China’s OBOR Strategy To Export Surplus And Gain Influence

China’s OBOR is a strategy to export the country’s surplus products and manufacturing capacity, plus gain influence over countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe.

In 2013, China introduced a pair of new developments: the “Silk Road Economic Belt” and the “Twenty-First-Century Maritime Silk Road,” an economic and diplomatic program that could transform trade. Together, these initiatives are known as the One Belt, One Road (OBOR). If the One Belt, One Road project were merely “one road,” it would be little more than a traditional land-power strategy, but the One Belt, One Road opens up secondary maritime power along China’s coast, backed by the vast expanse of country’s landmass.

At the heart of One Belt, One Road lies the creation of an economic land belt that includes countries on the original Silk Road through Central Asia, West Asia, the Middle East and Europe, as well as a maritime road that links China’s port facilities with the African coast, pushing up through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean.

The purpose of the new initiative is to open up an alternative transportation channel from southwest China to the Indian Ocean, bypassing the Strait of Malacca. Another potential southbound OBOR route would pass through Pakistan or Bangladesh to the Indian Ocean. In either case, the goal would be to connect with Sri Lanka, where a new, world-class harbor would open up another entry point to the Indian Ocean. Additionally, the One Belt, One Road initiative was launched by Beijing to promote trade and investment along old trade routes. China is trying to export its surplus products and manufacturing capacity, plus gain influence over 60 countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe.

China’s One Belt, One Road initiative is based upon projects, not rules. China has made connectivity and infrastructure investment as the top priorities. Officials said that the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives will be “open” to all nations and are not limited by geography. Many projects such as rail links have been arranged through negotiations with other nations and are often funded with Chinese money.

Over the last 30 years, China has developed from a poor, inward-looking agricultural country, to a global manufacturing powerhouse. Its model of investing and producing at home and exporting to developed markets has elevated it to the world’s second-largest economy after the United States. The future of trade in Asia could depend a great deal upon what becomes of China’s expansive One Belt, One Road initiative. After all, the belt, the physical road, and the maritime Silk Road would re-create the shipping routes that made China one of the world’s foremost powers centuries ago.