One belt one road is a road and railway network that would connect Asia from the South all the way to Europe. The concept is inspiring, going through potentially 65 countries, which accounts for around one-third of the world economy.
This connection between countries aims to promote free trade agreement, improving trade relations. Currently, 12 countries have signed free trade agreements including: Singapore, Pakistan, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The one belt one road policy does not bring benefit to Myanmar only but to Asia and Europe as a whole.
Firstly, the road involves improving the infrastructure of participating countries through Asian Infra Investment Bank (AIIB), Silk Road Infrastructure Fund and the New Development Bank. This infrastructure development plan involves railway connection from China to Myanmar, which will connect Kumming and Kyaukphyu. Through this, Myanmar can act as a main connector bringing China closer to mass markets of India and Bangladesh. Similarly, Myanmar, acting as a medium could potentially benefit from being a huge trading hub/ connector, boosting infrastructure development to the next level.
In addition, the East-West transport corridor, which connects Myanmar with Countries like Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, would further bring light to Myanmar’s economy as well as China’s Indo-China connectivity.
But, it is important to understand that, the OBOR is more than just an infrastructure development project. In fact, it is a way of boosting trade and increasing productivity between nations, as nations could later specialize in production of certain goods they have comparative advantage in and promote interdependence between nations. This will further lead to cultural exchanges, academic exchanges, media cooperation, which can reduce any tension that countries are facing today.
Removal of Investment Barriers: One belt one road will also widen investment opportunities for local and foreign business alike, potentially solving issues relating to unemployment and leading to economic growth.
However, one potential problem is that, Myanmar can get a bad deal. When increasing investment and infrastructure development, it is important for the government to closely monitor the projects being invested in Myanmar and set laws that would impose strict rules on investors to protect the countries’ natural resources and its habitants.
Secondly, Myanmar industries have suffered from lack of competition, affecting their productivity and efficiency due to decades of isolation. One belt, one road policy, which can potentially increase investment in the manufacturing sector due to abundant unskilled labor, can potentially affect local business and, start-ups can struggle. Therefore, a support by the government to improve its industries would be essential to capture potential benefits gained through this road. Otherwise, the road may work more in favor of China than in favor of Myanmar.
Finally, although the road may bring plenty of potential benefits for Myanmar and Asia as a whole, critics still argue that it is a way of increasing Chinese dominance and Chinese businesses in the region. Is this the Chinese way to show leadership and it’s position in Asia and Europe? No one knows.
Cheung and Lee, A Brilliant Roda Plan – One Belt, One Road, Web. Accessed on: 20th February.
Hofman Bert, China’s One Belt One Road Initiative: What we know thus far, 2015. Web. Assessed on: 21st February.
Wikipedia, One Belt, One Road. Web. Accessed on: 21st February.