Some questions of the Chinese "Marshall Plan"

By Arthur Dunn

The "One belt and one way" initiative focuses on transport and logistics. China has the world's largest network of high-speed and high-speed railways with a length of more than 19,000 km (this is more than the length of the railways of Japan and Europe combined). One of the announced projects is the construction of a single high-speed passenger railroad Beijing-Kazakhstan- Moscow with the expansion to the south and east (Beijing and the Pacific) and to the west (Rotterdam and the Atlantic Ocean). It is also planned to reconstruct the old railway lines, including in the CIS.

The One-Way and One-Way strategy was supported in Central Asia, especially in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The participation of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia is also planned.

The most serious obstacle to development has always been the continental closure of Kazakhstan. But then Astana was just lucky: China proposed the initiative "Economic Belt of the Silk Road" in 2013. Despite active participation in the creation of the EAE, Kazakhstan has never closed only in one direction. The strategy of balancing and soft but consistent national construction has led to the fact that, against the backdrop of the slowdown of the Eurasian integration initiative, the progress of the Silk Road serves as compensation and, perhaps, is a more successful integration project. The outlines of these trends are reflected in the dynamics of trade and investment cooperation with Russia and China over the past 1.5 years. If the trade turnover with the Russian Federation fell by 16% only in 2016, then it increased by 30% with China only for the beginning of 2017.

But it's not just about trading. The mating of the Silk Road with the EAPS stumbles upon Moscow's uncertain strategy, but in the person of Kazakhstan's national program Nurly Zhol (Path of Light) the Silk Road found a worthy partner. The cooperation package includes 51 projects worth USD 27 billion. Therefore, when Vladimir Putin visited Kazakhstan, the conversation was not concluded by signing any significant document.

Unlike Kazakhstan, Tajikistan has no resources for modernization, and the problem is in the negative image of a poor and politically unstable country. The civil war, last year's trials with the opposition Islamic revival party of Tajikistan, as well as the long border with Afghanistan, does not make the country attractive in the investment sense. 

Continental isolation and actual transport isolation make trade and industrial development of the country difficult. In these conditions, relations with Russia have always been crucial.

Moscow is also interested in using the Russian military base to protect the border on the Afghan sector. This is, in all likelihood, the possibility of a wider use of the Russian military element in the security system of Central Asia. For China, this is not very good news, as Beijing is creating its own system of military regional cooperation and coordination between Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and China. This format is also interested in Tashkent.

As for Kyrgyzstan, it has always been the gateway to Chinese commodity exports to Central Asia and beyond the CIS. This can be seen from the figures of Kyrgyz imports, where China acts as the most serious trading partner. China continues to build roads, factories, and provide loans for the provision of raw materials, first of all. The scale of investment is greater than that of all external partners of the region, including Russia. Moscow does not build roads, but it gives jobs to migrants. Russia continues to play a central role in regional security, but it is by no means the only one. The EAEU was to become the main and most attractive project in the region, but even small countries are resisting direct involvement in this project. China does not act in such a straightforward manner, so the effect of its policies is not immediately apparent, but it affects later. The Eurasian strategy of Russia runs into many obstacles, and a big fight for Central Asia will continue.

An important component of the "One Belt" is energy development. Most of the territory of Eurasia is characterized by a significant deficit of energy resources. It is planned to create new generating capacities, including for the development of "green energy".

China, as the largest trading partner for a large number of countries, holds a leading position in many segments of global production and is the largest single market for cars, mobile phones, electronic commerce, international tourism. The program "One belt and one way" is a strategy of long-term distribution of capital in the form of foreign investments. It was preceded by the policy of the late 1990s. "Go Outward", encouraging Chinese firms to invest abroad, as well as activities within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the "Go West" strategy aimed at the development of poor domestic provinces in China.

The biggest number of questions is caused by the financial security of the grandiose initiative "One belt and one way". Last year, China reached 6.7% of GDP growth, but after the global financial crisis, the amount of loans in China is growing at the same rate as the economy, and domestic debt is accumulating faster than the output. The ideology of the global market underlying the One-Way and One-Way initiative reflects primarily the interests of industrial billionaires: the railway corporations CSR and CNR. It not only suggests that economic growth is too optimistic, but also does not take into account the serious risks to the Chinese banking system.

It should be noted that even the official side declares that at present there is no clear plan for the implementation of the One-Belt and One-Way Initiative. The initiators study the reaction of potential partners, analyze the proposed projects and conduct a large number of conferences, meetings and round tables. However, the creation of conditions for the implementation of the initiative requires time and resources, without which the architecture of the project is capable of producing only a phantom.

Short-sighted optimism about economic growth and the uncertainty of future loan repayments mean that in case of a significant slowdown in growth, the Chinese "Marshall Plan" risks turning into another huge economic bubble in the global financial market.


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