China put forward the grand Belt and Road initiative in 2013. Back then, it was considered overly ambitious and vague. Four years on, the bad news is there has not been much progress. But at least, more people are paying attention to the project.
In fact, the new Silk Road plan is underpinned by real interests and benefits. On one hand, China is keen to export capital and capacity overseas as the nation moves up the value chain; on the other, nations along the Belt and Road routes badly need external resources to support local economic growth.
According to the blueprint, Beijing is supposed to strike deals with relevant countries over issues like tariff, regulation, property rights protection and market access. Also, the authorities will offer assistance in loans and subsidies, making it a lot more feasible for the private sector to tap into these markets.
The Belt and Road plan has yet to achieve any major progress. For example, China has yet to sign any free trade agreement with nations along the routes.
The most we hear about is related forums and summits, one after another.
So, will the plan continue to make headway and achieve anything concrete and substantial?
Given the complications in such negotiations, perhaps it’s hard to expect much breakthrough anytime soon.
Still, the Belt and Road initiative remains relevant four years later, and the topic continues to gain traction.
The recent Belt and Road summit has been attended by heads of state from 29 countries. The summit was considered China’s biggest diplomatic event since 1949. The eurozone, UK, Germany, France, Japan and South Korea all have sent official delegations to the summit.
Surprisingly, even the US decided to send an interagency delegation from Washington led by Matthew Pottinger, a top adviser to the Trump administration and National Security Council senior director for East Asia.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 15
Translation by Julie Zhu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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