China’s consistent efforts of aggressively pursuing diplomacy from 2002 and then transforming the same to economic and investment ties from 2013 has resulted in ushering in China as a new global economic power. It has thus re-invented centuries old Silk Road and Routes on land as well as through sea.
As Chinese President Xi Jinping unveils the final outcome of Chinese diplomacy and connectivity that it has already established itself as a global power with 29 heads of state and top officials from more than 60 countries, including one of India’s strategic partners Russian president Vladimir Putin and high level delegations from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar and major powers France, Germany, U.K. and U.S. participating in the international event of One Belt One Road in May 14 -15 summit.
China which has already attained greater connectivity, military might through one party rule of the Communist Party of China and having bilateral relations with maximum number of countries through soft diplomacy. In fact the grand economic plan presents China as an emerging economic superpower.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is credited with initiating a New Silk Road from China to Europe dubbed as One Belt, One Road is actually the combination of various routes that facilitated the export of Silk and other commodities from China to Asia. In practice, OBOR is a collection of land based Silk Road economic belt and Maritime Silk Road with primary points in Urumqi, Dostyk, Astana, Gomel, Brest and the Polish cities of Malaszewicze and Lodz which would be hubs of logistics and transshipment to other countries of Europe.
China’s long-term goals, ambitions and initiatives have been shaped by One Belt One Road initiative that aims to increase connectivity between the Asian, European and African continents.
Time-line of starting of OBOR
- On September 7,2013 President Xi raised the One Belt One Road at Kazakhstan’s Nazarbayev.
- August 22,2014- President Xi welcomed neighbouring countries to join the One Belt One road initiative in his visit in Mongolia
- October 24, 2014 -The establishment of AIIB: Twenty one countries ,including China and Singapore signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in Beijing .
- December 29,2014 – the Chinese government pledged US$40 billion for the creation of the Silk Road Fund,which is a state owned investment fund of the Chinese government
- Feb1,2015 -Advance One belt one road construction Conference was held in Beijing.
- March 26,2015 -President Xi delivered a speech Boao Forum for Asia, stated that OBOR is to promote mutual economic strategy along countries achieve docking.
- March 28, 2015 Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of commerce issued the vision and actions on jointly building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st century Maritime Silk Road.
- May 7,2015-President Xi visited Kazakhstan, Belarus and Russia for the implementation of OBOR.
Specifically India which has skipped the summit due to its sovereignty issues as China’s OBOR grand plan is under the framework of the China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor, a series of projects that stands to connect the Asian giant to Central Asia and Europe .CPEC which connects China’s largest province,Xinjiang,with Pakistan’s Gwadar port in Balochistan, the largest and most impoverished province of Pakistan bordering Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province.
India has opposed the CPEC route and development at Gwadar port because of several reasons as
- The route passes through the controversial territories of Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir .
- On the pretext of connectivity and economic development China violates sovereignty and territorial integrity of many countries including India.
- Gwadar will act as a Chinese naval base in the Arabian Sea with access to Mid-East and Mediterranean Sea in Europe.
- In addition,Chinese navy plans to have access to Indian Ocean at various places including Sri Lanka.
China’s hegemony and neo-imperialistic designs
China has been working on the old tradition of foreign relations as the basis for Imperial China during the times of Qin dynasty and consider all other powers as subservient and tributaries to suzerain rule of China.
Under this approach China has roped in 65 countries somewhat connected and covering more than half of the world’s population.
- Planned projects to focus on the development of numerous assets ,including ports,roads,railways,airports,power plants, oil and gas pipelines , refineries and Free Trade Zones.
- The OBOR also includes China -Pakistan -Economic -Corridor and Chinese heavy investment in Myanmar including Bangaldesh-China-India-Myanmar Corridor
China’s approach begins with soft diplomacy stating that it will not charge hefty amounts for the investments they have already done stressing on the inclusiveness of the other countries in this connectivity corridor.But in the long run Beijing plans to charge them heavily.
China insists that the objective of OBOR is to facilitate smoother trade flow within the connected regions and an improved linkage via railways and maritime connectivity will reduce the transit time between Europe and China.The land route will also emerge as an option for the movement of goods.
Challenges to China’s OBOR
But China’s flagship project faces many challenges in the form of terrorism that currently plagues various areas of the world. CPEC that connect China’s Xinjiang is a conflict zone where Uyghur separatists claim that the region is not a part of China but was part of East Turkestan Republic that was illegally incorporated into the People’s Republic of China in 1949.
Now, the second point of concern is Balochistan has been under attack by separatists,insurgents and Islamic State-Khorasan jihadists for over a decade.
Apart from the terrorism angle, regional conflicts can also hinder the initiative and there exists scepticism about Chinese hegemony by various countries.
Moreover,the OBOR has had long-term geo-political and strategic implications for Europe, creating political and economic dependencies, accompanied by the real threat of poorer EU states succumbing to the political leverage exercised by China, through massive infrastructure investments.