Chinese president Xi Jinping kicked off a two-day showcase of what some call the most ambitious development project ever by comparing his country to a peace-loving explorer set on transforming the world. Speaking at the start of a high-profile summit about China’s ‘Belt and Road initiative’, Xi hailed his multi-billion dollar infrastructure crusade as a means of building a modern-day version of the ancient Silk Road and a new ‘golden age’ of globalisation.
Trade between China and other Belt and Road countries exceeded 3 trillion U.S. dollars in the 2014-2016 period, and China’s investment in these countries surpassed 50 billion dollars. Chinese companies have set up 56 economic cooperation zones in over 20 countries, generating some 1.1 billion dollars of tax revenue and 180,000 jobs for them.
To give you an idea of how different countries view the One Belt One Road (OBOR) project here’s what some of the leaders had to say about the project. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif emphasizing the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that is a part of the OBOR project said, ‘Let me make it very clear, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, an economic undertaking, is open to all countries in the region.’
Chilean President Michelle Bachelets said, ‘The breadth of the One Belt, One Road, the high level of participation and its strategic dimensions, highlight its capacity to become the biggest economic cooperation project in place today.’
Czech President Milos Zeman said, ‘The One Belt, One Road Initiative is the most significant project in all our modern history. I salute China for this courageous, long-term project.’
Special envoy of British Prime Minister Theresa May, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said, ‘It is my belief that Britain, lying at the western end of the Belt and Road, is a natural partner in this endeavor.’
These few remarks only give a glimpse of how global leaders are anticipating the OBOR to change economies around the world. However, there are also some doubts, with some suspecting Beijing is using its project as a ploy to lure less powerful nations into its economic orbit and boost its geopolitical power.