OBOR , the AIIB, multipolarity and the new type of great power relations

von Ralf Ostner

China´s One Belt-One road initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank have created both: hopes and fears. Underdeveloped countries see an huge opportunity to develop their stagnating countries because the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and Western investors failed to deliver credits and infrastruture bulidings for decades, especially in Africa, the Greater Middle East and Central Asia.As the world population will increase to 12 billion people in 2050, especially in underdeveloped countries development and infrastructure building becomes a question of survival.While the West concentrated on free trade China has a two-track approach: While encouraging free trade China also has by the OBOR initiative a sort of a new Keynesian New Deal with its massive expansion in infrastructure building. The OBOR initiative comes at a point when Chinese internal market for steel, concrete, construction building becomes saturated and limited. China needs to expand to come in terms with its overproduction in heavy industry, railway technology and construction building. As China has come in an era of normal grothw rates of 7%, it needs new foreign markets for its overproduction. For the underdeveloped countries this creates the opportunity that China will engage in credit spending for infrastructure building in other countries—by this creating economic hubs and new economic centers and economic corridors and belts at the periphery which will be connected with the economic centers of the world economy.A win-win situation.

However, the OBOR and AIIB also creates fears. On the one side there are many countries who fear that China might become too strong and will perform some sort of neocolonialism. Skeptics fear that the underdeveloped countries might become too dependent on China. Even the EU was suspicious when China set up a Eastern European group of 11 countries for its OBOR project as it thought that China would create a Eastern sphere of influence within the EU, , a Chinese backyard in Europe and by this splitting the EU. Meanwhile China and the EU signed a framework agreemnt which coordinates the infrastrure projects of the EU and the OBOR initiative and the European scepticism has vanished and the OBOR initiative is now welcomed by all European countries.

But there also very jeallous groups in the West who dont´t want to see a strong China that might shift the power balance in direction of multipolarity or a new type of great power relations. In the USA the election campaign is strongly dominated by slogans like „Make America great“again and focsues on China as a main competitor, portraying a „China threat“and hopes that confrontation with China could revitalize the old unipolar world order of a Pax Americana.Therefore many of these interest groups will try to portray the OBOR initiative as kind of neoimperialism and neocolonialism and wish that it will have no success.China still is accustomed to its inner standards of labour and enviroment regulations and an statecontrolled investment enivorment. As it reaches out to other countries it will face labour unions, enviromentalts groups, NGOs, other protectionist goverments and political enviromenmts as diffent labour cultures. Chinese manager get attacked by foreign workes when they tried to implement Chinese work ethics in countries where the workes have a more relaxed and laid-back attitude and not that much Confucianist, puritanist Chinese work ethics.These diffences will naturally create some tensions when executing the projects of the OBOR initiative. China has also a low reputation if it comes to enviroment standars and the air and water pollution in China is a serious problem.

Therefore China will face critism of other countries , NGOs, labour unions,envriomentalist groups,etc. when it tries to construct the infrastructure projects.In summary: China should try to avoid the image that the OBOR initiative is expoliting workers, destroying the enviroment,is performing neocolonialsim. If China makes clear that it will comply to certain standards the OBOR initiative will be welcomed by most countries and people as a huge development project, a New Deal for the elimination of hunger, starvation and underdevelopment , as a initiative to reviitalize the sluggish world economy and by this creating welfare for mankind.


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