IT’S appropriate that at the outset of an ambitious and well-intentioned global initiative, we in the Times should join in welcoming and commending the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative of China, which was launched yesterday in Beijing.
For sheer grandeur and size, the only thing comparable to China’s trade initiative, which takes its inspiration from the ancient Silk Road trading route, is probably the quadrennial Olympics, and the also quadrennial World Cup.
Nobody, it should be conceded, does it bigger or more spectacularly than China. And nobody also dreams or aims higher.
When the Belt and Road Forum opened yesterday, what took the breath away was not the pomp and circumstance of the opening ceremony, but the ambitious and strategic vision laid out by its Chinese proponents and managers.
Consider some of its salient features:
1. Over 60 countries, half the world’s population, around 40 percent of global GDP and as much as 80 percent of global growth potential, will be threaded together into an economic whole by the grand economic and infrastructure development plan.
2. Since the trade initiative was announced in 2013, it has been taken seriously as a strategic vision, and as an outlet for Chinese investment.
3. Since the announcement also, the project has met with considerable skepticism about its success, as well as strategic opposition by rival global players. And there were strong doubts about China being good in this kind of overseas investment.
4. At Sunday’s opening, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $124 billion for the One Belt, One Road plan, so that it can forge a path of peace, inclusiveness and free trade. He called for the abandonment of old models based on rivalry and diplomatic power games.
In China’s view, the road initiative will boost global development by expanding links between Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond. The key to making the link is billions of dollars in infrastructure investment by China.
The two-day summit is China’s most important diplomatic event of the year. It gives President Xi a chance to bolster China’s global leadership at the same time that America under Donald Trump is promoting “America First” and questioning existing global free trade initiatives like NAFTA.
Xi’s contrasting and appealing line is: “We should build an open platform of cooperation and uphold and grow an open world economy.”
He said the world must create conditions that promote open development and encourage the building of systems of “fair, reasonable and transparent global trade and investment rules. Trade is the important engine of economic development,” Xi said.
This is, we agree, a noble vision that deserves global support. Participating countries, including the Philippines, should assist in making the vision come alive. Each and all should help promote the multilateral trade system, the establishment of free trade regions, and the facilitation of free trade.
If participation will make it easier for the Philippines to achieve its ambitious infrastructure development program, so much the better. Let‘s join this road to the future. Let’s just make sure the outcome is truly national modernization, and that the present government will not put our country and our people in hock to another country for several generations.