August 15, 2022
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China's MSR may change balance of power
Chinese leaders are always ambitious and nourish deep thinking about their present and future actions when it comes to geopolitics. Being a good student of history, the Chinese are extremely successful at choosing the right time for an event. But this time too they are demonstrating their strength by displaying an idea to connect Europe, Africa and Asia which is known as maritime silk route (MSR). The Chinese government has roped in almost 104 countries in the 3 continents who can join the MSR project and benefit out of it. At least, this is what is being talked in the public domain. For that, China will spend over 500 billion USD in 25 years. China’s ambitious silk route project has two dimensions. One will be by land route and another through the sea lanes. Both the silk projects can transform the global economy in coming decades if the projects are implemented. The advantage for China will be tremendous. In Asia it will certainly change the face of economy and alter the balance of power. Both medium and small powers in the region will be marginalized and, yet, their hopes to change the face of their own economy can get a boost. The MSR project is based on five principles such as cooperation, harmony and inclusiveness, market operation and mutual benefit. This is a publicly stated position so far. But the Chinese leaders have repeated time and again that the goal of silk route projects are for better policy coordination, enhancing connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people contacts which can boost tourism that has never been seen before. Despite a modest positioning of MSR, the project is not very clear on many fronts and many technical aspects. It has been seen when countries pursue their own interests they often come into confrontation with another as who should benefit more.

China may have studied the fallout of MSR and Land Silk Route but dynamics of a situation can never be predicted with accuracy. So far, some 58 countries have agreed or given their consent to join the project either in future or now, a set of 46 countries are sitting along the fence whether to join the project at this stage or wait for some more time. While China could give a boost to global economy with such innovative ideas but no one is sure whether it can actually mature the way the Chinese are talking about. If MSR will be managed by the market forces and the countries can only facilitate and control from a distance, there will be clash of interests. On the top of it, there has to be an overall controlling authority. Such a massive project cannot be left to individual countries. In fact, the historical and cultural dissimilarities will also play a major role. Since the rise of US in the post WWII was trumpeted with the ideology of democracy and market economy, today one can see how American hyper power has behaved after the collapse of Soviet Union. However, the greatest friends of US today across the globe could be dictators and the misery to global order for peace has been damaged by America in the name of its supreme national interests. Countries in the region are privately worried that if China does the same or worse then how can they withdraw or overcome the situation. Because once the infrastructure development and economic restructuring is done then it is not easy to pull off. On the top of it, the fear is if there is a strategic rivalry played out at a later stage, then smaller countries cannot afford to take side.

Now, some nations are also quite anxious to know why China is doing the multibillion dollar MSR project. This is not for the benefits of the nations or the region. It is being done for the purpose of setting a new order for the world. Perhaps China wants to be the new leader of the world as it wants to focus on economic development and prosperity for all. This can be too naïve. China is launching MSR and LSR projects to position differently as it has a vision for 2050, while most nations even do not know about next year. Since others are vulnerable to change, China is quite solid. China’s main objective is to upset US rebalancing policy by announcing such lucrative projects. This will lure countries into its fold easily. Small and medium sized nations are desperate to develop themselves fast to meet the aspirations of their own people but they do not have money, technology and knowhow. Since China is in possession of excess of funds parked in US treasury bonds, this can be channelized for development of its own great power dream. On the other hand, China is increasingly realizing that it needs to look beyond Europe and US markets. China’s transition from an export-led to a consumption-led economy could slow down its growth below 6 per cent by end of next year. In such a scenario, China needs a booming market access in countries which can be the best bet for Chinese investment, goods and services. For that, China will have to create its own space with own investment. This will make China more robust to confront American supremacy in the region and ensure a rising China free from bullying.