In­te­grat­ing Asia: The His­tory of The ‘One Belt One Road’ Ini­tia­tive

The Diplomatic Insight - - Special Supplement on China Pakistan Economic Corr - In­tro­duc­tion

their na­tions and also the re­gions at large. The re­vival of the an­cient Silk Road is the main ob­jec­tive of the in­cum­bent Chi­nese lead­er­ship. China has been strongly pur­su­ing an eco­nomic diplo­macy amongst its neigh­bors and the re­gions. China has been shift­ing its fo­cus from a trad­ing part­ner to an in­vest­ment and de­vel­op­ment part­ner to share des­tiny with a num­ber of coun­tries in Asia, Africa, and Europe. The mod­ern Silk Road is a land and a mar­itime ini­tia­tive in­volv­ing a num­ber of coun­tries in south and east to build gi­gan­tic roads and phys­i­cal road, rail­way, and com­mu­ni­ca­tion in­fra­struc­tures. Po­lit­i­cally, China does its neigh­bors and re­gions. China’s prin­ci­ples are based upon south-south and north-south co­op­er­a­tion. Large parts of the post­war world have been eco­nom­i­cally in­te­grated. Eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion led them to­ward a sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment and de­creas­ing of political dif­fer­ences and bridg­ing strate­gic di­ver­gences. Bela Balassa in The The­ory of Eco­nomic In­te­gra­tion em­pha­sised that in­te­gra­tion means to bring many parts to­gether as a process In­te­gra­tion will over­come kind dis­crim­i­na­tion that ex­its. Eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion talks about free trade, cus­tom union, com­mon mar­kets, re­duc­tion of tar­iff, re­mov­ing of bar­ri­ers, rules and re­lax­ation etc. Fis­cal poli­cies are ad­justed ac­cord­ing to needs of mem­ber coun­tries. We can also in­clude free or re­laxed visa regimes among mem­bers and easy travel among their cit­i­zens. There­fore, all eco­nomic ef­fects will come un­der the eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion the­ory. The United Na­tions Eco­nomic Com­mis­sions en­cour­aged eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion among re­gions and na­tions in the post­war pe­riod. Many steps were taken to bring about eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion in Europe such as the Euro­pean Coal and Steel Com­mu­nity, the Euro­pean Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity, and the Euro­pean Free Trade As­so­ci­a­tion. Be­sides Europe, Latin Amer­ica has shown great in­ter­ests in eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion. The chronol­ogy of the “One Belt and One Road” ini­tia­tive is very im­por­tant to see how care­fully Chi­nese lead­er­ship con­crete shape to the very idea over a short span of two years from 2013-16. The Silk Road is a Eurasian an­cient con­cept of land con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween China and rest of Asia and Africa, and go­ing be­yond Europe. The idea of the Silk Road gained mo­men­tum as back in the 2nd cen­tury. The mod­ern Silk Road idea, termed by Pres­i­dent Xi Jinpping, as the “One Belt and One Road” ini­tia­tive is a strate­gic eco­nomic vi­sion to cre­ate a bal­anced de­vel­op­ment across Asia. The idea was re­vealed when Premier Li Ke­qiang in May 2013. In his speech to the Par­lia­ment de­liv­ered on 23 May 2014 he said: On 7 Septem­ber same year, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping de­liv­ered an ad­dress to Nazarbaye Univer­sity at As­tana in Kaza­khstan where he sug­gested that ‘China and Cen­tral Asia should join hands to build a Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt to boost co­op­er­a­tion’. China and Cen­tral Asia has glo­ri­ous bonds of friend­ship from an­cient times to post-in­de­pen­dence of Cen­tral Asian States. The Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion (SCO) pro­motes th­ese bonds. Shaanxi is the home­town of Pres­i­dent Xi from where the an­cient Silk Road orig­i­nally starts in an­cient times. Chi­nese Han Dy­nasty pushed the an­cient Silk Road. Many Cen­tral States es­pe­cially Kaza­khstan was an im­por­tant point of the Silk Road link­ing China with Cen­tral Asia and then on­ward to Europe. Pres­i­dent Xi said: This will im­prove trade in the re­gion, en­hance mon­e­tary cir­cu­la­tion, and to pro­mote peo­ple-to-peo­ple re­la­tions, Pres­i­dent Xi was of view. The ob­jec­tive of the Silk Road was to open the strate­gic re­gional thor­ough­fare from grad­u­ally move to­ward the set­ting-up of a net­work of trans­porta­tion that will con­nect east­ern, western and south­ern Asia. This would fa­cil­i­tate trade and bil­lion peo­ple, half of hu­man­ity across China and South Asia alone. At a SCO ses­sion held at Bishkek, Kyr­gyzs­tan, on 13 Septem­ber 2013, Pres­i­dent Xi de­sired to con­nect Chi­naCen­tral Asian States through the spirit of the Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion:

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