China Desk Newsletter - “一带一路”的倡议 - The Belt and Road Initiative
丝绸之路经济带和 21 世纪海上丝绸之路 （也称为“一带一路”倡议） 是中国沿着古老的丝绸之路对沿线国家进行亿万美元的基础设施投资的发展战略 The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st century Maritime Silk Road (also known as the Belt and Road Initiative) is a development strategy that involves China making billions of dollars of infrastructure investments in countries along the old Silk Road.
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What is the Belt and Road Initiative?
The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st century Maritime Silk Road (also known as the Belt and Road Initiative) is a development strategy that involves China making billions of dollars of infrastructure investments in countries along the old Silk Road.
The investments are expected to bridge the “infrastructure gap” in order to accelerate economic growth across the Asia Pacific area and Europe. The strategy is set to reinvigorate the flow of capital, foods and services between Asia and the rest of the world, by promoting further market integration and forging new ties among communities. The Belt and Road Initiative underlines China’s push to take a larger role in global affairs.
An enormous financing commitment and platform is supporting the Belt and Road Initiative and specific vehicles have been created to help allocate funds to appropriate projects and initiatives. These include, amongst others, the establishment of a New Silk Road Fund (NSRF) and the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
The coverage area of the initiative is primarily Asia and Europe, encompassing around 60 countries. The Belt and Road Initiative is geographically structured along six “corridors” and the Maritime Silk Road:
- New Eurasian Land Bridge, running from Western China to Western Russia
- China–Mongolia–Russia Corridor, running from Northern China to Eastern Russia
- China–Central Asia–West Asia Corridor, running from Western China to Turkey
- China–Indochina Peninsula Corridor, running from Southern China to Singapore
- Bangladesh-China-Myanmar Corridor, running from Southern China to Myanmar
- China–Pakistan Corridor, running from South-Western China to Pakistan
- Maritime Silk Road, running from the Chinese Coast through Singapore to the Mediterranean
Impact of the Belt and Road Initiative in Norway
Arctic route – "blue economic passage"
The initial structure of the Belt and Road Initiative did not involve creating sea corridors through the Arctic. A trade route through the Arctic Ocean was later included in the plans as one of three “blue economic passages” that would be developed through partnerships with local governments and economies. With no direct connection to the Arctic, China is relying on its allies to make beneficial investments and China has expressed interest in joint economic development in the Arctic region.
China is increasing its investments in port projects around the world and might be planning to open new shipping routes through the Arctic Circle, with potential port investments in Norway on the Barents Sea. A Northern route will lessen the dependence on existing routes and will reduce shipping costs and travelling time, as it is much shorter than passing through the traditional route using the Strait of Malacca and the Suez Canal.
An example of China’s entry to the business of building infrastructure business in the Barents region is the ongoing construction of the Hålogaland bridge in Narvik, Norway, by Sichuan Road and Bridge Group, one of the largest Chinese companies taking infrastructure contracts abroad.
China also has interest in the Arctic’s natural resources such as oil, natural gas and fishing, and has e.g. engaged in joint oil and gas exploration projects in the North Atlantic together with corporations from Norway and Iceland.
Normalized relations and resumed free trade negotiations
It was essential for China to normalize relations with Norway, which is a major player in the Arctic region. Norway is one of eight members of the Arctic Council and has sovereignty over lands within the Arctic Circle. China became a formal observer on the Arctic Council in 2013. Norway was part of the establishment of AIIB in 2015.
China resumed diplomatic relations with Norway in December after a six-year hiatus. On 10 April 2017, President Xi welcomed Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.
“I appreciate Mrs. Prime Minister and the Norwegian government’s active efforts in achieving the normalization of bilateral relations,” Xi said, expressing Beijing’s hope that “Norway could play a more active role in pushing forward China-Northern Europe cooperation.”
In Beijing on 21 August 2017, China and Norway also resumed negotiations for a free trade agreement between the two nations.
Opportunities for cooperation
The Belt and Road Initiative provides new opportunities for cooperation between China and Norway. Geographically, Norway is a natural partner for China when Europe and Asia are cooperating more closely and the two countries’ economies complement each other to a great extent.
The ongoing negotiations for a free-trade agreement will boost the countries’ bilateral cooperation. Norwegian companies, local and regional authorities could seize this opportunity and actively participate as partners for the Belt and Road Initiative. Schjødt is already seeing effects of the Belt and Road Initiative.
Our China Desk, established in 2011, is receiving a steadily increasing number of requests from Chinese investors wishing to enter the Norwegian market, whether through acquisitions, greenfield establishments, PPP construction contracts, etc. We welcome the Belt and Road Initiative and look forward to further supporting both existing and new Chinese clients in their Norwegian ventures going forward.
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Andreas F. Busch
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