China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) project – consisting of the Silk Road Economic Belt, a land route to Europe, and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, a sea route cutting from the Philippines to the Mediterranean – is a sprawling bureaucratic monstrosity the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) asserts will create a better-connected, wealthier global economy. The Belt and Road Initiative, as it is sometimes also called, requires China to invest heavily in infrastructure and development across three continents to facilitate trade for China.
Below, a map of the land and sea routes President Xi Jinping hopes China will control at the end of the project (via Chinese state outlet China Daily).
The consistent injection of all this terminology – the belt, the road, the “ancient” allusions – into trade discussions involving China have left many in America with questions. Where the road ends, what the world looks like once China is done building its infrastructure, and what checks remain on Chinese hegemony of OBOR succeeds are all valid questions that China has yet to definitively answer.
From what China has revealed of its plan, however, One Belt One Road could significantly altar the geopolitical and economic landscapes of Asia, Europe, and Africa, in at least the following X ways.
One Belt One Road Is Mercantilism on a Global Scale
One Belt One Road is China’s plan to dominate world trade by building and controlling a network of roads, pipelines, railways, ports, and power plants to deliver raw materials to China and finished goods to the rest of the world. It’s a super-highway for Chinese economic dominance.
The long-term goal of OBOR is pretty straightforward. China wants to be the world’s dominant manufacturer in the 21st Century. It wants everything you buy in a store or online to be made, in part or in whole, in China, with Chinese labor, and for the profit of Chinese businesses.
It understands that, in order to accomplish this goal, it is not enough for China to merely underprice businesses in Europe and the U.S. It must control not only the means of production but the means of delivery: the roads, ports, railways, and pipelines.
Control over the means of delivery has been a long-term Chinese goal. China already controls the majority of ports around the Panama Canal, the key to shipping between the Pacific Rim and Atlantic facing Europe. OBOR would create another route to Europe’s consumers, through central Asia.
The ultimate goal is to allow China to control the terms of global trade, rending aging Western-dominated institutions and practices dispensible. It is nothing short of reshaping the global economic order around the priorities of China’s leaders.
Socialism, Western pro-liberty thinkers know, is a tragic-comic failure, rearing its head in failed states like Venezuela to remind us to never revisit that history. China, many Western thinkers argue, isn’t “really” communist, and its booming economy will soon lead to a booming marketplace of ideas.
In his new book, Bully of Asia, author (and Breitbart contributor) Steven W. Mosher makes the compelling argument that trying to understand Xi Jinping’s rise to power is impossible if the West insists on studying Chinese history from the era of Mao Zedong. Instead, he contends, one must look to the history that informed and inspired the modern tyrants of China, and in particular the success of Qin Shihuang, China’s first emperor, in ending the existence of China’s nation-states.
As fun as the book is to read for its narrative qualities, however, it also imparts an important warning about China: it has had millennia to perfect totalitarianism, and its leaders do not want to stop now. The legalists of China’s last millennium B.C. established government systems that forced spouses to report each other for “crimes,” commanded the burning of inconvenient books, and rewrote the teachings of Confucius to their benefit.
Mosher clearly concludes that a clash of civilizations between America and China is inevitable. “There is no room in either country’s conception of the future global order for the other,” he writes.
Yet as dire as this seems, time and again Mosher offers hope by highlighting the Chinese people’s own resistance to authoritarianism. The Chinese – like everyone else – reject being stripped of their humanity. They ultimately felled the Qin dynasty, established the Republic of China in rejection of communism, have embraced Christianity by the tens of millions, and continue to struggle against the regime through human rights lawsuits and global advocacy. From Tiananmen to Tibet to the Uighurs of Xinjiang and the Hong Kong millennials fighting against “One Country, Two Systems,” the fact that the odds are against them have not subdued Chinese individualists.
This is a problem that the United States does not share. Americans, with the exception of a tiny minority of Marxist “intellectuals,” accept the superiority of limited government individualism and use their freedom to make the most of themselves. There are no organized uprisings against America’s constitution, even as protests against politicians occur daily. Americans embrace American values whether they hold public office or not.
Millions of Chinese people reject what Xi is selling as “Chinese values.” Even in the implicit dire warning Mosher offers that Chinese authoritarianism is almost as old as humanity itself, the resilience of opposition to that authoritarianism is a beacon of hope
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