The idea of this grand economic and infrastructure developmental project was first revealed to the world in 2013 by President Xi. Between then and now, the project has come a long way. The One Belt One Road (OBOR) Initiative sought to revive the ancient “Silk Route” that once connected China to much of the known world with a network of trade routes. The old Silk Route gave birth to the very first waves of globalization as China connected to the rest of the world including Central Asian, South Asian, European and Middle Eastern economies over 2000 years ago the times of the Han dynasty.
OBOR is right on its course to do the same in the modern times—only better. The initiative has two main segments; one is the land-based network of transportation infrastructure (the belt), and the other is the maritime network of trade routes (the road) that will connect southern Chinese coasts to Mediterranean via East Africa and the Suez.
The ambitious 1.4 trillion dollar project will be beneficial in a number of ways. The vast network of land-based infrastructure projects (much of which has been laid down) is helping to connect the landlocked Central Asian nations to China and to the rest of the region. The sprawling road and infrastructure networks will connect far flung regions and promote economic integration among economies that represent almost 50% of the global GDP.
Furthermore, it will also aid domestic economic integration as the project will bring the economically lagging regions of western China into its economic fold and decrease national disparity. Regions such as Xinjiang, Gansu, and Tibet will immensely benefit from the initiative.
Even the World Bank described the initiative as a substantial step towards economic development in the region. The infrastructure network that is being laid across the historical Silk Route will boost cross-border trade, increase investment, and lead to greater growth and prosperity.
There are obvious reservations by the US towards China’s efforts for economic globalization. As a result, some critics have likened the project to the Marshall Plan. However, even allies of the US are not entirely buying into such allegations as the economic opportunities that the project provides are too good to be ignored and allies such as Japan and Europe have decided to conditionally be a part of the project. Even Russia has jumped in on the Chinese side despite the OBOR being a challenger to its Eurasian vision.