The project, whose main purpose was to establish a transportation infrastructure, trade and investment line between the important Asian-European economies, was announced by the government officials of China in September and October 2013 and was later introduced to Asia and Europe. The initiative was heavily handled by the Chinese state media.The project has been referred to as Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) since 2016.
In general terms, it’s goals were launched as building a large unified market, making full use of both international and domestic markets through cultural change and integration, increasing mutual understanding and trust of member countries, gaining strong capital inflows, and creating an innovative model of talent pool.
As for the national and regional goals, the development of Renminbi as a currency in international transactions, the development of Asian countries’ infrastructures, the reduction of dependence on the USA and the creation of new markets for Chinese products, the export of excess industrial capacity and the closer integration of commodity-rich countries, diplomatic strengthening relationships are adopted as the goals of BRI.
The Belt and Road Initiative addresses a broad infrastructure gap and its construction. Therefore, the Asia Pacific region offers the opportunity to invest in the potential to accelerate economic growth in Africa, Central and Eastern Europe. It offers infrastructure investments and, accordingly, education, construction materials, railway and road, automobile, real estate, electricity grid and iron and steel investments.
The historical usage in antiquity refers to the entire geographical area of the international trade corridor “Silk Road”. Some forecasts already define the Belt and Road Initiative as one of the largest infrastructure and investment projects in history, covering more than 68 countries.While some countries approach the project critically because of the possible Chinese influence, others point to the creation of a new global growth engine by connecting and moving Asia, Europe and Africa forward.
Italy has been a partner in the development of the project since March 2019. According to estimates, the entire project affects more than 60% of the world’s population and about 35% of the global economy. Trade along the Silk Road may soon appeal to almost 40% of world trade, most of it to be by sea indeed. The Silk Road’s highway also stands out as a niche project in terms of transportation volume in the future.
Maritime Silk Road
In the Marine Silk Road, which is already the way of more than half of all containers in the world, deep water ports are expanded, logistics centers are built and new highways are created inside. Maritime silk road continues from the Chinese shores to the south over Hanoi, towards the southern end of India with Jakarta, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, and taking its way to Sri Lanka’s Colombo after passing through the Strait of Malacca. With connections of Malé which is the capital of the Maldives to East Africa Mombasa it has developed connections to Djibouti, as well as to the Mediterranean via the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, to the ports of Haifa, Istanbul and Athens. Meanwhile it is connected to North Sea by land transportation and rail over the port of Trieste, Upper Adriatic region, and Central Europe. Logically, Poland, the Baltic States, Northern Europe and Central Europe are connected to the sea silk road as well as Adriatic ports are linked to East Africa, India and China via Piraeus.
Unlike longer East Asian traffic over North-West Europe, the south seaway, which allows to reach the Trieste junction with the Suez Canal, shorten the goods transportation for at least four days.
In accordance with BRI, container transportation port and ship links are to be reorganized between Asia and Europe.
In connection with the Silk Road project, China is also trying to create a structure that will contribute to research activities worldwide.
Some analysts believe that the Belt and Road Initiative is a way that China has adopted to increase its influence and an attempt to mask a strategic dimension.
It is also said that, China has invested billions of dollars in many South Asian countries, such as Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, to develop their basic infrastructure on the trade regime and its military impact.
Among the goals of BRI are international trade flows that facilitate closer economic integration with China’s inner core, by stabilizing ethnic unrest for internal state construction and broader western regions such as Xinjiang and Yunnan.
Countries Supporting the Initiative
China is making efforts to get official worldwide support for BRI. So far, te, more than 130 countries have approved the project, although most are not Westerners. Moscow developed an early partnership relationship with China. There are now 150 and / or more joint projects in Russia and China, including natural gas pipelines and the Polar Silk Road. In March 2015, he stated that he did not see the Russian Silk Road Economic Belt as a threat to the traditional, regional domain and should be seen as an opportunity for the Eurasian Economic Union.
Singapore has repeatedly endorsed BRI and collaborated on related projects to strengthen global relevance and economic ties with BRI buyers.
Philippines, which has historically been closely tied to the United States, expects support of infrastructure expansion plans in the South China Sea, therefore supports the initiative.
In April 2019, a number of partnerships were made with Arab countries called “Build Belt and Road, Share Development and Prosperity”. All African countries see BRI as an enormous opportunity.
Greece, Croatia and 14 other Eastern European countries are dealing with China within the framework of the BRI. In March 2019, Italy was the first G7 member to join the China Initiative.
Opposing Views and Countries
There are concerns that the project is a kind of new colonialism. Some Western governments have claimed that China intends to implement a debt trap diplomacy to finance infrastructure projects, and this is a colonial project.
China, on the other hand, claims that the initiative provides new markets for commodities, the prices of resources have improved, thereby reducing market inequalities, improving infrastructure, creating jobs, promoting industrialization and benefiting host countries by increasing technology transfer.
The United States alternatively proposes an initiative called “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy” (FOIP). The authorities articulate their objections and strategies under three headings: security, economy and governance.
Government officials in India have repeatedly challenged China’s Belt and Road Initiative, especially since it believed that the “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor” (CPEC) project ignored New Delhi’s fundamental concerns over sovereignty and territorial integrity. In 2018, Malaysia canceled projects financed by China, warning that it is a new version of colonialism.
Cautious Cooperation Approach Despite Concerns and Uncertainties
Vietnam historically contradicts China, remained undecided about support or opposition to BRI.
South Korea tried to develop the “Eurasia Initiative” (EAI) as its own vision for east-west connection.
While Italy and Greece were participating in the Belt and Road Initiative, some European leaders such as Japan, Australia and Germany and France expressed their unstable views.