China says its flagship One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative challenges countries around the world to engage in a global enterprise that seeks to boost cross-border trade and commercial links across Asia, Africa and Europe.
OBOR, unveiled by Chinese President Xi JInping in Kazakhstans in September 2013, now encompasses more than 60 countries spanning three continents that are home to 4.4 billion people (roughly 63 per cent of the world’s population). As with the Silk Road project of antiquity, OBOR bears the hallmarks of peace, cooperation, tolerance and openness, shared learning and benefits, along with mutual rewards.
So what does China seek to gain from the OBOR initiative?
ZhangHog (pictured), Arabic Language Lecturer at Beijing University for Foreign Languages, explains: “Academics and economists believe that after 36 years of reform and openness, China has amassed great financial wealth and advanced technologies and capabilities. By the end of 2014, China’s economy reached $10.4 trillion (second largest economy in the world).
On the other hand, however, China is suffering from structural problems such as excess production capacity, weak domestic demand, difficulties in increasing exports to Western countries due to its protectionist policies, and striving for sustainable development. This requires reforming the development pattern and finding new growth drivers.”
The OBOR Initiative, ZhangHog elaborates, aims to achieve a convergence between the development strategies of the countries concerned and the integration of their advantages on the basis of what currently exists. This initiative urges participating countries to abandon their zero sum game mindsets and work towards achieving mutual rewards through joint endeavours.
“Through the initiative, China is seeking to promote inter-governmental cooperation, and to establish coordination mechanisms and exchange on macro-government policies, to deepen the integration of interests, enhance mutual political trust and reach common views on cooperation,” he said.
It also aims at reviewing cooperation in the construction of infrastructure networks linking various regions and to give a major fillip to transport infrastructure projects, construction of roads in inaccessible areas, facilitating paths for land and sea freight, building ports, increasing sea routes and flights, raising the level of aviation infrastructure, Joint maintenance of the security of oil and natural gas pipelines, construction of cross-border corridors for electric power and electricity transmission, and construction of communication cable networks.
Most importantly, China through OBOR aims to spread the spirit of friendship and cooperation, promote cultural, academic, human, media and youth exchange. China provides 10,000 government grants annually to students of participating countries, organises cultural conferences, festivals, art and film exhibitions, and promotes cooperation in tourism, sports, public health, science and technology.
Through this initiative, China has developed the China Policy Document, which includes high-level exchanges, mechanisms for consultation and cooperation between governments, communication between legislative bodies, political parties and local governments, cooperation in international affairs, investment and trade, and cooperation in production capacity.
This is in addition to cooperation in investment and trade, energy, infrastructure, civil nuclear energy, healthcare, education and human resource development, science and technology, and others, he added.