Chinese Belt and Road Initiative: South Asian Market

Qinzhou is the ancient point of Chinese Marine Silk Road. In this Qinzhou seaport, China has started construction to develop China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park intending to make it as role model zone of China-ASEAN cooperation. China was ASEAN’s largest external trading partner in 2017, and it received 14.1% of ASEAN export where EU came next at 12%, followed by the United States the rate is 10.8%. Trade flows between ASEAN nations and China have grown sharply in recent years, noting this, during the past 10 years, in between 2005-2014, trade flows between ASEAN members and China tripled. The South-East Asian region is now China’s third largest trading partner with annual bilateral trade valued U.S. Dollar 443.6 billion.

Given this context, as China wants to increase its trade with ASEAN countries and others also, it has started building infrastructure in their land and also in the overseas. China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park is also the part of that infrastructure development. The primary destination of Qinzhou port is to the Kuantan port of Malaysia. Malaysia is China’s third largest trading partner in Asia. These two countries are building up that park and the Qinzhou port is not only for these two countries trade but also they are going to start Maritime Silk Road which China is marking as Belt and Road Initiative.

One of the authorities of China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park shared his views that this port will be a free port for all from where they want to revive their ancient marine line. Though, their present destination is ASEAN countries but the authorities also express that South Asian countries are not that much developed like the ASEAN countries but it’s a good market for China. 

Professor Wang Yuzhu, a Chinese foreign policy expert, is also the expert of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) who explained why South Asia is important for their BRI, through his many lectures and comments. Wang Yuzhu wants to enter in South Asia with the Chinese dream project BRI, but he is not in that group of China’s policy persons who are aggressive with BRI project rather than Wang Yuzhu wishes to apply soft business diplomacy. Infrastructure connectivity, resource development, economic cooperation, cultural exchange, and ecological protection will be the project priority of BRI. Wang Yuzhu commented that some of the Chinese policy makers are very much aggressive about BRI. He is not the feather of that same flock. 

The first pillar of his policy indicates people to people connection with all the countries but in recent times, he emphasizes on South Asian countries. He thought that South Asian countries, basically its people will understand China is with their people. Besides, he thought BRI is to focus on developing infrastructure connectivity as it is more essential for attracting investment from both domestic and international community. Adding that development of many countries was backed due to lack of investment for enhancement of connectivity. 

If China can establish this connectivity and cooperation, it will help decrease the price of the commodity. It is another point of soft business diplomacy of Wang Yuzhu. Wang commented about the importance of carrying out product and its usage. He urged that we must provide the product to the people always in a reasonable price. If carrying out product becomes easier, cost will be decreased.

In this point the question is that is it possible; can China ultimately forward on this soft policy? On the other hand, South China territorial Sea dispute has emerged as a challenge to the unity of the ASEAN nations. ASEAN has already discussed about drawing up a code of conduct to be sign with China governing dispute in the South China Sea. But Beijing is reluctant to sign on to a multilateral agreement. China is also worried about the South China Sea conflict and the ally of Indo-Pacific Sea. Though the Indo-Pacific ally QUAD is in a very initial stage; but China has taken it seriously. Because this QUAD will not only control the Indo-Pacific Sea, but also it help the countries which are now engaged in conflict with China for the control of the disputed area of South China Sea. 

Here to mention that President Trump gave many bold speeches regarding the conflict of South China Sea. But when he visited China, he did not utter a single word about South China Sea. Instead of that the position of China and America is going to be a Thucydides Trap position. In this trap, China is the new power who is going to replace the old power, America. However, it is true that it will take at least 50 years to take the new shape of the world power. If we go back to the past history, all the result of Thucydides Trap is war. The Harvard research says, normally the result of the war of Thucydides Trap is always in favor of the new power. But it is tough to predict this future Thucydides Trap’s result. History remarks all the past Thucydides Traps were guided by the military power. On the other hand, this new power is emerging with more economy power than military power. So, it is totally new in the world. 

It is estimated that the new economy power will be China; but ultimately, world economic feature will not take that shape. Future economy will not be any kind of Unipolar, rather it will be multipolar. So, the new power of the Thucydides Trap is not China, even not any single country; it will be the Asia continent. In that time, Many ASEAN countries and South Asian countries, mainly India even Bangladesh will be some center of the economy. China without any concern will be a big economy. Again, China and India both have 30 percent of people who live below poverty line now. 

We can surely say all the Asian countries like South-East Asia, South Asia and Far East Asia has to resolve their problems, reduce conflicts and build up people to people connection to reach the goal of the new economic world. That’s why, Wang is on the right path which is soft business diplomacy, people to people connection, building infrastructure and reduce conflict with each other. Besides, it must be assured not to push on any agenda of any countries to others. Rather it is better to win over each over. 

Swadesh Roy, Senior Journalist, Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is a highest state award winning journalist