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2019 - 03 - 14
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2019 - 03 - 14
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About Belt and Road Initiative

The Belt and Road Initiative

Background

The ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI) or ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) is a project launched by China to develop countries and improve global connectivity. First unveiled in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the initiative has and continues to grow in scale and popularity. The initiative is focused on creating networks that will allow for a more efficient and productive free flow of trade as well as further integration of international markets both physically and digitally.

About Belt and Road Initiative

BRI is comprised of the ‘21st Century Maritime Silk Road’ and the ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ together they will connect more than 65 countries making up over 62% of the world’s population, around 35% of the world’s trade and over 31% of the world’s GDP. It will take the form of a series of highways, railways and ports as well as facilities for energy, telecommunications, healthcare and education.

The initiative includes 6 international ‘corridors’. These include; (1) ‘The new Eurasia land Bridge’, (2) ‘The China-Mongolia-Russia economic corridor’, (3) ‘China-Central Asia-West Asia economic corridor’, (4) ‘China-Indochina Peninsular Economic Corridor’, (5) ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’, (6) ‘Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor’.

BRI focuses on five main goals. (I) ‘Policy Coordination’; meaning the initiative intends to encourage Countries to jointly work and cooperate with each other to achieve projects. (II) ‘Cultural Exchange’; this being the aim to promote people-to-people bonds and friendly interaction between enterprises as well as deeper cultural understanding so as to further international cooperation. (III) ‘Financial Integration’; BRI is designed to enhance monetary and financial cooperation when monitoring and dealing with risk as well as general financial interactions. In addition, it looks to expand currency exchange and scope. (IV) ‘Trade and Investment’; through BRI cross-border investments and trade are aimed at being made easier and more cooperative between countries on the Belt and Road, promoting economic integration. (V) ‘Facilities Connectivity’; this is the focus on building facilities to enable greater connectivity between countries on the Belt and Road e.g rebuilding and developing ports, removing barriers, fixing roads etc. As well as creating better networks through the development of highways, railways and fibre-optic lines between countries along the Belt and Road.

According to Chinese President Xi Jinping as of January 2017 more than 100 countries and international organisations have responded well to the initiative and over 40 have signed cooperation agreements. Already, over $900 billion USD of BRI related projects are under way. However, it is worth noting that The Asian Development Bank estimate that by 2030 the initiative will cost over $22.6 trillion. None the less the Initiative has received an immense amount of positive reactions.

In collaboration with the Belt and Road Initiative the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) was established with its headquarters in Beijing. AIIB is, (according to its official website) “a new multilateral financial institution founded to bring countries together to address the daunting infrastructure needs across Asia”. It was formally opened in January 2016 and to date has 56 member states and 26 prospective members including all BRICS countries as well as England, France, Italy, Germany and Hong Kong. China is the largest shareholder with 26.06% of the votes. It is the only party with more voting power than the combined power of the 14 EU members of AIIB who hold a total of 19.04% of voting rights. In 2016, the bank committed $1.73 billion USD to nine development projects along the Belt and Road, 6 of which are in collaboration with lenders including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. The bank is credited with further connecting China to the rest of the world through international financial transactions and funding infrastructure.

About Belt and Road Initiative

World Institutions and the Belt and Road Initiative

The United Nations (UN)

In May 2017 at the ‘Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation’, the Secretary General of the UN declared his support for the initiative. Quoting a famous Chinese saying he proclaimed that; “Building the road is the first step towards prosperity”. This follows on from September 2016 where the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) signed a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ (MOU) on cooperation over the Belt and Road Initiative. This is a strategic cooperation designed to speed up and increase the likeliness of achieving both BRI and the 2030 ‘Agenda for Sustainable Development’. Following on from the MOU, an ‘Action Plan’ for the Belt and Road Initiative was signed by both parties in May 2017. Within the speech at the 2017 Forum, the Secretary General proclaimed that; “For countries yearning to become more integrated with the global economy, it (BRI) can promote access to markets.”

The World Bank group

The initiative has received both verbal and monetary support from the World Bank Group. In May 2017, the World Bank Group’s president Jim Yong Kim announced that the World Bank Group were committed to paying $86.7 billion USD towards development and connectivity projects in BRI countries. In the words of Jim Yong Kim; “The Belt and Road Initiative has potential to lower trade costs, increase competitiveness, improve infrastructure, and provide greater connectivity for Asia and its neighbouring regions.”

The International Monetary Fund (IMF)

The IMF is increasingly recognising China as a force to be reckoned with on the global economic stage as is evident by its adding the Renminbi to the basket of ‘special drawing rights’ (SDR) in October 2016. Other currency in this basket include; US Dollar, Yen, Euro and Sterling. China is the first emerging-market currency to be included in the SDR basket. This action promotes the credibility of RMB and thus makes it more likely to be utilised by ‘Belt and Road’ countries.

The European Union (EU)

There is an agreed EU-China connectivity platform which involves cooperation on investment projects (predominantly on the Belt and Road). In June 2017, the 19th summit for the EU and PRC was held. This resulted in developments on the extent of their cooperation. Developments were focused on the field of transport connections between the two and cooperation on ‘green’ transport solutions. Further movements were also made regarding; “concrete projects based on agreed criteria including sustainability, transparency and a level-playing field.” (In the words of the EU’s official website). The European Investment Fund and the Silk Road Fund also signed an MOU committing €250 million from each fund towards private equity and venture capital funds.

Key Port Cities:

Kuantan (Malaysia)

Kyaukpyu (Myanmar)

Jakarta and Batam Island (Indonesia)

Colombo and Hambantota (Sri Lanka)

Gwadar (Pakistan)

Djibouti (near red sea)

Mombasa (Kenya)

Piraeus (Greece)