One Belt, One Road (OBOR): China's regional integration initiative

Briefing 07-07-2016

In 2013, China launched its 'One Belt, One Road' (OBOR) initiative. OBOR is China’s broadly sketched vision of how it plans to boost regional integration in its wider neighbourhood. The initiative is unprecedented in terms of China's financial engagement and the innovative network-based project design which is intended to contribute to a more inclusive global governance. It contrasts sharply with existing treaty-based integration concepts where the geographical scope, partner countries, strategy, principles and rules were clearly defined at the outset. China's new development vision has been seen as an alternative to regional trade agreements which do not include it; as a strategy for asserting its leadership role in Asia in response to the US pivot to Asia; as an economic outreach towards Asian countries for resolving territorial and maritime disputes by exporting China’s domestic development policies; as a means of tapping into new sources of growth to check the marked downturn in its economy; as a tool for tackling the socio-economic divide between its inland and coastal provinces; and finally, as a venue for addressing security challenges on its western periphery as well as energy security issues. The response to China's regional integration vision has been mixed. While the idea of enhancing connectivity has drawn considerable interest, given the huge infrastructure gaps across Asia, scepticism regarding China's potential hegemonic ambitions has prevailed notably among regional rivals India and Japan as well as the USA. Whether OBOR will be mutually beneficial for China and the EU will depend on the two sides agreeing on the 'rules of the game', including for joint projects in third countries. Potential synergies between OBOR and the EU connectivity initiatives are being explored under the EU-China Connectivity Platform.