When the world will be non-Western: Russia’s place on the Silk road

We live in the Western world — that is in the world, built on Western standards. Even those who live in Asia, today it is necessary to use Western concepts, even down to the view of history (open textbooks, and you usually will see there is basically the history of Western culture).

Here and experts in international relations, juggling and Western concepts of development, the «actors» and «paradigms», not paying attention to the many subtleties in the political culture of Asia. Economists, being quite sure that the concept of the economy, created in the Western world, it is also applicable for Asian, confidently argue about the specifics of the Chinese market, never looking how it works from the inside.

This West approach quite successfully strengthened our conceit throughout the XX century. Besides, it seems that Asia is gradually starting to follow it.

But one day someone had to say that Asia has its own vision of the world. This role took on China, proposing the initiative «One belt and one road».

Very Chinese beginning

While we’re trying to distinguish this concept is familiar for the Western consciousness the traits of some political alliances and new economic platforms, China is developing it is in Chinese. That is not so, as is customary in the world that was formed before it comes into active play.

…Campaign started in quite a traditional Chinese script. It was first published several fundamental articles of Chinese scholars. Then, in late 2013, Chinese President XI Jinping has officially declared the beginning of the development of the Chinese initiative. She touched on a number of land corridors and the Economic belt of the silk road and a number of sea routes — the Maritime silk road.

Together they are referred to as «One belt and one road».

The project was immediately declared international. In 2014 was established the silk road Fund with a capital of $ 40 billion, which is designed to support including Chinese companies entering foreign markets. A role to play and under the control of the Chinese-led Asian infrastructure investment Bank with 100 billion dollars of registered capital. Solid numbers played a role, China’s neighbors immediately felt the interest in obtaining investment and gladly supported the idea.

The very name of «New silk road» (NSHP) is, of course, a cunning. Usually the concept of «silk road» is associated with China, and this took the Chinese leadership by restarting the term already as a new political concept (during the first visit of XI Jinping to the Central Asian republics, he spoke of the unity of fate of the countries along the silk road). Actually, strictly speaking, China is simply monopolized the concept, again invented by the Europeans. The concept of «silk road» was introduced by the German Ferdinand von Richthofen in his lectures, in 1877, and to refer only to the supply of silk from China, and only in the era of the Han (206-220 years BC). In reality no single way did not exist — there was just a multi-vector of the transcontinental trade, the part of tract which came from China, and some even did with it was not connected.

However, using hyped name, today, the Beijing land the plan aims to link some areas of China, especially the underdeveloped Western regions, with European countries via the so-called Central and inner Asia. The sea route should link the southern province of China with emerging economies in South-East Asia and then to go around India, through the African ports and beyond to the Mediterranean sea.

China has proposed several transport and economic corridors, which in some approximation repeat the ancient trade route of the new Eurasian land corridor, corridor China — Mongolia — Russia economic corridor, the Bangladesh — China — India — Myanmar economic corridor the China — Pakistan economic corridor the China — Indochina, corridor China — Central Asia — West Asia and, finally, the Sea route.

But the idea originally was another side, not purely economic. Usually I like to call geo-strategic, but there is better word «civilization,» although China is trying any way it not to stick out. The point is that there comes a time of new rules and new roles, where China doesn’t just want to play the title role, but also to take responsibility.
Unsinkable plan

In the beginning, China has formulated five areas of work:

1) simplify the terms of trade,

2) the development of transport connectivity,

3) the development of financial relations,

4) political engagement and

5) development of contacts between people.

While no exact plans or stages identified as and now.

It is quite understandable if we realize that we are dealing with a matrix of traditional Chinese or even thinking more broadly, Asian political consciousness. The project has no clear plan, no obvious aggregate parameters, calculate costs, operating costs, payback period. There are statements on the potential Chinese investment in the project, but there is no explanation on how and how fast these investments will be recovered and that the national economy will have to do for it.

But it is in amorphous is it «unsinkable» — will not be able to say, successful or not. And that confuses a lot of project partners, is China a big plus. You can change the rules of the game depending on the situation.

(You can change, by the way, even the reality of hindsight. The rapid growth in the number of projects in the framework of «One belt one road», already measured in the thousands, due to the fact that China just announces long-existing projects part of the Economic belt of the silk road. Thus, the project of Padma bridge in Pakistan was announced in 2010, and the development of the corridor the China — Pakistan that connects Kashgar with the Pakistani port of Gwadar, which began already in 2002.

