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Will “One Belt, One Road” plan change the world?


On a visit to Kazakhstan in 2013, Xi Jinping reminded his hosts of their
shared commercial ties along the Silk Road, stretching back millennia.
The Chinese president went on to propose the establishment of a Silk
Road Economic Belt to bring new prosperity to Asia. The speech barely
registered in the international media but less than two years later, the
so-called One Belt, One Road plan — incorporating a Maritime Silk Road —
has become the centrepiece of the president’s foreign policy and
international economic strategy. Important commercial consequences for
the region and global companies will go hand-in-hand with unpredictable
geopolitical implications in parts of the world where the US, Japan,
India and Russia all have material and competing interests.

Road)拥有共同的商业纽带,其历史可以追溯到两千多年以前。这位中国国家主席接着提议建设“丝绸之路经济带”(Silk Road Economic
Belt),为亚洲带来新的繁荣。习近平此次讲话几乎没引起国际媒体注意,但不到两年后,这个所谓的“一带一路”(One Belt, One

Beijing’s need of a new approach to doing business at home and abroad
has been apparent for some time. Many of China’s past bilateral
investment deals in Africa and Asia based around access to commodity
resources were uncommercial, poorly implemented and, in some cases,
unpopular locally. The property and investment boom at home that they
served has now ended, leaving China with significant overcapacity in
industry and construction, deflation and rising debt management


Moreover, the country has tired of accumulating endless volumes of US
Treasury and other government bonds, and now prefers more direct
investment overseas. Beijing has also long expressed opposition to the
dominance of the US and the dollar in the global financial institutions,
most notably the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

此外,中国已厌倦了积累无穷尽的美国国债和其他政府债券,现在偏好加大海外直接投资。北京方面也早就表示反对美国及美元在全球金融机构的霸主地位,最引人瞩目的就是国际货币基金组织(IMF)以及世界银行(World Bank)。

In the past year, therefore, Beijing has undertaken three major
initiatives. With other Brics emerging economies it co-founded the
largely symbolic New Development Bank, a sort of IMF clone institution.
It founded, and will provide half the capital for, the Asian
Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which now has 57 members. If
financing, logistical and governance issues are addressed successfully,
the AIIB could be lending $20bn a year by 2020, not far off the $30bn
annual loan commitments of the World Bank today.

因此在过去一年,中国政府采取了三大举措。中国与其他金砖国家新兴经济体共同创立了新开发银行(New Development
Bank),它就像IMF的克隆机构,具有很浓的象征意味。中国还创建了亚洲基础设施投资银行(Asian Infrastructure

Yet this is all a complementary sideshow to One Belt, One Road. The
popular claim is that this modern-day Silk Road will bind together 65
countries and 4.4bn people from Xi’an in western China (the old imperial
capital and the start of the original road), across central Asia to the
Middle East, Russia and Europe. The maritime road is designed to link
the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean, east Africa, the Red Sea and
the Mediterranean. Inevitably, this will require China to project its
growing naval power further. Financing will come from China’s
development banks, the largest of which recently received more than
$60bn in fresh capital to fund new operations. Beijing will doubtless
see fit to allocate more of its near $4tn foreign exchange reserve pool
to this end.


Will One Belt, One Road succeed in transforming the global system as
some claim? Protagonists [Proponents?]say that the beneficiaries of
investment and suppliers stand to gain from new infrastructure, energy
pipelines, fibre optic and communications systems, and lower trade
barriers. It is also argued that it suits China to a tee. It could
offset the effects of a falling investment rate and rising overcapacity
at home, offer commercial sweeteners to potential anti-corruption
campaign targets to co-operate with reforms, improve internal economic
integration between the country’s advanced coastal and the more backward
western provinces, and, importantly, spur greater financial integration
including wider use of the renminbi.


Yet, this is to put the cart before the horse. One Belt, One Road and
complementary agencies such as the AIIB could be transformative but not
in the abstract, and only if they reflect Beijing’s pursuit of other
long-term economic and political goals. These include catapulting
China’s income per head to US levels, the embrace of open governance,
the willingness of other nations to buy into China’s foreign policy, and
the development of the renminbi as a reserve currency rather than just a
more widely used vehicle for transactions. It will be necessary to see
the commitment to such ambitions.


If China’s new financial diplomacy aims to extend and deepen its global
footprint without fundamental changes in political and economic
philosophy, the result may be heightened global risks across Asia.
Ultimately, its westward pivot would then simply be a commercial but
truculent riposte to America’s pivot to Asia, reminding us, in the words
of US historian Edward Luttwak, that geoeconomics is “the logic of war
in the grammar of commerce”.



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