‘New Silk Road’ and China’s hegemonic ambitions

‘New Silk Road’ and China’s hegemonic ambitions

  • Analyst Siegfried Wolf tells DW that China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative is not only economically burdensome for Asian countries, it would also trigger serious domestic and geopolitical conflicts in the region.

DW: How would you gauge the success of the “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) summit in China?

Siegfried O Wolf: Only less than a half of the countries officially involved with the OBOR initiative, which is also known as the “New Silk Road,” sent their delegations to the “Building the Belt and Road: Concept, Practice and China’s Contribution” summit in Beijing. A number of countries crucial to OBOR’s success – India for instance – are still undecided regarding their involvement in the project.

The United States sent a team led by Matt Pottinger, special assistant to President Donald Trump and senior director for East Asia at the National Security Council, a relatively low-profile delegation. The European Union, meanwhile, sent out a “common message” outlining its main interests and concerns about OBOR.

It is obvious that apart from China’s official rhetoric about the initiative, and the enthusiasm shown by Pakistan, Russia, Iran, and Turkey, the two-day summit that started on Sunday highlighted unease and concerns about China’s ambitious New Silk Road project.

The summit failed to allay concerns about Beijing’s bilateralism, a lack of transparency, and the corruption issues related to OBOR. Also China is unwilling to address the EU’s objections regarding the protection of market rules, norms, technical standards, and economic interaction.

The summit’s policy document confirms the increasing criticism of the project, especially the one leveled by the EU, which was represented in the China summit by the EU Commission’s Vice President, Jyrki Katainen.

Is OBOR really an economic game changer for the participating countries as claimed by Beijing?

The OBOR comes not only with a huge financial burden for the future generations, it will also create severe socio-economic and political problems for the participating countries. For example, in Pakistan, which is home to OBOR’s flagship project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the initiative is accompanied by economic, political, and social problems such as an exclusion of the regions in decision-making processes; exploitation of regional resources without adequate remuneration; land grabbing; forced displacement of the local communities; internal migration, and massive distortions of fair and free economic competition.