The West is perplexed: why these leisurely numerous discussions, lots of empty declarations, hundreds of conferences every year?

But it is in Chinese: see how the world reacts to the idea of uniting around China with his desire to make the world a more open and accessible not only to those of Western countries, which created the modern rules of the game.

In this regard, the Beijing forum on «One belt and one road» may 14-15 2017 was the first show of strength: China has collected round itself the allies of this idea, many of which are also big and «grantees» from China.

It is not so simple

Trying to bring China to the potential participants in the superproject? First of all, to explain that he is friendly to the whole world that he gives a new impetus to the development and, most importantly, he is not only not contrary to the interests of the participating countries, on the contrary, it promotes collaborative development.

In addition, the project is open to everyone — any country can join the project by signing the relevant document, and such country today, according to the Chinese leadership, for over fifty (though the forum was attended by 28 heads of state).

And Yes, indeed, in terms of joining the project is quite democratic, and China is no disingenuous, linking the accession to this initiative with a potential investment.

Still, the project is in the very Asian cultural traditions. Join it and everyone can, recognizing China’s leadership in the idea of transformation of the world. But to participate in a joint format a project impossible. There is simply no such mechanism.

There is an obvious contradiction. On the one hand, the project appears as an international, geopolitical, widest in its representation. On the other hand, it is absolutely one-sided. China is not only its financial sponsor, but also sponsor ideas, development strategies and even the format of the discussion.

Is that bad? From the point of view of Western culture, of course. It is believed that we meet to discuss, to argue, to work out the best (or at least a consensus) solution. Even such conservative nature of the associations as SCO, APEC, BRICS, ASEAN, provide a very heated debate in attempts to satisfy the views of all participants.

On the other hand, if full democracy from the point of view of development of the project? It seems that there is: unity of command and gentle, but hard making unilateral decisions can significantly accelerate progress. However, the possibility of error, and the probability that it will be a movement forward, «sideways», is markedly increased. China, drawing on the tradition of the political culture, largely simply reproduces the standard model of interaction with neighboring kingdoms: he is willing very much to offer — from Finance to project management (in the era of the Han almost half of all Finance of China went on to support such «friendly» territory), but instead requires recognition of their leadership.

Russian alternative

For countries, the situation would seem very «black and white»: either simply to reject the project (as do the US, some European countries and India), or to accept, by agreeing with the Chinese rules of the game and in return received not only investments, but also the involvement, if not on the first roles, in the largest project of XXI century (is willing to go the Central Asian leaders).

But there is a third way — the idea of complementary projects.

This is something that was proposed by Russia, and for the first time in 2015. Later, she repeatedly said this sentence. Last time did Vladimir Putin at a forum in Beijing. The essence of the option — to cooperate with existing associations — EAEC, SCO, ASEAN and within the framework of the project «One belt and one road».

In this case, the numerous regional projects will acquire its meaning and dozens of countries will feel safer than it is today.

It seemed like a great idea, which could give all countries, but it seems to be absolutely not fit in with Beijing’s plans. If China aspired to equal economic cooperation between the blocks of countries, we would hang nearly 40 transportation projects that was proposed by Russia and the Eurasian economic Commission. But China is trying to invest only in something that is completely in control.

Therefore, the Russian initiative has not yet heard.

Moreover, Chinese media have already concluded that the forum Putin supported the project «One belt and one road». And on the Chinese maps Russia is now depicted as a part of the «economies of one belt».

But this is understandable: no we do not look so solid.


…To the project «New silk road» cannot be addressed with the criteria the business project: for Beijing, it is a broad geopolitical offensive to all areas at once.

Although Chinese investment in Russia in the framework of this project is that thready, it is believed that without Russia, China will not do. Usually give a simple argument: through Russia to transport goods closer and cheaper.

But China is ready no obvious economic returns to throw abroad tens of billions of dollars (and he regularly does). So, it still goes not only about tariffs and prices. Interaction between Russia and China is not calculated on the calculator.

The role of Russia in that it is the only real major partner who is willing to take risks to build new global reality, not to be an extra in a Chinese project.

RIA Novosti

When the world will be non-Western: Russia’s place on the Silk road 20.05.2017

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