The new Silk Road initiative includes a surface route (belt) and a sea route (road). The surface route starts from China and passes through Central Asia to reach the heart of Europe. The Silk Road Belt also connects the four regions of Central Asia, West Asia, South Asia and the Arabian Peninsula. The sea route of the Silk Road also consists mainly of the economic corridors of China-Pakistan, Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar.
The ultimate goal of the “One Belt One Road Initiative” is to build a society with a common destiny for humanity, which is defined as a new global system of economic, political, and security interdependencies with China at the center. That is why Chinese leaders describe One Belt One Road as a national strategy with economic, political and diplomatic factors.
One Belt One Road Initiative in 2021
China’s financial participation and investment in the One Way One Belt Initiative was 59.5 billion dollars in 2021, down by 1.6 percent from the previous year, of which about 13.9 billion dollars was through investment and 45.6 billion dollars through different contracts; also China’s investment in countries outside the plan also grew by 73% in comparison with 2020, amounting to 35.58 billion dollars.
Statistics show that Asian countries accounted for the largest share of the project (around 35% in 2021), however African and Middle Eastern countries accounted for the largest share of China (from 8% in 2020 to around 38% in 2021); in addition, investment in European countries has decreased by 84% compared to the first 6 months of 2020; such an investment in the Arab and Middle Eastern countries has increased by about 360 percent as compared to 2020.
Iraq is the biggest beneficiary of this economic plan; it ranks first in Chinese construction and investment financing contracts (10.5 billion dollars in 2021).
Challenges for advancing ‘One Belt One Road initiative’
The biggest challenge for China’s economic super-project is insecurity and tensions in the international system, with Ukraine, for example, playing a key role in that project. On June 6, 2020, China and Ukraine signed a government agreement to expand joint cooperation in infrastructure development. Ukraine is one of China’s most important trading partners in Europe, and in recent years China has made huge economic investments in its ports and transportation infrastructure as part of One Belt One Road plan.
The KAFCO Group, the Chinese agricultural business giant, has invested 50 million dollars in Mariupol, a city in Donetsk which is controlled by the central government opponents. The Ukraine crisis and the shaky relationship between Russia, Belarus and the European Union in the future will slow down the investment process or advancement of the planned China targets in Eastern Europe.
In addition, growing dissatisfaction of the national and international environmental organizations has led Chinese companies to set more stringent and accurate environmental standards for infrastructure projects.
Some politicians and economists also accuse China of using debt traps to gain control of strategic areas of various countries, for example, some experts believe that China has used the debt trap to lease the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka for 99 years.
The launch of China’s One Belt One Road Initiative despite being an economic project, would enhance China’s strategic influence in different parts of the world; furthermore, China, with its economic interdependence and increased trade volume with all countries of the world, has made it impossible for different countries to ignore their economic interests with China in the future or support the United States in the event of a China-US conflict.