The only “well begun, half done” story that the Chinese Government could speak of in favor of OBOR was the preliminary success of CPEC in Pakistan. It is an ambitious stance, but one with considerable credibility.
On May 12, 2017, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif along with heads of 27 states reached Beijing to attend the World Forum on One Belt One Road Initiative. China is implementing its vision of leading global trade and the underlying argument is prosperity through connectivity and cooperation. The OBOR initiative, as the name indicates, is still in the phases of being rolled out. The only “well begun, half done” story that the Chinese Government could speak of in favor of OBOR was the preliminary success of CPEC in Pakistan. It is an ambitious stance, but one with considerable credibility. CPEC is a display of commitment by President Jinping. That is why presence of Pakistan was so critical to the success of OBOR forum. However, it would be more than prudent to differentiate between the goals and prospects of CPEC and OBOR separately.
To begin with, it is clear that CPEC is a significant part of initiating OBOR. From a broader perspective, OBOR is China’s grand Geo-Political strategy to transform the World Order as we know it OBOR, ambitious project that seeks to connect the People’s Republic of China with countries of Europe, Asia and Africa through land and sea routes. The primary objective is to capture a larger share of global trade and commerce. Secondary objective is to flood Chinese exports in the newly developed land and sea routes. The third is maintaining a means to acquire cheap oil and gas back and forth as and when required by the expanding giant of an economy that is China. There are 6 routes in all that are to be coordinated simultaneously as follows:
1. China–Pakistan Corridor, running from South-Western China to Pakistan
2. China–Mongolia–Russia Corridor, running from Northern China to Eastern Russia
3. China–Central Asia–West Asia Corridor, running from Western China to Turkey
4. China–Indochina Peninsula Corridor, running from Southern China to Singapore
5. New Eurasian Land Bridge, running from Western China to Western Russia
6. Maritime Silk Road, running from the Chinese Coast over Singapore to the Mediterranean.
All these make up the OBOR initiative in its entirety. It is evident from the above that CPEC is the flagship project and one small portion of the gigantic enterprise that is OBOR. In total, over 60 countries will be directly connected to China, becoming reliant on its goods and services. In exchange of this reliance, China will be willing to offer development in infrastructure, trade, commerce and mutual benefits through exchange. After being formally unveiled by Xi Jinping in October, 2013, OBOR is being praised by economic experts in China unanimously. Gwadar has taken center stage in the CPEC portion of OBOR as it touches the Maritime as well as the Land Silk Route. The distance that Chinese exports have to travel before reaching warm waters has been reduced by over 12 thousand kilometers. China seeks to attain the same competitive edge through all other 5 routes that are under development. All this is happening when China’s economy began to slow down after a double digit growth in GDP over the last ten momentous years. From a point of view of National and Organizational theory, after reaching a particular point in development and maturity curve, the graph either goes down or reenergizes itself through innovation and clever restructuring. OBOR is that very readjustment and modernization.
CPEC and OBOR complement each other not just for the sake of trade and commerce but also in socio-political aspects. Pakistan is a long-standing ally with a common border. The Pakistan army is heavily engaged in fighting off militant organizations that allegedly have contacts with hostile neighbor India. From a realist perspective, it would only be a matter of time before the fire of terrorism spreads from Pakistani borders to Muslim majority areas in China. India being a direct economic competitor in the region would surely benefit from disruption in Chinese development and progress. CPEC has political objectives as well as economic. A developed and stable Pakistan would be a bastion against spread of violence and militant organizations. It would not be a difficult task to fan anarchy in a Communist state that discourages all sorts of religious beliefs. Pakistan with a strong Government would make sure that external interference in the region is kept under check, whether coming from American controlled Afghanistan or Indian guided covert operations. On the other hand, industrial and commercial success in Pakistan has been hampered by insufficient infrastructure and power shortage. CPEC would eliminate these two complications thereby giving the Pakistan economy the boost it has needed for decades. It would mark as a shift in diplomatic and economic independence, out of the clutches of Washington based organizations like World Bank and IMF.
Another influential aspect of OBOR is the presence of Putin at the Forum and the absence of Donald Trump. The politics of isolation and protectionism is taking over significant Western countries. Britain decided to part ways with the European Union and the United States is putting America first and calling NATO to be out-dated. Donald Trump’s campaign of building walls instead of bridges has given an involuntary nudge to OBOR. Finally, the United States has lost the advantage that kept it in the lead. For the past 60 years, the Americans actively supported open, fair and free trade. World Trade Organization, IMF and the World Bank championed the cause of fair capitalism. It was advocated that the free market and fair competition can fix the evils of economic disparity. The relevant policies put countries like the United Kingdom and the United States as world leaders. As of 2017, these two countries have decided to look inwards instead of outwards. China has aptly taken advantage of the situation. President Jiping is now the champion of global trade and mutual cooperation. OBOR is the spearhead of China’s vision to take over as the world leader. Asia has gained what Western countries have lost in the past few years.
Hand in hand with the success of CPEC is the promotion for OBOR. It is not surprising that the worth of projects under CPEC has been enhanced from 42 Billion Dollars to 54 Billion. For Pakistan, this is the time to form strong bonds and fulfill the commitments made as per the MoUs signed with the Chinese diplomats. The Chinese Government and its vision of expansion are too grand to be interrupted by trivial administrative and domestic complications. There is a lot to gain for both China and Pakistan. CPEC is the largest investment that Pakistan has ever attracted since independence and OBOR is the largest trade and diplomatic expansion project that the Chinese people have ever sponsored.