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China's One Belt One Road: Has The European Union Missed The Train?

By S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University

This Policy Report focuses on the overland routes that connect China to Europe via Central Asia and it aims to answer the question whether the European Union (EU) should engage China in the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. The expansion of the OBOR initiative is forcing China’s economic diplomacy to embrace a broader political and security engagement. While Russia and the United States are revising their roles in South and Central Asia, the EU has lost momentum.

This Policy Report addresses the need for the EU to:

  • adopt a common voice to engage China’s OBOR initiative;
  • promote stakeholder participation;
  • coordinate crisis prevention; and
  • avoid focusing only on short-term economic gains to attract China’s outbound direct investments.

The EU involvement with the OBOR initiative is adefining moment for Sino-European relations. In this respect, China has to:

  • communicate a detailed road map on the OBOR initiative;
  • allow local economic actors to access the bids for infrastructural projects;
  • increase the role of private Chinese SMEs; and
  • avoid relying on the OBOR initiative to export industrial overcapacity.

In this regard, the utilisation of the EU social and environmental best practices by Beijing and a renewed EU stance towards a “flexible engagement” with China could be mutually beneficial for fostering regional stabilisation and structural reforms in South and Central Asia.

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