OBOR troubles: How ‘One Belt One Road’ is triggering anti-China moves – from Australia to Europe

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New Delhi | Updated: February 19, 2018 6:52:50 PM

China's 'One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative has left many influential countries scrambling for ideas to counter Beijing's apparently colonialism-like ambitions.

xi jinping oborChinese President Xi Jinping, third from left, walks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, third from right, and other leaders as they arrive for a group photo during the Belt and Road Forum outside Beijing, China, Monday, May 15, 2017. AP File Photo

China’s ‘One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative has left many influential countries scrambling for ideas to counter Beijing’s apparent colonialism-like ambitions. This fear over OBOR is also triggering an anti-China consensus among several countries wary of Beijing’s designs. The Australian Financial Review (AFR)has reported that Australia is mulling to set up a “joint regional infrastructure scheme” to come up with an “alternative” to China’s OBOR initiative, which is set to further spread Beijing’s influence.

Australia’s plan involves India, US, and Japan. However, the plan is still “nascent” but being “seriously discussed”, AFR reported a senior US official as saying. The official said the plan was not to “rival” China’s OBOR but to come up with an “alternative”.

Not just, Australia, India, US and Japan, even the European Union nations are looking for ways to restrict China’s multi-million dollar One Belt, One Road initiative. Countries see OBOR as a Chinese attempt for a kind of takeover of the region.

Salman Rafi Sheikh, a Pakistan-based independent journalist and China Policy Institute analyst, says countries like Germany, France, and Italy are already preventing the “proverbial Chinese takeover” of Europe. Such a takeover, it is feared, could break-up the EU in near future.

Sheikh says OBOR has not succeeded in getting many takers in Europe. Major reasons for this are the ambiguity and secrecy surrounding the Chinese projects. Countries are also worried as several Chinese initiatives in Asia have failed in leading to a “win-win” situation for the recipient countries. Several countries have found themselves in deep debt to Chinese bankers.

“Eleven countries in the “16+1″ are EU members, and there is a concern that the attempt to bilateralise relations in this framework could affect the internal cohesion of the EU and risk divisions among members that compete for Chinese attention,” ANI quoted Sheikh as writing.

In fact, the analyst says, Germany is preparing a legislation to check the drain of technology, know-how and it being replaced by Chinese items. The proposed law is still in the draft stage. France has also said that OBOR can’t benefit China alone. If passed, the legislation will help EU members to stop China from the unbridled investment. This will also make it necessary for China to share investment-related information with each EU member countries and European Commission.

Some EU countries are also concerned about China’s focus on Eastern Europe.

“Chinese loans are, as can be expected of financial loans anywhere in the world, to serve as Chinese footsteps in Europe through which Beijing will seek to build its influence. This is worrying for countries like Germany because it would ultimately allow China to use its presence in Eastern Europe to reach Western Europe and the EU at large,” writes Sheikh.

Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s foreign minister, has rejected OBOR, warning the Chinese initiative is against democracy or freedom. Gabriel has also said that EU nations need to come up with an alternative to OBOR. He said the multi-trillion dollar initiative is promoting a new value system different from the West.

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