Source: Global Times Published: 2017-5-3
China`s One Belt and One Road initiative, which takes the form of six "economic corridors" connecting China and other countries with infrastructure projects and investments, will benefit the economies of the participants and stabilize many regions, experts said.
Given that the slow improvements in transport connectivity and infrastructure among different countries are a major obstacle to global economic recovery and cause conflicts and disputes, "the Belt and Road initiative will build infrastructure to bridge different economies and countries, and it can solve the global problems or at least stabilize many regions with economic growth," said Wang Yiwei, senior research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies of the Renmin University of China.
The ambitious initiative, comprising the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, will contain six "economic corridors," according to an official document released in 2015.
The Belt focuses on bringing together China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe (the Baltics); linking China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea through Central Asia and West Asia; and connecting China with Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Indian Ocean. The 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road is designed to go from China`s coast to Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean in one route, and from China`s coast through the South China Sea to the South Pacific in the other, said the document.
On land, the initiative will focus on jointly building a New Eurasian Land Bridge and developing China-Mongolia-Russia, China-Central Asia-West Asia and China-Indochina Peninsula economic corridors by taking advantage of international transport routes, using key economic industrial parks as cooperation platforms.
At sea, the initiative will focus on jointly building secure and efficient transport routes connecting major ports. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor require closer cooperation among the concerned countries, said the document.
However, due to geopolitical reasons, such as strategic games between major powers and sovereignty disputes between countries in some regions, there are obstacles to progress in the initiative, Lin Minwang, a professor at the Institute of International Studies of Fudan University, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
"As an important country in South Asia, India`s economy accounts for 80 percent in the region, so if New Delhi is reluctant to get involved in China`s development plan, other countries in the region will also be impacted when participating in the B&R initiative. That`s why the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor`s progress is very slow."
India is concerned that port construction and economic corridors will provide excuses for China to send its navy and increase military presence in the region, and India`s status in the region will be challenged, Lin said.
However, the Belt and Road is not a military project aimed at any country. "The initiative is an economic vision of opening-up of and cooperation among countries. Countries should work together and move toward mutual benefit and common security," said the document.
China is experienced in engaging Russia in the initiative. Russia was initially reluctant to be part of the initiative, as it sees Central Asia as its traditional sphere of influence.
"China connected the initiative with Russia`s "Eurasian Economic Union," which won Russia`s support, as Russia acquired more rights to know and a bigger say in the cooperation," Lin said.
India has its own strategies to promote trade and infrastructure: Project Mausam and the Spice Route.
Akhilesh Pillalamarri, an Indian international relations analyst, wrote in the Diplomat that these strategies are Prime Minister Narendra Modi`s answer to China`s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. They are similar to China`s Belt and Road, Lin said; unfortunately India lacks the capability and money to push them forward.
"So this is an opportunity for China and India to cooperate on the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor issue. Provide India more right to know, to decide and to speak, and build a multilateral dialogue mechanism between China, India and other countries in South Asia, just as was done for Russia and Central Asian countries. Then the mistrust between China and India would be minimized," he added.
Wang Yiwei is a senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China; Lin Minwang is a visiting fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.