Arguably, the essence of the “Silk Road Economic Belt” is to provide an equal consideration to both the East and the West, considering equivalently the North and the South, finding an equilibrium for the land and the sea, and linking domestic with cross-border. This is the novelty and priority of China’s peripheral diplomacy and a strategic support and deliberate guarantee of the “China Dream”. Instead of replicating the historical Silk Road, China’s “modern Silk Road” claims a larger realm and a richer context.
The initiative has two routes: Land route known as Silk Road Economic Belt, and sea route known as Twenty-First-Century Maritime Silk Road. The route not just about improving the global trade, but is also predominantly about economic integration.
From a global perspective, TTP and TTIP already show that there is a trend and demand of globalization and regional integration: sea vs land competition in Eurasia between, maritime vs land power, sea vs land route. Another reason of globalization was a widespread global protectionism born by the international financial crisis. China, being the second largest economy, wills to use “Silk Road Economic Belt” to conduct hegemony diplomacy and global governance.
Moreover, from a geo-economic view, the Silk Road is argued to promote peaceful, reciprocal, inclusive developments interconnecting and cooperating to serve countries covering Eurasia. With the population of circa 3 billion and trading volume accounting for roughly one quarter of global trading volume, this initiative is considered to be the world’s most longest and larges economic corridor.
Objectives of One Belt One Road
Experts have suggested few objectives of Silk Road Initiative.
- To govern the world markets by opening up the markets of emerging and developing economies to deal with China’s excess production capacity, insufficient Chinese domestic demand, and bottleneck in further expanding the saturated export markets in developed economies.
- To make Foreign Direct Investments in these countries in order to secure the supply of resources, as well as securing China’s energy supply through new pipelines in Central Asia, Russia, and Southeast Asia’s deepwater ports.
- To fortify the diplomatic relationship with, and increase the reputation of China among, the partner countries.
- To extend the country’s international strategy of upholding Renminbi’s internationalization by using RMB as well as part of an excessive foreign reserve.
- To offset the economic threat of the U.S. strategic “Pivot to Asia” policy, which includes the TPP free-trade agreement that appears to explicitly and deliberately disregard China’s participation.
- Increase the globalization by opening markets with the help of lower communication and transportation costs which at the end would increase the demand for Chinese products.
If you carefully read the above goals through, you can see that none of these objectives are overlapping, neither they seem to be contradictory, especially due to the fact that economic and political considerations in modern geopolitics are very closely knotted. Thus, by analyzing the objectives we may understand whether the Initiative is profit-oriented or is driven predominantly by political considerations.
In the official statement of the initiative, “Visions and Actions”, the China’s State Council argues that the initiative is aimed “at promoting orderly and free flow of economic factors, highly efficient allocation of resources and deep integration of markets; encouraging the countries along the Belt and Road to achieve economic policy coordination and carry out broader and more in-depth regional cooperation of higher standards; to promote the orderly and free flow of economic factors, highly efficient allocation of resources and deep integration of markets; and jointly creating an open, inclusive and balanced regional economic cooperation architecture that benefits all.”
The official objectives of the Initiative are to “maintain closer economic ties, and deepen political trust; enhance cultural exchanges; encourage different civilizations to elarn from each other and flourish together; and promote mutual understanding, peace and friendship among people of all countries.”
However, some experts argue that there is a deeper and more competitive objective of modern ‘Silk Road’. They claim that the initiative is a Chinese grand strategy towards Europe, Asia, and Africa, which not-by-chance looks like the U.S. grand strategy in the post-WWII-era, the core of which was “to rejuvenate Western Europe and Japan and to develop the ‘third world’.” In order to expand this strategy and specially to maintain it, the U.S. has spent trillions on military. Unlike U.S., China does not have such a huge military might to protect its strategy in the region.
This is the first article of the “Silk Road” series originally posted on Foreign Policy Magazine. In next articles we will talk about the challenges of the initiative, the countries included, and so on. Follow us on Facebook for more!