One Belt One Road: Truly Connecting Asia

The 3,000-km CPEC is aimed at connecting China and Pakistan with rail, road, pipelines and optical fiber cable networks. It will connect Xinjiang province with Gwadar port, providing China with access to the Arabian Sea. The project, when completed, would enable China to route its oil supplies from the Middle East through pipelines to Xinjiang, cutting considerable distance for Chinese ships to travel to China. It is a network of trade routes that linked China to Central Asia and the Arab world. The name came from one of China’s most important exports—silk. And the road itself influenced the development of the entire region for hundreds of years.

The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road, also known as the One Belt and One Road Initiative, (OBOR), The Belt and Road, (B&R) and The Belt and Road Initiative, (BRI, official translation) is a development strategy proposed by the Chinese government that focuses on connectivity and cooperation between Eurasian countries, primarily the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and the ocean-going Maritime Silk Road (MSR).

In 2013, China’s president, Xi Jinping, proposed establishing a modern equivalent, creating a network of railways, roads, pipelines, and utility grids that would link China and Central Asia, West Asia, and parts of South Asia. This initiative, One Belt and One Road (OBOR), comprises more than physical connections. It aims to create the world’s largest platform for economic cooperation, including policy coordination, trade and financing collaboration, and social and cultural cooperation. Through open discussion, OBOR can create benefits for everyone.

The State Council authorized an OBOR action plan in 2015 with two main components: the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (exhibit). The Silk Road Economic Belt is envisioned as three routes connecting China to Europe (via Central Asia), the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean (through West Asia), and the Indian Ocean (via South Asia). The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is planned to create connections among regional waterways. More than 60 countries, with a combined GDP of $21 trillion, have expressed interest in participating in the OBOR action plan.

The effort has already made some practical achievements. China has signed bilateral cooperation agreements related to the project with Hungary, Mongolia, Russia, Tajikistan, and Turkey. A number of projects are under way, including a train connection between eastern China and Iran that may be expanded to Europe. There are also new rail links with Laos and Thailand and high-speed-rail projects in Indonesia. China’s Ningbo Shipping Exchange is collaborating with the Baltic Exchange on a container index of rates between China and the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and Europe. More than 200 enterprises have signed cooperation agreements for projects along OBOR’s routes.

In 2014, China established the $40 billion Silk Road Fund to finance these initiatives, and it has made investments in several key projects. These projects are just the start as OBOR enters a new stage of more detailed and comprehensive development. This work will see the development of six major economic corridors, including the New Eurasian Land Bridge, China–Mongolia–Russia, China–Central Asia–Western Asia, Indo-China Peninsula, China–Pakistan, and Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar. These corridors will be the sites of energy and industrial clusters and will be created through the use of rail, roads, waterways, air, pipelines, and information highways. By both connecting and enhancing the productivity of countries along the new Silk Road, China hopes the benefits of cooperation can be shared and that the circle of friendship will be strengthened and expanded.

China seeks to take the interests of all parties into account so as to generate mutual benefits, including environmental management and closer cultural exchanges. We wish to give full play to the comparative advantages of each country and promote all-around practical cooperation.

If President Donald Trump is opening a void by withdrawing American leadership on global trade, President Xi Jinping is determined to fill it — and the world is taking notice of the shift. Nearly 30 heads of state, the chiefs of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, the UN, and delegates from around the world converged on Beijing for a conference promoting China’s Belt and Road initiative, its new Silk Road. The plan is a hugely ambitious one, to build roads, rails, ports, pipelines and other infrastructure joining China to Central Asia, Europe and Africa by land and sea. Spurs from the overland “belt” and the maritime “road” reach into Southeast Asia and towards the Indian Ocean. Some $900bn of investments, financed by a variety of Chinese or China-backed banks and credit funds, are projected. Visitors to the conference will have both hopes and fears. Rising western powers also deployed finance to develop markets for their products and expand political spheres of influence. Poor countries were happy to take the money — with mixed results for both sides. There is more going on here, however, than the repetition of a colonial pattern in the 21st century. China presents the Silk Road not primarily as a development project, but as a stimulus for trade in a world struggling with middling economic growth and stalling trade volumes. Lower trade barriers and regulatory harmonization are, quite rightly, on the agenda alongside infrastructure. Many of the countries the initiative would affect need better infrastructure and deeper international trade relationships. There is the potential for it to do real good. Whether that potential is realized depends in large part on what China’s objectives are, and whether it pursues them with discipline. The initiative plays to China’s strengths. The country has more savings than it can invest at home and experience with big projects. The worry is the plan will export the worst aspects of the Chinese economy, while increasing the strains on its already stressed financial system.

