China’s One Belt One Road: Globalization 3.0

Sara Hsu

China’s One Belt One Road initiative is becoming increasingly better financed, expanding China’s reach into Europe, Asia and Africa. The $50 billion Silk Road Fund and the $100 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank are to back the program, while the China Development Bank will invest over $890 billion into over 900 projects in 60 countries. The projects will build up infrastructure, increase trade and finance, and boost connectivity across Europe, Asia and Africa.

The One Belt One Road initiative will jump start China’s foreign policy agenda, which has been relatively low key up until this point. In fact, the plan is so ambitious that it has the potential to boost China’s political and economic power to predominant status in the East.   This type of far-reaching foreign policy focuses on soft power rather than military might or economic coercion, and is arguably a part of a more diverse Globalization 3.0.

Details of the One Belt One Road plan were released on March 28 of this year by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Commerce. The Silk Road Economic Belt is to extend through several corridors over Asia and Europe, while the Maritime Silk Road is to include infrastructure projects that lie in South Asia, East Africa, and the northern Mediterranean Sea. The plan emphasizes the cooperative nature of the One Belt One Road initiative, stating, “Though proposed by China, the Belt and Road Initiative is a common aspiration of all countries along their routes…. The development of the Belt and Road is open and inclusive, and we welcome the active participation of all countries and international and regional organizations in this Initiative.”

While China’s expansion of the Silk Road and Silk Maritime Road does not directly challenge the power of the United States, some Americans have viewed this program as a threat.   American analysts have viewed the Silk Roads as a challenge to US dominance overseas. American officials have opposed the cooperation of Western nations with China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Even President Obama has opposed China’s expansion of trade overseas. The fact is that a stronger China will carry more influence, which may detract from the hegemony normally imposed by the US. China’s increased economic integration with the rest of the world in particular will create a dependency on the eastern nation that will enhance its global legitimacy.

To date, much of the globalization process has been a force that has been dominated by the United States, and the fear that China will challenge this power has been underscored in the media. Expansion of Chinese firms overseas, financing of critical infrastructure and pipeline projects by Chinese institutions, cooperation of Chinese researchers and firms on technological development and implementation, and improvement in diplomatic and civil relationships between Chinese and foreign individuals and institutions all stand to greatly promote China’s influence across Europe, Asia and Africa. As China’s reach expands, American economic dominance will have a rival, and the potential loss of American financial and/or political support will carry less weight. The RMB will become more important, reducing dollar supremacy.

If Globalization 2.0 was, as Thomas Friedman has asserted, (Western) companies globalizing, Globalization 3.0 is non-Western forces globalizing. Globalization 3.0 looks more international, more cooperative and less one-sided. It is hoped to be a more peaceful and inclusive globalization. This changes the power balance between the global North and the global South. If there was any question that the face of globalization is changing, China’s dramatic One Belt One Road program reinforces the fact that Globalization 3.0 is here to stay.

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