Belt & Road Initiative: China is looking for the great global strategy

China is in the process of rephrasing a major strategy – the Belt & Road Initiative (BRi) – in relation to the rest of the system of economic actors and policies at international level, given its weight and especially the way in which it has strengthened its influence in Eurasia, Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe.

Pg-52-Alex-SerbanThe strategy, already baptized President Xi Jinping’s “legacy project,” is aimed not only at developing a political and economic vision at regional and global level that aims to balance economic development by reducing social and poverty disparities, but also to increase its economic, political and military presence by strengthening its power as an economic actor in the world. The prospects outlined so far provide a series of clues on China’s global vision.

Several authors who analyze the phenomenon believe that the idea of a great Chinese strategy is still a very fluid concept, undergoing modeling. A vision would be that Beijing is shaping its actions after the US, especially since Donald Trump’s election has brought back on the table the discussion on the future of America and its commitment as a global power in the context of the „America First” policy.

Another approach is that neither China, nor the US can miss the chance of balancing and cooperating globally. Even if different philosophies and policies are accepted in regards to geopolitics and regional interests, at the end of the day, the need for a global synergy in the economy and the avoidance of military conflict are priorities for both parties. Receiving Donald Trump in Beijing with the highest honors, last week, can be interpreted as a friendly sign from Xi Jinping, while recent seminars in Washington attempting to present and explain BRi’s vision for the next 5 years complete this both way move from decision-makers and influencers in China and the US.

Belt & Road Initiative

“[The Belt & Road Project] is generational and it will take a long time to complete,” and “the US must get involved now”, noted Gal Luft, co-director of the Global Security Analysis Institute, according to Caleb Darger, in „China’s Belt and Road Initiative: An Opportunity for the United States” (Atlantic Council). Some US analysts believe that it is not necessary that Washington agree on the whole initiative, but only participate in those components of interest to the US, and where the US has the opportunity to play a significant political or economic role.

In this broader debate, Romania and Southeast Europe are of particular interest to China, with careful coordination with the EU and transatlantic agenda. Romania needs, first and foremost, a broader and open debate to understand the parameters of this new vision and strategies (BRi) and how economic and energy transport and connectivity projects are relevant to the region. Several energy projects are in advanced stages. CEFC’s partnership with KMGI/Rompetrol in Romania can provide financial consolidation at an important moment for the group. At the same time, with the construction of nuclear reactors 3 and 4 at the Cernavodă plant, Romania has the chance to strengthen its role as a regional power provider through a collaboration with Asian investors to ensure continuity of North American technology. The Tarniţa-Lăpuşeşti Hydropower Project in Cluj County, estimated to be worth over 1 billion euros, is also likely to contribute to the modernization of the Romanian energy system with Chinese investments.

At the same time, continued participation in the 16+1 format, both at a political and economic and business level, with networking between think-tanks, is important for deepening the discussions and for aligning national, European and American projects for the region.

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This article firstly appeared in the printed edition of energynomics.ro Magazine, issued in December 2017.

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