In pursuing the Chinese dream of realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, a viable path and a roadmap was needed. Thus the Belt and Road Initiative was conceptualized to shoulders this huge responsibility of realizing the Chinese dream.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) also referred to as One Belt, One Road Initiative (OBOR) is the most ambitious and the largest foreign trade and investment project of its kind launched by a single nation. It encapsulates China’s Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road intended to connect China with Southeast and South Asia, Central Asia, Pacific Oceania, Africa, and Europe through various strategic land and sea routes. The Silk Road Economic Belt is a land route emanating from Western China that goes through Central Asia and on to the Middle East, while the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is the maritime component that runs through the South China Sea and into the South Pacific towards the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
The Belt and Road Initiative has been a foreign policy priority of Chinese President Xi Jinping since adopting a far more proactive foreign policy stance. This initiative was imbedded on China’s 13th five-year plan released in October 2015 and has become a wide initiative of trans-regional cooperation model. During his opening remarks at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing held last 14 May 2017, President Xi’s declared that that BRI as a new model of win-win cooperation will not impose its will to other nations and will not infringe on other countries’ internal affairs. He also assured that that China will not export its ideology, model of development, or resort to geopolitical maneuvering. Furtherer, he proposed the five guiding principles to steer the BRI into a path leading to peace, prosperity, opening up, innovation and linking of different civilizations.
This grand strategy involves two-thirds of the worlds’ population and more than one-third of global economic output. Given China’s emergence as a global power through industrial redeployment and outward investment, this initiative could reshape the geopolitical and geo-economic landscape of Asia and beyond. BRI serves as the key driver to advance China’s interests overseas and demonstrates China’s growing confidence and aspirations to be a rule-shaper in global economic governance. In promoting this initiative, China can maximize leverage on the advantages of its regions, strengthen regional cooperation, and promote economic development.
4.1 Background and Significance
More than two millennia ago, the diligent and courageous people of Eurasia explored and opened up several routes of trade and cultural exchanges that linked the major civilizations of Asia, Europe, and Africa, collectively called as the Silk Road by later generations. The existence of the ancient Silk Road during the time of Zhang Qian and the Han dynasty not only forged links between China and the heart of Europe and the Mediterranean but also promoted the progress of human civilization and contributed immensely to the prosperity and development of nations along route. Although the fragmentation of the Mongol Empire in the 1200’s weakened trading activities, it did not stagnate and still thrived during Marco Polo’s time when he traveled to China in 1299, and into the 19th Century when German geographer Ferdinand von Richtofen coined the term “Silk Road” in reference to the ancient route in 1877. The thriving activities along the ancient Silk Route were eventually halted during the Ottoman Empire which prompted the Europeans to set sail into the high seas.
Even before the Belt and Road Initiative was conceptualized, China has implemented the “Go Out” policy in 1999. After realizing that they could no longer depend on growth from domestic markets alone, the Chinese government encouraged companies to operate and invest outside China. After more than a decade, President Xi Jinping suggested during his visit to Kazakhstan in September 2013 that China and Central Asia should collaborate to build the Silk Road Economic Belt to boost cooperation. Similarly, during his trip to Indonesia in October 2013, he announced in a meeting with the ASEAN community that China will establish the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road to promote maritime cooperation. Following these events, the Chinese government combined these two initiatives to form one unified concept and established national policies for “One Belt, One Road” which was later renamed as the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) in 2016.
The Silk Road Economic Belt is a new economic development zone established based on the ancient Silk Road. As indicate on the Table 3 below, there are six (6) land corridors and three (3) blue economic passages that constitute the backbone of the Silk Road Economic Belt. The six land corridors are; the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (South-Western China to Pakistan, links the SREB in the North and MSR in the South), the Bangladesh-China-India-Burma Economic Corridor (southern China to Myanmar), the New Eurasian Land Bridge (Western China to Western Russia, links the Pacific and the Atlantic), the China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor, (Northern China to Eastern Russia), the China–Central Asia–West Asia Corridor (Western China to Turkey), and the China–Indochina Peninsula Corridor (Southern China to Singapore). While the three blue economic passages are: the China-Indian Ocean-Africa-Mediterranean Sea passage (westward via the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean, link with CIPEC, CPEC, and BCIMEC), the China-Oceana-South Pacific passage (southward via the South China Sea into the Pacific Ocean), and another envisioned economic passage linking Europe via the Arctic Ocean. These land corridors and blue economic passages include several spurs. One spur sweeps south from the Belt to connect to Pakistan and Iran and another wends its way down the Malayan peninsula through Indonesia that will end in the Philippines through the newly opened shipping route running between Davao, Philippines and Bitung, Indonesia.