The President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, has devised a renewed trade route by land and sea that reaches Mongolia and Russia; Central Asia and Pakistan; Myanmar, Bangladesh and India; To South-East Asia, but also to South Korea and Japan; The Persian Gulf, the Middle East, North Africa and the European Union.
The new Silk Road is already presumed to be “the first source of infrastructural projects in the world”, as detailed by Enrique Fanjul for the Elcano Royal Institute. A statement that does not seem vague: they want to build new rail lines and ports; Pipelines, pipelines and power stations; Roads and all kinds of support infrastructures with billions of investment.
China endowed the initial fund with 40,000 million dollars. And if that was in 2014, since then agreements have been made and numbers multiplied to affect between 3,000 and 4,000 million people. Or, according to Xulio Ríos, one of the greatest experts in the country, director of the Observatory of Chinese Politics and the Galician Institute of International Documentation and Analysis (Igadi), “is the main strategic commitment of Xi; An internal demonstration of its power and an exercise of global affirmation. Everything seems to indicate that China is not bluffing. ”
The ads have their maximum political exponent, in addition, in the other name of the Route: “One Belt One Road”. A strip on the map will affect more than 60 countries. Lines that put back on the table the influence of the People’s Republic on the world map.
Globalization to China
China, Zhongguo in Chinese – literally “center empire” -, the great world power for centuries, abandoned leadership in the eighteenth century. The Industrial Revolution turned the tables in favor – first – of the United Kingdom and then of the West. The country ended up dominated in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The caravans of camels that in their day regularized the commerce between Asia and Europe through mountains and plains, rivers and deserts, were scarcely like a vague memory. Now the old stories reappear.
China, the world’s most populous country (more than a billion people) wants to regain the role of power that it lost centuries ago. And stand up to the US strategy. To “swing towards Asia” – in the words of Barack Obama and waiting to know in detail the interests of the new president, Donald J. Trump.
And if the Chinese point of view is adopted, it is easy to know the reason for the new and extensive project: the Transpacific Association Agreement (abandoned by Trump as soon as he arrives at the White House) and the transatlantic (very much answered in Europe) Isolating China on the world trading board.
USA Already controls – through agreements dating back to the end of World War II – the sea lanes through which a large part of the global goods flow. South Korea, Japan or Taiwan in the Chinese Sea; Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia in Southeast Asia and Marlaca; Egypt and Saudi Arabia in the Strait of Hormuz or the Red Sea. Meanwhile, Europe remains the main destination for exports.
Pedro Nueno, a professor at the IESE Business School and president of CEIBS (China Europe International Business School in Shanghai, one of the most prestigious Asian business schools), believes that the new Silk Road stands, “basically, To connect China with Europe.
Long ago I said that in the period 2015-2020 we would see Chinese companies come out to the world. We will see even more. The government does what needs to be done and facilitates it, because a manufacturer that does not sell around the world has no future. And that US Is in Marlaca conditions, “he summarizes.
Also, as Ríos adds, “maritime trade routes are of great importance to China, hence its interest in taking relevant positions in the surrounding seas, preserving the security of its trade and gradually expelling the United States. Of his role of gendarme of the region “.
The new Silk Road is, on the map, the answer to China’s geopolitical and geo-economic interests. But also the strategy that allows him to return to be a central actor in the center of the world of the scheme theorized by Halford J. Mackinder in 1919.
The conclusion of the leading geopolitical theorist of the early twentieth century was clear: “Whoever rules Eastern Europe will dominate the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland will dominate the Island-World; Whoever governs the World-Island will control the world.”
Mackinder’s scheme fit perfectly with the dominions of the Russian Empire and then of the Soviet Union. The reason for their fascination, in any case, had a more material than ideological reason: anyone controlling the World-Island, the territory from the Volga River to the Yangtze, and from the Himalayas to the Arctic, would accumulate more than 50 % Of the resources of the globe.
Today, seven of the ten largest ports in the world are in the People’s Republic of China – air travel is still very expensive – but Beijing still needs to ensure the supply of raw materials and energy to maintain economic growth than in most Has been double-digit.
And, for that, at the time that the USA Was leaving Afghanistan, China reoriented its strategies and devised the Silk Road. Or when the West distanced itself from Russia after the annexation of the Crimea and the war in Ukraine, Putin and Xi saw their projects in Central Asia as complementary and signed agreements in sectors such as military, energy, financial or transport.
“China already has a very important presence on global trade routes. And its new commitment influences the desire to create new markets, to outsource its excess production capacity, to open up opportunities for its large public groups, and so on.
But also his proposal for a new model of globalization focused not so much on trade as on infrastructures and on inclusive development. The project covers countries that represent 70% of the planetary population and produces 55% of global GDP. These regions also hold 70% of the world’s oil and gas reserves, “says Ríos.
For many countries globalization to China and the renewed international connection promise a win-win. Everyone wants to win. And the new China seems to agree to invest in them.
“China wants to connect parts of the world that a lot of people do not take into account and in which it barely invests, but which are an opportunity,” explains Nueno. And more when, according to Rios, “most of the beneficiaries are developing countries and China is often the only power willing to fund large projects in poor countries. The economy has always been the spearhead of the strategy to increase its political influence. This case is no exception. ”
The great challenge: diversity
Xi Jinping looks for a new global role for the Empire of the Center and the soft power of the millionaire investments seems the route chosen by the People’s Republic. Because if the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and had to deal with stability and border security – and to that end it created the Shanghai Cooperation Organization with Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, to which Uzbekistan would later join, Today the same objective translates into multiple agreements with all kinds of regimes to strengthen solid and lasting economic relations without the need to promote Chinese-like governments – and against the US attempt. And Bush with liberal democracy.
Although the new opportunity also has threats.
“The forecasts of the XIII Five-Year Plan put China in optimal conditions to become the world’s first economy in a decade. If there are no setbacks, especially internal, “says Ríos.
It refers in particular to the western province of Xinjiang, where a Uighur separatist movement is already rooted in addition to having large reserves of oil, gas, gold, coal and other minerals, and which in the maps of the commercial megaproject is the point in Which branch to the north (to Kazakhstan and Russia) and to the south (to Pakistan, Iran and Turkey).
This is how the twenty-first century China will have to deal with how to harmonize technical and economic guidelines with other countries, how to develop the interior of the country and how to avoid the instability of Central Asia in order to secure its borders, or how to deal with suspicions Of governments before their return to the international geopolitical and economic board.
And despite all this, the new Silk Road, the “One Belt One Road”, every time seems less a chimera and concrete new investments and even have practical examples of which Spain is the protagonist: in December 2014 arrived To Madrid the first train of goods from the Chinese city of Yiwu after traveling 13.053 kilometers in 21 days.
“It is necessary to understand that the Route goes beyond the infrastructure: it is the process of China opening to the world. To Rajoy they told him that it does not end in Spain, but it continues towards Latin America. That means that Chinese companies have to leave and in addition Spain is a bridge for Latin America and Africa. It should not be seen as a logistical project, but a conceptual one, “says Nueno.
China begins to draw its new world map.