CPEC enjoys global support as China celebrates 5th anniversary of BRI

BEIJING: China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) enjoys the global support as China marked the fifth anniversary of the “Belt and Road” Initiative on Monday.

The BRI has already been signed by more than 60 countries of the World and it is the biggest-ever connectivity plan or project of cooperative partnership, reflecting the President Xi Jinping’s vision of shared destiny or common development.

The past five years have seen the concept of the program being turned into concrete actions and results. It is pertinent to note that the CPEC is pilot and major project of BRI. On 20 April 2015, Pakistan and China signed an agreement to commence work on the $46 billion agreement, which is roughly 20% of Pakistan’s annual GDP, with approximately $28 billion worth of fast-tracked “Early Harvest” projects are likely to be completed by the end of 2018.

Experts expect the initiative to play a pivotal role in forming a new landscape for China’s comprehensive opening up, as well as global development. Official data suggest the Belt and Road Initiative is gaining momentum in countries and regions all over the world.

By the end of April this year, China had signed 101 deals with 86 countries and organizations in a wide range of areas under the initiative. In the past five years, China’s trade volume with countries along the Belt and Road routes has exceeded five trillion US dollars.

Last year, China’s trade volume with those countries grew by 14.2%, marking a record growth in six years. Also in 2017, China’s imports from these countries were worth over 666 billion US dollars, accounting for a fourth of China’s total import value.

Professor Hu Biliang with Beijing Normal University believes the results demonstrate the initiative’s stimulating effect to China’s economy, as well as its potential to foster world development.

“The Belt and Road Initiative was proposed in 2013 when the world economy suffered a recession. The initiative stimulates investment, consumption and job creation through infrastructure building, bringing huge financial income to countries along the routes and fostering the global economic growth, especially among developing countries. It provides a new impetus to world economic growth.”

Recent data suggest the benefits unleashed by the Belt and Road Initiative began to stand out in 2017: under its framework, Chinese companies have established economic and trade zones in over 20 countries, bringing 1.1 billion dollars in tax income to those countries and creating over 180,000 jobs. A new report suggests the initiative also unleashed benefits in bridging the digital gap, promoting education and facilitating cooperation in cultural communication and medical care.

Beijing To The World: Don’t Call The Belt And Road Initiative OBOR

To remedy a rather confusing situation where nomenclature and reality did not run together, the Chinese government decided to change the name of its epic initiative to wrap up the Eurasian supercontinent and Africa with an array of trade corridors like the laces running around the contour of a baseball.

Perhaps realizing that “One Belt One Road” was not really the best foreign language name for something that is distinctly plural — there are three overland routes and one maritime which extend between China and Europe — Beijing decided to swallow its pride and come up with a term that would be more palatable for the international populous, one that would be seen as a “winwin”. After putting their heads together and consulting such renowned organizations, such as the Central Compilation and Translation Bureau of the Peoples’ Republic of China and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, they came up with a replacement for One Belt One Road:

The “Belt and Road Initiative.” Apparently, this was seen as an improvement.

As put by Una Aleksandra Bērziņa-Čerenkova of the Latvian Institute of International Affairs:

As explained by the Chinese side, the first English translation, namely, “One Belt One Road”, has brought about numerous misinterpretations, as the partners tend to focus too much on the word “one”, assuming that there is to be only one maritime route and a single land belt, whereas, in reality, “The Belt and Road Initiative aims to connect Asia, Europe and Africa along five routes.” Supposedly, the perception of a single road as a limited offer can drive the regional partners into competition mode, therefore, the stressing of the numeral “one” is to be avoided. Also, the word “initiative” has been admitted into the official acronym in order to stress the openness of the strategy, and to avoid criticisms over “China-centered institution building”, that have been gaining momentum as the project progresses.

I first became aware that the Chinese government was requesting this name change in the autumn of 2015, and since then began using the term Belt and Road Initiative — often in conjunction with the Beijing-approved acronym, BRI — expecting that within a matter of months most news and academic sources would follow suit. But nearly two years later this simply hasn’t happened. The name One Belt One Road has stuck, and it’s still being used by major media sources, academia, and, especially, security-oriented think tanks who seem to really like the dystopian twang of “OBOR” as it rolls off their lips. Clearly, “Bah-ree” does not have the same ring to it.

As the below Google Trends comparison shows, OBOR and One Belt One Road are still more commonly used than Belt and Road.

Google Trends

Prevalence of term usage according to Google Trends. OBOR and One Belt One Road are still the most used terms.

However, while OBOR is no longer the name of the initiative, it is still the same top-down plan to build new ports, roads, railways, power plants, and special economic zones across Asia and Africa in an attempt to integrate the entire region into a massive market spanning 60 countries and a third of the world’s GDP.