Do all roads have to lead to China?
A QUESTION OF BUSINESS | The problem with one belt, one road (OBOR) is that all roads and belts lead to China and therefore it is little more than a thinly disguised grand design to ensure Chinese hegemony over all of Asia, including some of the less developed countries on the fringes of Europe.
It is not some benevolent project to benefit most of Asia and parts of Europe, but a plan using Chinese financial muscle and prowess in infrastructure development and manufacturing to make nations - many of them run by incompetent, corrupt leaderships - economically and financially dependent on China.
The plan will be one which showcases the more friendly face of China to the developing world after the ugly posturing in the South China Sea where it made artificial islands to bolster its military presence, openly and defiantly threatening other countries which had claims in the same areas.
But many leaders of some 65 countries which lie in the area covered by OBOR are salivating at the prospect of multibillion dollar projects into their country, seduced by all the attendant opportunities for money-making it entails through easy financing, over-pricing, corruption and patronage. It is manna from the Heavenly Kingdom!
Some like Malaysia and the Philippines, which had in the past criticised China heavily for its militaristic adventures, have seen the enticing light that money shines, substantially muting their rhetoric, now welcoming China openly as the saviour of economic growth and development.
But like all other superpowers, China has its own agenda of expanding its sphere of influence and well-being which are quite incongruent with the needs of developing countries along this belt and road. With the political leadership of these countries, including Malaysia, more interested in lining their own already fat pockets and ameliorating their own problems instead of bringing long-term benefit to their respective countries, China will exploit this corruption Achilles’ heel to the hilt like all the superpowers before it.
What and where is OBOR?
Some use the belt and road initiative, or BRI, to mean the same thing. The map gives a pretty good idea. It is a revival of the old overland silk route from China through West Asia into Europe via road and rail links, making more use and expanding rail links to Europe via Siberia, and a modern twist on the centuries old maritime route, but of course through the Suez Canal to Europe.
Confusingly, the belt is the Silk Road Economic Belt where the road is which includes countries like Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Iran, Georgia and Turkey, and the road is the grandiose-sounding “Maritime Silk Road of the 21st Century” - in effect existing maritime sea routes. But China attempts to provide connectivity between ports, road and rail and pipelines as well, all of course improving connectivity with China.
If you want to know more about China’s official concept of what is OBOR, look at this propaganda-ish video from China Daily. But if you want something more informative and substantive, go to this article on OBOR.
An example of connectivity is the port of Gwadar in Pakistan to be developed with Chinese aid, read financing. From there it is envisaged that goods can move into and out of China via the proposed Pakistan economic corridor. Another example is the high-speed rail link between Malaysia and Singapore which is being billed as one which will eventually connect to Kunming in China.
Apart from the Silk Road Economic Belt, others include one each for Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Mongolia, one for Burma/Bangladesh and one for Southeast Asia.
Who builds the infrastructure, estimated at a massive US$5 trillion eventually...