This year’s Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) became a central focus for China’s mobilization around the “One Belt, One Road” project for Asia and the world. In his speech on March 28th, President Xi Jinping had traced the development of the Asia-Pacific region during the last 70 years from the end of the Anti-Fascist War and the founding of the United Nations, to the historic Bandung conference 60 years ago, where Chinese leader Zhou Enlai and India’s Jawaharlal Nehru had laid out the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, including non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations. “This year we will witness the completion of the ASEAN Community,” Xi Said. With the development of the two new Silk Road projects, China hopes to create by 2020 an East Asian Economic Partnership.
Boao drew 48 nations this year with a much greater participation of world leaders, attracted by the vision of the New Silk Road. Most significantly, China used the opportunity to present a broad and detailed program of how they envision the development of their “One Belt, One Road.”
As they did so, the number of countries applying to be founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) rose to 45, with Sweden and Egypt being among those announcing themselves today. Among major economies remaining outside, are only the United States, Canada, and Japan. One investment group in China estimated that the AIIB’s $100 billion capital, “properly borrowed against” with bond issuances, could provide $1.3 trillion in financing.
“This is the development we have been pushing for, which Helga and I have been pursuing for a long time,” Lyndon LaRouche noted today. He characterized it as “far, far greater than a Marshall Plan.”
The “Action Plan” is a grandiose vision of trade and development which makes the stalemated PNAC imperial vision of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pale in comparison. And the principles of the “One Belt, One Road” laid out in Xi’s speech — where the underlying principle is the mutual respect shown to each country’s core interests and choice of development paths — contrast starkly with the imperial unipolar world that lies at the basis of the TPP notion.
Entitled “Visions and Actions on Jointly Building Belt and Road,” the document, issued on March 28, detailed the various aspects of the envisioned process, involving economy, finance, culture and security. The “framework” of the project includes linking Asia, Europe and Africa by means of the Silk Road Economic Belt through China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe, a link through Central Asia and West Asia to the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean, and a sea-land corridor linking China with Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Indian Ocean, and through the South China Sea to the South Pacific. Further corridors will be developed through China-Mongolia-Russia, China-Central Asia-West Asia and China-Indochina Peninsula. There will also be a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and a Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor.
Economic priorities involve coordinating, enhancing and accelerating trade and transportation, eliminating obstacles on the borders with regard to customs and multimodal transport, promoting connectivity of energy infrastructure, enhancing cooperation in oil and gas, in hydropower and in nuclear energy, and collaboration among the nations in developing new industries, setting up science centers and cross-border economic and investment zones.
The “Road and Belt” will also be supported through a number of new financial institutions, the action plan continues: the AIIB, the BRICS Bank, the Silk Road Fund. A financial arm will be established in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and cooperation will be strengthened in the China-ASEAN Interbank Association and SCO Interbank Association. China will also allow companies and financial institutions with good credit ratings to issue renminbi bonds in China for their financing needs. They will also create a regional financial risk early-warning system, and create an exchange and cooperation mechanism for addressing cross-border risks and crisis.
The cultural exchanges are equally important with the promotion of student exchanges between the “Belt and Road” countries promoting tourism along the Belt and Road as well as sports exchanges; cooperation in the area of medicine and in the control of epidemics and other medical emergencies in the region as well. Joint labs and research centers will be set up to promote innovation in science.
The report goes on to indicate the effects this will have in the continued “reform and opening up” policy in China, including the development of the northwest region with Xian in the center and the northeast region with a focal point in Harbin and corridors going north into Russia and Mongolia.
In addition there will be a development of a western corridor from the Yangtze Delta region along the Yangtze River to Chongqing and to Chengdu, which has become a transportation hub along the Central Asian Economic Belt. Such a Yangtze River Corridor would also include such inland cities as Changsha, Nanchang and Hefei, the site of the China Science and Technology University and the Chinese fusion program. The action plan also indicates accelerating cooperation between the upper and middle reaches of the Yangtze and their counterparts along Russia’s Volga River.
The editor of the leading Thai English-language newspaper, The Nation, wrote a long op-ed Monday called “Thailand Ponders Digging Kra Isthmus — Again!”
Kavi Chongkittavorn described the long history of efforts to build the canal, but said, “This time around, the Kra Canal project has been revived with powerful supporters.” He wrote that the Thai-Chinese Culture and Economic Association of Thailand proposed that the National Reform Council (NRC, set up by the military junta to draft a new constitution and related planning) conduct a feasibility study on the canal, and that three members of the Association are also members of the NRC. Kavi says that “One of the 18 NRC committees which oversee the strategies related to agriculture, industry, service, tourism and connectivity is likely to give the green light for the proposed study, which is expected to be completed in just 10 months.”
Kavi describes the great benefits of the canal for Thailand and all the nations East and South Asia, and answers several of the objections often used by its opponents. “The Kra Canal’s proponents believe that the project could be done and would turn around Thailand’s economic slump and turn the country into a global shipping and economic hub rivaling the Panama Canal, beyond what has been envisaged in the Master Plan of ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC).”
Kavi does not mention China’s increasing interest in the canal, but recent reports indicate that China is looking to make the canal part of the New Maritime Silk Road development, and is linking the Silk Road generally with the ASEAN countries’ MPAC.
For a complete picture of how a Kra Canal would revolutionize global trade, see LPAC’s feature documentary: “Kra Canal: The Development of Southeast Asia.”
The Ekai Center, a Basque think tank working with Spanish and other European industry, gave voice to the dawning realization by some in Europe that the bold “New Silk Road Economic Belt” project has the power to free Europe and the United States from their current enslavement to finance.
Ekai issued a Working Paper on March 29 under the above headline, celebrating that the New Silk Road project, with the BRICS backing and the international support for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, “is now de facto a global project. A project which seeks to reconfigure Eurasia into the central economic pivot of world development.”
Europe’s advanced industrial sector sees “the extraordinary opportunities for social and economic development, in the framework of a future in which Europe will be present as the great technological ally of the emerging countries.”
The Ekai Center goes further, and asserts that “the advanced European countries are conscious that the establishment of the Eurasian axis also implies a historic opportunity to definitively overcome the financial oligarchy’s crushing political hegemony over the United States and Europe….
“Rather than the strategies of destabilization, war and coercion developed by Washington to try to maintain its hegemony at all cost, the emerging countries are putting on the table strategies of hope, development and the future,” they conclude.