Prof. Herman Joseph S. Kraft breaks it down for us
In late 2013, Chinese leader Xi Jinping announced the launch of the “One Belt, One Road” Initiative (OBOR), an ambitious program designed to connect Europe, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific through infrastructure projects powered by Chinese capital, technology, and management. The cost was estimated at a staggering US$4-8 trillion, involving construction work in more than 60 countries comprising up to 60% of the world’s population, and up to 40% of the world’s GDP. In 2017, the whole undertaking was renamed the “Belt and Road” Initiative (BRI). Its scope initially covered countries along the historic “Silk Road” route between China and Europe, and those along a maritime passageway between China through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean to Africa. At the time when the OBOR was renamed into the BRI, its geographic scope was extended to the South Pacific. China has claimed that the purpose behind the BRI goes beyond merely seeking an advantage for China’s economy and Chinese business, emphasizing that as an undertaking it seeks to ensure mutual prosperity in an environment of economic harmony and cooperation.
Since its inception, a number of infrastructure projects lay the foundations of what Xi Jinping had described as the “biggest market in the world with unparalleled potential.” An understanding to cooperate on the construction of a railway across Europe and Asia was reached with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2014. US$46 billion is being invested by China on multiple energy and infrastructure projects along a designated China-Pakistan Economic Corridor connecting Gwadar Port in Pakistan to Kashgar in China. Pakistan has been one of the strongest supporters of the BRI, and, strategically, has become one of China’s most important strategic partners. In Kazakhstan, trade in goods is projected to be facilitated
by a new transit railway along the route of the ancient silk road. The maritime component of the BRI
is projected to involve a number of littoral states along the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.
At the inception of the BRI, China was able to get the commitment of the Maldives towards enhancing
marine, economic, and security cooperation.
The vagueness of the understanding with the Maldives is characteristic of the design of the BRI. China has always emphasized that the projects would be agreed upon by China and by its partners, but for
the most part would be based on what its partners indicate as projects that best respond to what they need. The opportunities provided by the BRI are being explored enthusiastically by the Duterte administration in pursuit of its own agenda in the Philippines.
The Duterte administration has embraced the BRI with a lot of gusto. China has been identified as a
key component, in the words of the President himself an “important ingredient” in his own massive
infrastructure development program for the Philippines. Referred to as the “Build, Build, Build” (BBB)
program, this is a US$180 billion commitment to rehabilitating the infrastructure of the Philippines
in those areas where it exists, and building it where it does not. It is the foundation of the Duterte administration’s economic development program.
The growth spurt in recent years of the Philippine economy creates the impression that the country has
turned the corner as far as sustained economic growth is concerned.