One Belt, One Road - Great initiative or a Road to nowhere

Executive Director of the Planetary Development Institute


The future of trade in Asia could depend heavily on what becomes of China’s expansive One Belt, One Road initiative, which calls for massive investment in and development of trade routes in the region.

A great deal of attention is being paid by media to China’s ambitious OBOR (one Belt and one Road) Initiative, the most ambitious foreign-policy initiative yet for paramount leader Xi Jinping. Launched in 2013 under the slogan “One Belt, One Road,” the effort involves China spending billions of dollars on infrastructure projects in countries along the old Silk Road linking it with Europe.

At one level, One Belt, One Road has the potential to be perhaps the world’s largest platform for regional collaboration. What does that actually mean? There are two parts to this, the belt and the road, and it’s a little confusing. The belt is the physical road, which takes one from here all the way through Europe to somewhere up north in Scandinavia. That is the physical road. What they call the road is actually the maritime Silk Road, in other words, shipping lanes, essentially from here to Venice. Therefore it’s very ambitious—potentially ambitious—covering about 65 percent of the world’s population, about one-third of the world’s GDP, and about a quarter of all the goods and services the world moves.


The ambition of Xi is immense, but it is largely driven by insecurity. Western media parrots China’s propaganda about the Belt and Road Initiative. “Its ultimate aim is to make Eurasia (dominated by China) an economic and trading area to rival the transatlantic one."

What remains to be seen is if that can be replicated in many of these countries in the next ten years. That is very significant. Because many of these countries are really lacking in this infrastructure. I remember when I take groups of delegates into China; they always marvel at the trains, the railway stations, the airports, and all that, which frankly is a bit of a miraculous creation in the past two decades.

The question is going to be how these are financed: whether there is going to be long-term planning that’s required, and whether the local governments and the state governments are able to take the Chinese model and the Chinese infrastructure and figure out how they can have their own version.

But in fact the motivations for China are far more simple and direct than this grand vision suggests. Viewed through the prism of China’s economic progress over the past decade, the Belt and Road program is merely a continuation of China’s massive internal investment in infrastructure—only on a larger scale.

China is spending roughly $150 billion annually to build roads, rail lines and other infrastructure in sixty-plus countries that have signed up to the scheme. The obvious question is whether China can support such a gigantic effort.

Over trillion dollars investment and more than 70 countries involved, much needs to be seen what turns out finally. Whether it's a road to success which will put China way above the lots or its just a road to nowhere. Of course we all wish success and only success to China and for the mankind.