Image via AP
In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping brought much excitement to the world when he proposed a highly ambitious plan to help boost international trade by improving global connectivity and physical infrastructure. This initiative was named as ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR).
Four years later, OBOR has many names to it – Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), The Belt and Road (B&R), and ‘New Silk Road – but they all refer to the same thing.
Xi’s grand vision has been compared to America’s postwar reconstruction effort after World War II, the Marshall Plan – except that the current scale of OBOR is already seven times larger than the Marshall Plan.
Image via SMH
Here are some things that you should know about this massive project:
1. It is China’s sweeping vision to connect the world
OBOR consists of two main components namely the land-based “Silk Road Economic Belt” (SREB) and the oceangoing “Maritime Silk Road” (MSR).
Image via CNN
China is partnering with participating countries to create a network of railways, roads, pipelines, and utility grids that will connect Asia, and the Middle East to Europe by land along the historic Silk Route. There’s also the maritime route, down the Pacific and Indian Ocean and up the Mediterranean Sea.
Naturally, this means that OBOR is going beyond economic cooperation, and there is great emphasis on policy coordination, trade and financing collaboration, and social and cultural cooperation.
2. It’s a grand affair that has attracted nearly 70 countries and international organisation
OBOR has reached new heights recently as President Xi Jinping announced during the recent Belt and Road Forum (BRF) 2017 that China has signed agreements with 68 countries across Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa.
Image via CNN
Critics have pointed out that many key countries targeted by OBOR are prone to economic and political instability and corruption, but China remains optimistic that OBOR would spur positive growth and that all participating nations would achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.
3.It has already championed a number of achievements
According to media reports, about 50 Chinese state-owned companies have invested in nearly 1,7000 OBOR projects since 2013.
OBOR has quickly gained traction over the last two years and these are some of the notable projects that are well underway:
- A 418-km rail link with Laos
- A 3,000km high-speed rail (HSR) line from south-west China to Singapore
- USD62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
- USD1.5 billion Colombo Port City Project in Sri Lanka
- USD5.5 billion Jakarta-Bandung high-speed rail project
- A freight train service linking China and Europe
Image via Reuters/Peter Nicholls
4. It promises more than USD1 trillion in infrastructure investments
It is learned that Chinese financial institutions and companies have already announced over USD1.1 trillion of funding for OBOR in early 2016.
Chinese media reported that another several trillion is due to be invested over the next decade.
Xi also made a surprise announcement during the BRF 2017 that China has pledged an additional USD100 billion in financing to spearhead vast spending for the OBOR initiative.
Image via Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP
5. It’s a tool to overcome poverty and terrorism
It was recently announced that China would introduce a “100 poverty projects” as part of OBOR’s initiative to tackle poverty in recipient countries.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who was present at the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) for International Co-operation in Beijing recently, said that OBOR not only leverages on geography for economic prosperity but also paves the way for greater peace and security through its regional collaboration.
Image via Jason Lee/Pool Photo
“Pakistan believes that the most powerful impact of OBOR will be on the lives of poor and marginalised people, who would have higher incomes, better education and more health facilities. It would help in eradicating poverty and achieving Sustainable Development, leaving no one behind,” he said.
6. OBOR signals the emergence of a new world order
Image via Dunyanews
China’s OBOR promises riches and transparency to the world at a time when US President Donald Trump promotes “America First”. Trump has withdrawn the US support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal, a regional trade pact involving Pacific Rim countries that excluded China, by the previous US administration of President Barack Obama.
In contrast, OBOR is a multinational network and not one country’s initiative. However, China has quickly fill in the gap as it plays the role of a world leader that is displaying global leadership aspirations.
“We need to seek win-win results through greater openness and cooperation, avoid fragmentation, refrain from setting inhibitive thresholds for cooperation or pursuing exclusive arrangements and reject protectionism,” Xi said.
7. China has a proven track record to materialise the plans for OBOR
Image via Getty
China has undergone major transformations in the last two to three decades to emerge as the world’s second-largest economy today. Who would have thought that this country that used to be one of the most populous but poorest countries in the world could make such a great turnaround?
Analysts have commended China for lifting more than 700 million people out of poverty – and it managed to do so without oil and rich natural resources.
It’s true that OBOR is a very ambitious plan with much hurdles ahead but China’s achievements have been quite convincing thus far, even to the naysayers.
It will a long, tough journey ahead but it will be worth the wait
Image via Adam Dean/The New York Times
For such a mammoth project, there is surely unease and skepticism, with many challenges that awaits China and all the countries involved.
But as the world watches China takes the centre stage to lead the world into a time of true globalisation, only time will tell if OBOR will really fail or succeed. One thing’s for sure though, that these are definitely exciting times for the world.
As Xi said it himself, OBOR is the “project of the century”.