ONE BELT ONE ROAD —
THE REVOLUTION OF INTERNATIONAL TRADE
As a Chinese student who studies in the USA, I feel it my duty to pay attention to what is happening in China and how the two most powerful countries in the world can cooperate together to build up a sustainable society. I appreciate the opportunity offered by this conference for me to catch the most recent tendency in Sino-U.S. relations.
I started my journey of thinking with professor Jeffrey Sachs’s speech about sustainable development in the opening ceremony. He expatiated the topic by pointing out the fundamental aspects of sustainability: the guarantee of good life quality, the elimination of inequality and the environmental sustainability. With a focus on “inequality,” I was inspired to raise a question: What China and the U.S., as two superpowers in the world, can do to alleviate the unbalance in our society, not only in a national scope, as professor Sachs mainly discussed, but also from a global perspective? Fortunately, I found parts the answer through the following two days.
There is an extremely inequality between developed countries and the third world, Africa for instance. Filled with natural resources though, African people seldom benefit from this gift from nature, and some of them even suffered a lot due to their affluence in oil, gas, and mineral. The region provided the west with the raw material during the colonization time and now is receiving demands for resources from all over the world. For example, in 2010 Africa takes a share of 9.55% in the storage of global oil which is already verified and contributed to 18.66% of world oil trade1. What companies with the tremendous profit in this trade is conflicts and warfares between different interest groups, causing instability to local people’s lives and a continually undeveloped society. The announcement of OBOR, however, is a signal from China to call for a change in the situation. As professor Sachs claimed in his answer at the Q & A, European countries should also take steps towards a similar project, echoing OBOR from the other side of the world to form a complete trade network. And conference like this is a good way to popularize this idea.
China impresses the world with its drastic economic development, which is sometimes unfortunately considered as a potential threat, with its influence as kind of expansion, by some analysists. On the contrary, as professor Ronald Leven and director Pingfan Hong have stressed in their speech, instead of concerning too much about China’s influence on the global market, we should also remember that this is a country successfully declined its poverty rate from 60% to 4.2% in 24 years2. A nation like this never lacks experience in planning a blueprint for a developing country. And the OBOR, a project including 60% of world population, 40% of global trade, and 50% of extreme poverty population around the world, is such a bridge for China to bring its know- how in infrastructure to the third world as well as forming a stable and positive trade relationship. It is a “business-oriented” project which also promotes cultural, technological exchange and political communication.
According to director Hong, promoting peace and cooperation is the spirit of OBOR. And he put forwarded five fields of connectivity from a macroscopical perspective: policy, facility, trade and investment, financial and people. Since my recent focus is about the role enterprises play in OBOR, I proposed a question about Chinese state-owned enterprises’ advantages compared to other private global entities. In addition to the three points I referred to, which is infrastructure construction, substantial financial support for long-term exploitation and more stable employment for local labors, director Hong made a further supplement. He claimed that the Chinese government is also offering security support for countries suffering from warfare to establish a safe investment environment. Director Hong also mentioned that many Chinese private companies are also looking forward to joining OBOR. Given that past Chinese investment in the third world centered on heavy industry and was mainly conducted by state-own companies, the joining of domestic private entities inspired me to think more about what they would bring to the corporation between OBOR countries.
Retrospecting the past investment of Chinese enterprises in the third world, we can still find room for improvement. For instance, some scholars argue that industries of Chinese state-own companies in Africa are sometimes not in the direct control of Chinese government, causing problems that hurt Chinese companies’ reputation. As a result, I am also quite curious about how OBOR would strengthen the management of Chinese overseas investment and build up an active trade relationship with other countries.
As part of Globalization, OBOR is sometimes conjectured as “expansion of capital”. However, from my perspective, both the scale and the strategies conducted are unprecedented. I believe the project will create a new era of international trade and I will keep following its progress.