked to the OBOR are to once again fill the order books of Chinese SOEs which are presently suffering from overcapacities. Furthermore, with the expansion of the Eurasian transport infrastructure Beijing aims to lay the foundations for China-centred production networks, for instance with Chinese companies relocating production to South-East Asia.
Politically speaking, the Chinese leadership hopes that the OBOR initiative stabilises Beijing’s western Provinces, as well as the neighbouring trouble spots, like Pakistan or Afghanistan. As China finances most infrastructure projects Beijing is also able to increase its political influence. Many countries along the Silk Roads depend on Chinese infrastructure investments.
The overarching goal is to be an active part in the establishment of a multipolar world-order. China seeks to play a constructive role in the reform the international system. The OBOR-Initiative is intended to be the foundation of a new type of international relations. The Chinese leadership speaks of the establishment of a “community of common destiny”. Core elements are more connectivity in Eurasia, “win-win-cooperation”, “mutual progress and prosperity” as well as upholding the UN principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.
So far, the OBOR-initiative has not been imbedded in an overarching international framework and primarily is a concept, a meta-strategy. It is still unclear whether the initiative will be realised through a bilateral or multilateral process.
The Chinese leadership speaks of an inclusive process, which means, that all involved parties are invited to shape and promote the “Silk Road Economic Belt” and the “Maritime Silk Road of the 21 Century” in line with their own economic interests.
First steps of institutionalisation are already emerging. The recently established AIIB and the Silk Road Fund serve to finance the projects. In May, China and Russia agreed to link the Silk Road Initiative with the Russian Far East Development Programme for Siberia. In addition to this Moscow and Beijing agreed to link the Eurasian Economic Union with OBOR. Moreover, in June Hungary and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly promote the Silk Road Initiative.