Photo via pixabay.com

For many years China maintained its low trade profile. China believes in “hide your strengths and buy your time”. In the recent past, China started emerging as a global trade leader. Here We will discuss China’s belt and road initiative. This initiative is commonly called “One Belt One Road (OBOR)”. OBOR was first announced by the Chinese president Mr. Xi Jinping in 2013. OBOR is a global phenomenon. It includes trade, infrastructure and investment links between China and the other 65 countries. These countries collectively make 30 percent of Global GDP and 62 percent of the world’s population resides in these countries. And also 75 percent of known Energy reserves are situated in these countries.

Photo credit en.kremlin.ru

The OBOR has two dimensions. These are “belt” and “road”. Here the road refers to the maritime connection from China to southeast Asia and Africa and finally to Europe. On the other hand, The Belt refers to the overland route from China to central Asia and to Europe. The most visible part of OBOR is development and infrastructure. For example, in Kenya, China spent 3.2 Billion dollars to build a rail network. This railway network connects the Kenya’s port city Mombasa to the capital Nairobi. This rail network has considerably reduced the traveling time between the two mentioned cities.

This infrastructure is not just limited to Kenya. The Chinese are spending billions of Dollars around the globe. In Sri Lanka, China has spent 200 million dollars to build Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport. OBOR involves many such projects, including development of roads, airports, and bridges. Experts believe that this initiative serves multiple Chinese companies looking for investments on foreign lands.

China’s naval ship – photo via wikipedia.org

The number of countries included in this OBOR project range from 65 to 115. And the estimated amount of Chinese investment in OBOR ranges from 1 Trillion dollars to 8 trillion dollars. China’s efficient state planners are coordinating this mega project. This belt and Road initiative consists of many corridors. These corridors include China-Mongolia-Russia Economic corridor, China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor, Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic corridor, China-Pakistan Economic corridor,  China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic corridor, and New Eurasia Bridge economic corridor.

All these corridors connect several countries together. For example, New Eurasia bridge economic corridors connect China to the Netherlands. Currently, a cargo train is working to carry goods from Eastern China to London in two weeks.

However, there is a corridor that involves only one country other than China. This is “China-Pakistan Economic corridor”. Pakistan is seen as the buckle in this belt initiative. China is investing more than 60 Billion dollars in Pakistan. This corridor links China’s Xinjiang to Pakistan’s Gawadar. It is the most important route to China. Pakistan is geostrategically important for China because Pakistan lies between China and its energy suppliers in Africa and the middle east. China has a huge demand for energy. It is the world’s largest oil importer and is set to be the biggest importer of Gas too.

Map of CPEC – photo via wikimedia.org

Pakistan is expected to have too much money in the form of Chinese loans. Currently, Pakistan is trying to come out of the economic mess in the country. However, China’s debt in Pakistan can hurt these efforts. But this is not limited to Pakistan only. Few economic experts believe that OBOR is a debt trap diplomacy. A Washington based Center for Global Development raised serious concerns about eight nations receiving  China ‘s OBOR financing. These countries include Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Montenegro, Maldives, Djibouti, Laos, and Kyrgyzstan. In Djibouti, China has its only overseas military base.

Many Experts opine that China’s debt can place these countries under massive economic pressures. This will eventually result in a compromise on national security. Concerning this Malaysia’s new government of Mahathir Mohammad decided to cancel the projects worth 20 billion dollars. Now the Maldives also want to renegotiate the debts with China. China seems to be the ultimate winner in this game. For example, China took over the control of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port after the Sri Lankan government could not repay the debt. Locals protested against this and termed this as a colonial invasion.

Image by Andreas Schneemayer from Pixabay

There are also reports about geopolitical ambitions behind China’s OBOR. Beijing reiterates that OBOR is a purely peaceful economic project. Without geopolitical and military intentions. However, China’s military cooperation with Pakistan raised some serious questions on China’s claim. Experts raised concerns on China’s military presence at various ports. The dissenters of China’s OBOR present the example of China’s takeover of the Hambantota port in Srilanka. However, there are still developing countries which are desperate for foreign aids. Only the future will tell us the actual purpose of China’s OBOR and its ambitions.