One Belt, One Road: Japanese perspective
TOKYO: Even if China makes strategic preparations to build a world order at its own initiative, the country will not be able to dispel the distrust harboured by Japan, the United States and other nations unless it rectifies its self-serving behaviour.
In Beijing, the administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping has held its first-ever international cooperation conference under the theme of its “One Belt, One Road” initiative, by which it seeks to establish a huge economic bloc.
This scheme was proposed by Xi in the autumn of 2013. The initiative aims to link Asia to Europe by reviving the ancient trade routes of the overland Silk Road and maritime Silk Road as a central pillar of the plan, thereby improving infrastructure in countries along these routes and vitalising regional trade.
The conference was attended by a total of 1,500 people from more than 130 nations. Twenty-nine countries, including Russia, Italy and the Philippines, sent top leaders to attend the meeting.
In an address at the forum’s opening ceremony, Xi said his nation would “foster a new type of international relations” based on mutual cooperation, coexistence and co-prosperity, thereby attempting to place a check on the existing order that is centred on the United States. He unveiled a plan to extend about ¥1.64 trillion in additional contributions to the Silk Road Fund, which would cover funding for such schemes as infrastructure investment.
Xi also said it will be necessary to “uphold the multilateral trading regime and advance the building of free trade areas.”
Does he want to describe himself as the “locomotive of the world economy”, bearing in mind the fact that the administration of US President Donald Trump has withdrawn his country from the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact?
Words on free trade empty
China restricts foreign corporations’ activities at home. It exports large amounts of low-priced steel products produced in excess. China’s assertion that it will lead free trade in place of the United States is not persuasive.
Regarding infrastructure-related undertakings, there have been delays in a conspicuous number of projects conducted by China due to its high-handed methods and overoptimistic prospects, despite calling for coexistence and co-prosperity. This can be symbolised by the current situation facing Indonesia’s high-speed railway construction plans.
The problem is that the maritime Silk Road scheme is inseparably linked to China’s efforts to secure footholds for its navy through harbour improvement projects.
Progress is being made in large-scale investments in harbours and other places in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, both situated in areas around the Indian Ocean. Although China emphasises the economic benefits to be yielded there, there is no doubt that the harbour improvement projects are supporting China’s hegemonic maritime advances aimed at excluding the United States from the region.
In Djibouti in north-eastern Africa, a naval supply base construction project is under way. This could arouse anxiety among such nearby nations as India, combined with China’s construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea, where its attempt to turn the islands into military bases is nearing completion. If the Xi administration continues with its forceful moves, the prospect of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative materialising will be uncertain.
Japan sent such figures as Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, to the latest conference. It is important to carefully determine whether his visit will contribute to the Asian region’s stability and development, not to mention the Japan-China relationship. —The Japan News
THE VOICE TIMES