Will the ‘One Belt, One Road’ Gamble Bring the World to China?

Workers at a project site that forms part of China’s “Belt and Road Initiative,” Haripur, Pakistan, Dec. 22, 2017 (AP photo by Aqeel Ahmed).
Workers at a project site that forms part of China’s “Belt and Road Initiative,” Haripur, Pakistan, Dec. 22, 2017 (AP photo by Aqeel Ahmed).
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China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative has the potential to be a win-win for China and for the developing countries in Africa and Eurasia that are involved, but only if it can overcome some major obstacles. Find out more – when you subscribe to World Politics Review.

China is using its influence to build a global economic network for trade and development, with itself as the driver. China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative—known as OBOR as well as the Belt and Road Initiative, and unveiled by President Xi Jinping in 2013—has been touted as the blueprint for this new global vision. Beijing’s aspirations are clear in its claims to want to reshape world commerce through new trade routes and transportation links.

Yet even as China gears up to rain hundreds of billions of dollars on projects spanning Asia, Europe and Africa in the years ahead, it is far from clear what its vision is, or how it will make this plan a success. As a business-led initiative, OBOR looks like an obvious win-win for all involved. Most of the countries expected to receive Chinese investment badly need new infrastructure, but lack the financing and know-how to build it alone. And with growth slowing at home, China needs other markets for its homemade steel and cement, as well as construction contracts for its companies and workers.

But in making investments abroad, China’s record is far from perfect. China stands to reap handsome rewards, helping many “One Belt, One Road” countries develop in the process. But unless Beijing reconsiders its approach in light of past missteps, it could set itself up for more failed investments and future diplomatic troubles.

To learn more about the history of China’s outward investment strategy, read China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ Scheme Falls Into Familiar Investment Traps for FREE with your subscription to World Politics Review.

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The Bugs in the Architecture of China’s ‘Belt and Road’

Five years after Chinese President Xi Jinping introduced the Belt and Road Initiative to the world, the ambitious multitrillion-dollar infrastructure scheme is experiencing major growing pains. Months of harsh media scrutiny, criticism from the United States and Europe, some surprising grumbling domestically, and backtracking from key partner countries have put a dent in what had been promoted as a seamless chain of China-funded transportation and development projects spreading out across the Asian continent. Xi’s signature foreign policy initiative now faces skepticism in the country that has been its most enthusiastic cheerleader and most willing testing ground: Pakistan.

To learn more, read Pakistan Confirms the Bugs in the Architecture of China’s ‘Belt and Road’ for FREE with your subscription to World Politics Review.

The Backlash Against China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ Debt Traps

At the opening of a huge new trade show in Shanghai in November, the inaugural China International Import Expo, Chinese President Xi Jinping sought to convince increasingly skeptical observers that China wants to “help friends from around the world to seize opportunities.” Xi is aiming to boost China’s trade involvement across the globe, even as the United States under President Donald Trump retreats into protectionism. Yet the notion that Beijing is a force for global prosperity is running into a wall of doubt as Xi’s signature Belt and Road Initiative—a trillion-dollar global infrastructure behemoth that launched in 2013 as “One Belt, One Road”—ignites controversies and political crises in country after country.

To learn more, read Grumbling Grows From Guyana to Australia Over China’s ‘Debt-Trap Diplomacy’ for FREE with your subscription to World Politics Review.

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China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ Gains Inroads in Europe

Despite these concerns, on March 23, the BRI crossed a symbolic threshold: Italy officially joined the initiative, becoming the first member of the Group of Seven, or G-7, to back it. The move, which came during a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping, was interpreted by some observers as a defiant act toward an already embattled European Union and a diplomatic coup for Xi. The decision to sign up to the initiative bears the stamp of the Five Star Movement, the euro-critic, anti-establishment party that, along with the far-right League, governs the country in a populist coalition. Matteo Salvini, the head of the League and deputy prime minister, took a more circumspect view of the deal, but expressed support as long as it did not undermine Italy’s national interests. Rome’s backing of China’s centerpiece foreign policy initiative comes at a sensitive moment for the trans-Atlantic partnership, with the U.S. struggling to counter China’s growing political and economic clout worldwide and the EU failing to take a unified stance toward Beijing.

To learn more, read Italy’s Belt and Road Deal With China Widens Rifts in the Euro-Atlantic Alliance for FREE with your subscription to World Politics Review.

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Editor’s Note: This article was first published in July 2018 and is regularly updated.

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