More than 70 countries and international organizations which have signed cooperation agreements with China on OBOR, including the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council, have incorporated it in their important resolutions. Over 130 countries and more than 70 international organizations sent representatives to attend the international cooperation summit – ‘Belt and Road Forum’, organized by China. This fully explains that the OBOR initiative is in line with the trend of the times and conforms to the rules of development and is in line with the interests of the people of all countries and has a broad and bright prospects for development. India skipped the Belt and Road Forum due to its concerns over the CPEC, the geopolitical environment is inherently unstable in South Asia. World powers’ adjustment of their policy towards this region might add to the uncertainty. The mix of international, regional, national and extremist factors might cause disruptive activities, threatening the security of the CPEC building. The restraints of natural and geographical factors. Southern Xinjiang of China suffers from a weak industrial base and limited economic scale. Because of the special natural and geographical conditions in China-Pakistan border area, the construction, operation and management of major infrastructure projects is costly. The Indus River valley in Pakistan is comparatively economically advanced, but with high population density and limited resource carrying capacity, while the western area is poorly developed and troubled with harsh natural conditions. – Restraints to economic growth prospects. Pakistan needs to address major bottlenecks to economic and social development to sustain economic growth momentum. The energy, infrastructure, administration and governance deficiencies, besides unbalanced regional economic and social development, and external sector vulnerabilities need to be monitored to avoid any possible challenges to CPEC.

This project is not a game-changer but a fate-changer for Pakistan and for the prosperity of three billion people of the region. Essential for socio-economic benefit of the people of Pakistan and China.

Functioning of the corridor will open new vista of development prosperity as a result of which the national economy will grow fast, lead to creation of new job opportunities, poverty reduction, and development of transportation sector and boost industrial growth.

Key cooperation area include transport infrastructure is the basic and prerequisite condition for the construction of the CPEC. It is an important field that can be relied on to guide and drive the economic and social development of regions along the CPEC, besides promoting the interconnectivity and all-round cooperation between China and Pakistan for shared prosperity. Through the joint planning and development of highways, railways, ports, aviation and other infrastructure, a convenient, efficient and integrated transport corridor that includes a variety of modes of transport can be formed, mainly drawing from Monographic Study on Transport Planning, to achieve the transition from lagging behind to adaptation and then to moderate advancement in the transport infrastructure of the main nodes along the CPEC. In order to meet the needs of trade and personnel exchanges between China and Pakistan for the socio-economic development of regions along the CPEC, following initiatives have been planned to achieve the aforementioned objectives; Construction and development of Kashgar-Islamabad, Peshawar-Islamabad Karachi, Sukkur-Gwadar Port and Dera Ismail Khan-Quetta-Sohrab-Gwadar road infrastructure, to enhance road safety and service levels and expand traffic capacity; Capacity expansion of existing railway lines (specifically ML-1 that is of strategic nature under CPEC), and construction of new projects and promoting the modernization of the railway and build an integrated transport corridor; Construction and development of Gwadar city and port; Build a consolidation and distribution transport system, continuously improve the infrastructure of the port, accelerate the construction of East Bay Expressway and the new international airport and enhance the competitiveness of the Free Zone to promote the social progress and economic development of the region.

China and Pakistan should boost information connectivity and promote pragmatic cooperation through construction and operation of local communication networks and broadcast & TV networks; Besides strengthening information and communication industries in both countries and synchronous construction of information, road and railway infrastructure; Promote the construction of cross-border optical fiber cables between China and Pakistan and the construction of the backbone optical fiber networks in Pakistan. Upgrading of Pakistan’s network facilities, including the national data center and the second submarine cable landing station. Expedite Pakistan to adopt China’s Digital Terrestrial Multimedia Broadcasting (DTMB) standard; Promote the ICT-enabled development of Pakistan, including e-government, border electronic monitoring and safe city construction; promote the development of ecommerce in Pakistan; Enhance the development of the information industry in Pakistan; build IT industrial parks and IT industry clusters in Pakistan to improve Pakistan’s information technology and service outsourcing. Increase Pakistani personnel in exchange programs in China, establish technical training centers in Pakistan, and strengthen the construction of ICT human resources in Pakistan.

China and Pakistan should strengthen cooperation in the fields of oil and gas, electricity and power grids, and focus on promoting the construction of major projects of thermal power, hydropower, coal gasification and renewable power generation, and supporting power transmission networks, in order to enhance its power transmission and supply reliability; Promote the cooperation in the development of oil and gas resources, research on the integrated vision and demand of China and Pakistan oil and gas cooperation so as to improve the cooperation between the two countries and diversify oil supplies. The opinions of establishing oil refineries and storages along the CPEC route will also be considered; Optimize the sourcing and use of coal, and research on development and utilization of Pakistan’s own coal for power plant and developing technologies for surface coal gasification, expansion and augmentation of coal mining sector; Actively promote river planning and preparatory work of major projects to accelerate the hydropower development process; Develop wind and solar energy based on local conditions, and establish diversified energy supply channels; Strengthen the construction of high voltage-class power grids and power transmission and distribution networks to fulfill the electricity demand and ensure the reliability of electricity supply in Pakistan. To develop the industry for manufacturing of energy sector equipment required for generation, transmission and distribution including renewable energy technologies.

NH Naqvi

The writer is working as Associate Editor with ‘Melange’ & ‘The Asian Telegraph’

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