The People's Republic of China has experienced impressive growth in recent decades, becoming the world's great factory and aspiring to rival the United States. His ambition is not just limited to the economy, however, as China also seeks to play a prominent political role on the world stage. In this two-part article, we'll explore one particular aspect of Chinese strategy: the New Silk Road, a massive infrastructure project that seeks to spread Chinese influence across the globe. In this first part, we will see the historical background and the evolution of the project, as well as its main objective.
From discretion to gigantism
The New Silk Road has emerged as the spearhead of the new Chinese expansionism. However, the project had a much more modest origin. Initially envisioned as a way to boost inter-Asian trade, it quickly aroused interest from numerous countries and expanded in ambition and scope.
In September 2013, China proposed the recovery of the Silk Road during a visit to Central Asia, and Chinese leader Xi Jinping first mentioned this plan in a trade agenda with Kazakhstan and Indonesia. At that time, the project was limited to specific initiatives to promote trade, both by land and by sea.
However, the positive response and interest generated from many countries led China to realize the enormous potential of this initiative. The project was beneficial both for Chinese companies, which found job opportunities, and for recipient countries, which saw in it an opportunity to obtain financing. Thus, China began to broaden its vision and escalated the ante.
In 2017, Xi Jinping opened six major corridors, describing the New Silk Road as "the project of the century." Since then, the projects have multiplied, covering transport infrastructure, energy, telecommunications, hospitals and educational centers, among others. China finances these works in exchange for the construction, and sometimes also the management, falling to Chinese companies, and the receiving countries being more receptive to the foreign policy of the Asian giant.
Notably, China's interest has focused on low-income countries and developing economies. This is because these countries often have difficulty accessing capital and financing large projects on their own. China offers its financial aid in exchange for political and economic loyalty. Thus, many countries have jumped on China's boat, seeing in this project an opportunity for development and obtaining funds.
Currently, more than 140 countries participate in the New Silk Road, and more than a third of the world economy is represented among its partners.
THE OBJECTIVES OF THE NEW SILK ROAD
The New Silk Road seeks to achieve several strategic objectives for China. Some of the main ones are:
Expand geopolitical influence: Through infrastructure construction and trade promotion, China seeks to increase its influence in strategic regions. This allows it greater access to natural resources, emerging markets and key trade routes, strengthening its position as a global power.
Boosting economic growth: The New Silk Road is a strategy to stimulate the Chinese economy and reduce reliance on the export model. Overseas infrastructure investment creates business opportunities for Chinese companies, creating jobs and increasing demand for Chinese products and services.
Facilitate regional integration: Through physical and economic connectivity, China seeks to promote regional integration in Asia, Europe, and Africa. This includes the promotion of commercial exchange, cooperation in areas such as technology and innovation, and the improvement of logistics and transport connectivity between the countries involved.
Promote diplomacy and stability: China uses the New Silk Road as an economic diplomacy tool to strengthen its relations with other countries. Infrastructure investment and economic cooperation can improve bilateral ties, increase mutual trust and promote stability in geopolitically sensitive regions.
Develop new trade routes: The initiative seeks to diversify China's trade routes, reducing its reliance on traditional maritime channels and avoiding possible bottlenecks or disruptions in trade. This involves creating new land and sea routes connecting China with Europe, Africa and other key destinations.
In short, the New Silk Road is an ambitious Chinese-led initiative that seeks to expand its geopolitical influence, boost its economic growth, promote regional integration, strengthen diplomatic relations, and develop new trade routes. However, it also raises challenges and questions regarding its viability, economic, environmental and political impact, as well as transparency in the agreements and long-term sustainability. The implementation and final result of this initiative are still under development and are the subject of debate and analysis both nationally and internationally.