China's 'Belt and Road' Initiative is not another Marshall Plan

By Shen Dingli
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, March 17, 2015
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Since China proposed its 'One Belt, One Road' (OBOR) initiative two years ago, it has made significant headway. In the Eurasian area defined by this OBOR, some 60 countries have expressed their interest in partnering with this program. In addition to over two dozens of Asian countries who have joined Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a new financial institution whose mission covers the OBOR, some European countries have also shown their intent to join so as to catch the opportunity to invest in this ambitious program of infrastructure connectedness across the Eurasian continent.

Despite this, advancing the OBOR strategy is not without challenges. Some have viewed it as China's Marshall Plan with a long-term goal of gaining geopolitical preeminence in the Eurasian continent. In this context, the OBOR is also deemed as an economic countermeasure to the U.S. rebalancing in the Asia Pacific. The base line is that China will tap the opportunity of OBOR to expand investment in its extensive western neighborhood and sustain its growth rate, which is declining. China could use this initiative to hedge against potential contingencies if its sea routes become threatened. In addition, China could wield more political influence when the region's economy becomes further dependent upon Beijing.

Therefore, some expect that with the progress of the OBOR initiative, a new geostrategic landscape would loom large in this part of the world. America's foremost concern is, given the emergence of the OBOR, how to sustain its dominance in the Asia Pacific and the rest of the world. The U.S. is upset by the creation of institutional tool such as the China-led AIIB and has challenged its transparency. It might have pressed Seoul and Canberra to be cautious in joining the AIIB. Few other actors such as Japan and India are wary of the strategic implications of China's push of the OBOR idea.

For instance, Japan is will not join the AIIB, worrying about its rationale, given the fact that it is already presiding over the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Though the ADB and AIIB could be complementary with each other in ridding regional poverty and enhancing infrastructure development, Tokyo is concerned about China's rising leadership that could undermine Japan's existing role. Despite the fact India is less ambitious in its own leadership in Asia, it is keen to watch what is happening in its backyard. China's high-handed ceremony last year to launch a harbor city project in Sri Lanka has exacerbated Delhi's concern over its traditional central role in South China.

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