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China’s One Belt, One Road

 April 1, 2018 

Touted as the biggest developmental project in the world, China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) is a trade and infrastructure network spanning East Asia to Western Europe and South through Africa. 

OBOR covers more than 68 countries, 65% of the world’s population, three-quarters of global energy resources and 40% of GDP as of 2017. China’s annual trade with OBOR countries already exceeds $1.4 trillion. 

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor — connecting China’s city of Kashgar to Pakistan’s port city of Gwadar, some 2,000 miles away, will alone cost $46 billion. OBOR consists of $900 billion of planned investments, making it probably the grandest investment drive put forward by a single country. Nearly 70 countries and international organizations have signed up for the mega infrastructure project. Several routes are proposed for the OBOR network through Europe and Asia.

A Chinese report, released by the China International Trade Institute in August 2015, identified 65 countries along the Belt and Road that will be participating in the Initiative. 

The OBOR project will be a vast network of sea and land routes. Hailed by President Xi Jinping as a project of the century, it will involve Middle Eastern and North African countries such as Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Qatar and Saudi Arabia among others.  It will also have South Asian nations like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka joining in.

Ultimately, If China’s economic corridor is a success, the countries involved will see more social and cultural links, financial cooperation and a merger of policy goals. 

It was in 2013 that President Xi Jinping formally announced the road during his visit to Kazakhstan. Soon President Xi and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, reached a consensus on construction of theBelt and Road. A year later, the first phase of a logistics terminal jointly built by China and Kazakhstan went into operation in the port of Lianyungang in east China’s Jiangsu Province. In the same year 21 Asian countries joined the AIIB as founding members and signed the MoU on Establishing AIIB.  Soon number of AIIB founding members, many of which are important countries along the Silk Road routes, rose to 26 after New Zealand, Maldives, Saudi Arabia and Tajikistan officially joined.

On March 28, 2015, China released an action plan on the principles, framework, and cooperation priorities and mechanisms in the Belt and Road Initiative. Subsequently world leaders gathered in Beijing in 2017 to hear China’s plan for global trade: the One Belt One Road initiative. Nearly 70 countries and international organizations signed up for the mega infrastructure project. The next gathering of world leaders on the OBOR is scheduled to be held in Beijing in 2019.

The China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)

The flagship projects under the OBOR include the $46 billion China-Pakistan corridor, a 3,000km high-speed railway connecting China and Singapore, and gas pipelines across central Asia. Currently, up to 80% of China’s oil arrives via the Strait of Malacca, a narrow, 890 km stretch of water between Malaysia and Indonesia. The supplies remain vulnerable to blockade in time of war or other crises. Thus China’s plan to build a new pipeline through Central Asia, Myanmar and Pakistan makes strategic sense. China’s investment in Pakistan under China-Pak Economic Corridor has become the main plank of China’s ambitious OBOR initiative.

As per the Board of Investment , Pakistan, China’s investment in the CPEC rise from US$3.6 millionin 2009 to US$1,063 million in 2015 before finally swelling up to US$1,281 million in 2017.  More importantly, not only is CPEC being seen as a crucial economic lifeline in Pakistan, it is also a trade lifeline for China by which it can surpass the Malacca straits and the disputed South China Sea.

Understandably, the other Asian economic giant, India, is seeing red at the project as not only does the project pass through contentious areas, which India believes are occupied by Pakistan, it also leaves the country’s western border with Pakistan more vulnerable in case of a military standoff.



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