One Belt, One Road: What is/should be the reaction of the West on China’s initiative?

Absolute majority of Western leaders is skipping upcoming One Belt, One Road meeting in Beijing. There is also criticism that this is a missed opportunity but on the other hand there is still also some suspicion what the OBOR initiative really means. Is it more about economy, trade or about Chinese geopolitical ambitions? So in your opinion how should the West (I know it is not the homogenous entity) react on OBOR? Read few comments.

China’s One belt, One Road initiative (click to enlarge). Credit: graphicnews.com

Angela StanzelPolicy Fellow Asia Programme, European Council on Foreign Relations

I believe ‘the West’ by now perceives the Silk Road as a tool for both China’s economic interests as well as geo-political interests. In Europe we see that some countries are more attracted to the Silk Road because they see the benefit of Chinese investment, while others remain cautious to embrace this Chinese mega initiative. I believe the answer for the West lies somewhere in between – it should not outright condemn the Silk Road or embrace it without questioning. There are large amounts of Chinese investment made available and Western countries could profit from it if they play it well. China will have to comply to certain standards in order to implement Silk Road projects in Western countries, in particular in Europe, therefore cooperation with China on the Silk Road could also be a way for the West to engage China. This has happened so far with the China-led AIIB, where Western countries participation helped to shape the institution.

Kerry BrownProfessor of Chinese Studies and Director of the Lau China Institute, King’s College, London

I think that western leaders are wary of going to what looks like a large promotional event. They have to see very specific outcomes to make it worth their while going, particularly at the moment. It looks more like a gathering of China’s main alliances – Putin of Russia, for instance, will attend. But while there is a lack of specific detail and understanding about what the Belt Road Initiative is, then it is likely that these large scale events will not be considered a priority for western leaders. If they can link it to definite promises for investment to address their domestic concerns about growth, then that would be a different matter. But at the moment, it seems they cannot.

Ramon Pacheco Pardo, Senior Lecturer, King’s College London

In my view, OBOR is an economic project with a strong marketing component. China wants to increase trade and investment with the regions that are part of OBOR, including Europe. Placing a collection of different trade and investment projects and initiatives under a single umbrella gives them more visibility.

Having said that, I also think that there is a geopolitical and diplomatic component. China can point out at OBOR as an example of its economic leadership and to bring together economic and political links. This is why there are so many meetings, conferences, etc, related to OBOR.

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