Whither China’s One Belt One Road Project (OBOR)?

by Patrick Liew on September 5, 2019

Whither China’s One Belt One Road Project (OBOR)?

Personally, I believe that the OBOR initiative can strengthen global trade and bring prosperity and progress to many countries and people.

However, while the OBOR makes economic sense, the devil is in the details.

By far, the Chinese government has not been the most transparent about its plan, structure, system and process. Or, does it have any details at this point?

Many of the developed countries are not aware of or are doubtful about the motives, means and ends of the massive OBOR initiative.

For example, there’s no detailed information about how the infrastructure will be financed, carried out, and managed.

For the OBOR to work, there must be open borders and willingness to trade.

As a proponent of the OBOR, China has to lead the way but is China prepared to open its market to the other nations?

Will China abide by internationally-accepted standards for governance, arbitration, quality and standards, and environmental protection?

The OBOR is initiated and supported by President Xi Jinping and therefore, it should take priority over many of China’s other major projects. It should have the backing and support from the government.

However, China is not best known for leading and driving international projects.

What’s more, for the OBOR to succeed, it requires strong political will, healthy international relation and cooperation, huge financial resources, and extensive and in-depth technical knowledge and skills.

Is China able to galvanize these resources and channel them effectively and efficiently, while keeping unhealthy politicking and corruption in check?

In 2016, China did not accept the judgment that went against its control over disputed waters of the South China Sea.

The judgement was passed by an international tribunal in The Hague.

In addition, China continued to bulldoze its way in the South China Sea.

Will the other countries look up to and trust China to protect their interests?

Can China be relied upon to calibrate and improve the delicate balance in international relations?

One of the biggest concerns for the global community is the motives behind implementation of OBOR.

Is China capitalizing on Trump’s nativist nationalism to promote global trade?

Or is it just a front to exert its influence on the new world and gain strategic geopolitical political dominance?

Can China be entrusted to work with other nations to co-create win-win solutions for the new era?

Even if China have no negative intentions, the OBOR will have both intended and unintended consequences.

Case in point, India has been keen to work closer with China in terms of economic cooperation.

It has, for example, joined and given its support to the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

The OBOR is designed to pass through Kashmir.

Unfortunately, Kashmir is claimed by both India and Pakistan.

As a result, it has exacerbated long-standing regional tensions and disheveled the political equilibrium between these two countries.

That was one of the reasons why Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India did not attend the Belt and Road Summit and neither did he send a senior member of his cabinet there.

The OBOR is at an early stage and more information is needed to determine its values and impacts on the new economy.

China alone cannot make OBOR works. It needs to work closely with many countries to turn it into a success.

In an increasingly interdependent and interconnected world, if China uses OBOR to influence or control other countries, then it will face an uphill climb to achieve success.

I’m confident that the leaders of China, with the backing of 5000 years of wisdom, will press on and turn the OBOR dream into a reality and a major contribution to a better world.

Sources of images: Wikipedia


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