Jikkie Verlare and Frans Paul van der Putten (Netherlands Institute of International Relations – Clingendael)
The Chinese strategy to build a modern silk route known as “One Belt, One Road” (abbreviated as the OBOR), aiming to improve ties with Asia, Africa and Europe, is one of the most significant infrastructure projects in history. It should provide security, a better coordination of policies and financial integration, and thus create environment for a more dynamic development of economic relations.
For the EU, this plan is crucial not only because the OBOR runs through the territory, which is traditionally considered a sphere of Russian influence, but also because the Union could substantially increase the volume of Chinese direct investment, which is generally welcome on the ‘Old Continent’. Chinese companies, however, do not pursue only economic goals, but also a political task. China’s influence on the functioning of the EU could therefore significantly increase. This might at the same time trigger cleavage within the Union, as the developed Western countries would likely fight against Chinese investments in an effort to maintain the EU’s independence while less developed European countries would favor a more lenient and flexible attitude.
One of the opportunities that the OBOR offers is closer security cooperation between the EU and China. After the introduction of Juncker’s plan focused on a comprehensive strategy for boosting economic growth, reducing unemployment and increasing investment, the Chinese side took steps to integrate it with the OBOR. EU countries are getting into an increasingly close contact with China precisely in the OBOR-related areas, whereby it would also be beneficial to build a unified approach that would enable the EU to take advantage of the OBOR’s security dimension based on the already established relations. Thereby, the EU would become an active player in the Eurasian security cooperation.
The EU’s foreign policy has recently been increasingly shifting its emphasis away from the original promotion of values ??to building stability and economic cooperation, which can greatly facilitate the deepening of relations with China. The EU should therefore welcome the possibilities that the OBOR brings and incorporate them in its own concept of foreign policy. This step would actually strengthen the EU’s role as a global security actor.
(The study can be downloaded here: http://www.clingendael.nl/sites/default/files/One_belt_one_road_vdPutten_Verlare_Clingendael_policy_brief_2015.pdf)