Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative is part and parcel of President Xi Jinping’s strategy to solidify China’s emergence as a great economic and military power, a leading expert on Asian economies said Wednesday.
China will funnel an additional RMB 100 billion ($14.5 billion) into the Silk Road Fund, while the China Development Bank and Export-Import Bank will set up new lending schemes of 250 billion ($36.2 billion) and RMB 130 billion ($18.8 billion), respectively, for Belt and Road projects. In addition, China will provide RMB 60 billion ($8.7 billion) for humanitarian efforts focused on food, housing, health care, and poverty alleviation. A second Belt and Road Forum will be hosted in 2019.
The current high profile projects are the building of Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway, China-Laos railway, Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway, and Hungary-Serbia railway, and upgraded Gwadar and Piraeus ports in cooperation with relevant countries. More than 270 cooperation projects or agreements have been signed during the May 2017 summit.
Nadege Rolland, of the National Bureau of Asian Research said Xi’s vision and strategy “is not a new thing” in Chinese history or to the West, but it is more tightly integrated to meet the challenges of a digital world, to shore up its economy from the severe downturn of 2008-2009 and expand its markets into new territories, especially Europe.
The goal is to have China as “the uncontested leading presence in the region,” an idea for a strategy that defines “region” as extending far beyond its borders. The Chinese also would be “using that [new] wealth to attract more foreigners [to invest with them] and expand power and influence” globally.
Rolland said Europe, including the European Union, is interested in what China has to offer, particularly through its “Digital Silk Road” moves, and appears to be willing to work with Beijing on developing joint standards in cyber use and control.
As for Russia, “China believes cooperation is very good because they have common interests,” particularly in Central Asia economically and Beijing is “not stepping into [Moscow’s] sphere of influence” when it comes to large security issues.
India “is the only country [on China’s borders] refusing to endorse Belt and Road” and its development and infrastructure bank. India, long suspicious of Beijing’s support of its bitter rival Pakistan and concerned over its building of ports in a number of nations on the Indian Ocean, “is starting to work … with Japan” on infrastructure projects outside its borders.