Strategic Value of Chinaese Silk Road Economic Belt

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– Prof. Dr. Shreedhar Gautam

China is a country with one of the four ancient civilization of the world. China is our next door neighbor as well as the second largest economy of the world. China still considers itself as a developing nation despite having emerged as an economic power in the world. Today, it has been able to earn the respect as well recognition from all over the world because of its arduous efforts to raise China’s status from a poor and backward country to a new country with prosperity and potentials. So, it is natural for us to know about the revival of Silk Road by China.

The Silk Road Economic Belt is an idea proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in September 2013. It aims at revival of ancient, political, cultural and commercial significance of the Silk Road, which historically linked China with central Asia and Europe. At the first China Eurasia Expo on September 16, 2014, Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Yang while delivering key note speech said, “We are ready to work with other countries along the Silk Road Economic Belt to open more business cooperation zones in order to provide an enabling environment for the development of industrial clusters”.

Wang said that the argument for building the Silk Road Economic Belt was rooted in the history and oriented ran along a miraculous stretch of land, a land of abundance, diverse ethnic groups and brilliant civilizations,” he noted. “This area with more than 50 countries and 3.8 billion people is one of the most promising regions in the world. As long as we take a long-term perspective and work in unison, we will make the pie of regional economic cooperation bigger.”

On the economic front, China has introduced a plethora of new bilateral and multilateral initiatives, particularly in its immediate neighborhood. The most ambitious projects are the Silk Road Economics Belt and the corresponding Maritime Silk Road each of which includes smaller pieces such as the China-Pakistan economic corridor and the Bangladesh-China-India- China is committed to helping other countries, developing countries and neighboring countries in particular with their development while achieving development of its own. Hence, China’s basic tenet of diplomacy with neighbors is to treat them as friends and partners, to make them feel safe and to help them in their development. It calls for more public diplomacy and people-to-people exchange between China and its neighbors in the region. It shows commitment to the advocacy and practice of multilateralism. It places great value to the important role of the United Nations and other international organizations.

The world needs China’s development experience, technology and capital. In particular, China’s vast foreign reserves could be a rare source of financing for infrastructure projects in many developing countries and emerging markets amid towering debt situations in many rich countries. China also needs the world to expand its markets and investment destinations. The “go global” initiative would boost economic growth and add jobs back in China. It would also help ease overcapacity in some industries and upgrade China’s economic structure.

China’s offer of increased trade and infrastructure development is an off shoot of the Silk Road Economic Relt.Chinese plans for integrated trading network that will stretch from western China to Central Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Many of the SAARC members(including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Maldives, and Sri Lanka) have already expressed interest in joining either the Silk Road Economic Belt or its oceanic equivalent, the Maritime Silk Road. In addition, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka have joined China’s Asian Investment Infrastructure Bank, which is expected to act as a major source of funding for Silk Road Infrastructure projects along with proposed BRICS Development Bank.

Two years ago, China came up with the New Silk Road’s policies to enhance connectivity with neighboring countries. These policies have a number of components. First, Xi Jinping, the President of China, made a call for a Silk Road Economic Belt with Central Asia. Second, a 2 Century Maritime Silk Road is also to be developed to connect China with ASEAN countries initially and ultimately with South Asia as well.

Third, projects under the One Belt, One Road policy are to be financed, among others, by the New Development Bank set up by BRICS and the recently established Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, both financed mainly by China. China’s actions have led to the revival of the Northern Silk Road. Cities in inner provinces, such as Kunming, Chongqing, Chengdu, Xi’an, and Xining have emerged as major metropolitan cities with the urban infrastructure projects paralleling those in the coastal areas.

With its emerging status as an economic superpower, a global political heavyweight, China has started to extensively engage the regional groupings around it and beyond. It has extensive engagement with Southeast Asia, in which it is a “strategic partner” with ASEAN, as opposed to “observer” status with the SAARC which has yet to be effective enough to achieve the objective of the regional organization itself. China’s partnership in the ASEAN ranges from political to economic security cooperation. China also has a free trade pact with the ASEAN. China also holds summits with Africa regularly.

China has strong bilateral relations with all of five South Asian countries which have borders with it, (Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal, and Pakistan); stretching nearly 5700 Km. China is hoping to enter into strong partnership with these countries bilaterally and regionally through the SAARC. Not long ago, China hosted the South Asian Exposition in Kunming inviting high level delegates from South Asian countries Chinese. Premier Li Keqiang chose to make India his first official visit, showing how much importance China wants to attach to South Asia. Likewise, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited India last year as a part of strengthening relationship with neighboring countries in order to promote Silk Road vision for economic development and commercial purpose. It is in this light that Nepal should study the Silk Road concept of China to bring in China’s investment for developing the economic infrastructure of the country.

Text courtesy: Friendship journal of China Study center

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