Aidar Amrebayev. National, Regional and Global Dimensions of Chinese Belt and Road Initiative


Candidate of Philosophy, Senior Researcher of the Institute for Philosophy, Political Science and Religion Studies

of the Ministry of Education and Science

of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Honorary Professor of the East China Normal University, Shanghai, China

National, Regional and Global Dimensions of Chinese Belt and Road Initiative

Five years have passed since the proclamation of the Belt and Road Initiative. The first anniversary of this Chinese foreign policy programme requires a particular mid-term audit, which will help us to understand why this initiative was launched, what specific goals are pursued, what was done during this period and how it changed the situation in China, the region and the world as a whole. We in Kazakhstan are naturally interested in knowing the role of our country in the implementation of this initiative and promoting our national interests in the context of our engagement in the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.

The continental programme of the Silk Road Economic Belt was proclaimed in the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana, in September 2013 for a reason. Indeed, our country was a key element of the Belt and Road Initiative. China's path “to the West" crossed and crosses mainly Kazakhstan. At the same time, Kazakhstan actively interacts with China in the process of unlocking the potential of regional development and promotes a better understanding and opening by the Celestial Empire of its current growth opportunities.

This article reviews the national, regional and global implications of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, as well as Kazakhstan's positioning in these different dimensions.

Features of Modern Foreign Policy Philosophy of China

It should be said at once that the new initiative is associated with China's entry into the world arena as a global player, which openly declared its ambitions and goals despite the established precept of Deng Xiaoping recorded in his famous 24-character strategy, which has long defined China's foreign policy: “Observe calmly; cope with affairs calmly; secure our position; hide our capacities and never claim leadership." /1/

In this regard, a modern expert interpretation of Chinese foreign policy expressed symbolically in the Belt and Wall strategies is of particular interest.

The first strategy with an outward orientation sets the geostrategic task of seeking new opportunities for China's development, new markets, trade prospects for the export of Chinese goods and the promotion of civilisational values cultivated in the Celestial Empire, the soft power of which is itself a symbol of harmony, order and prosperity. It may be regarded as the extroverted foreign policy strategy, which is characteristic of the doctrine of the incumbent President Xi Jinping. It cultivates the positive image of China: the image of a reliable and predictable partner, an ancient civilisation whose key to success is not an aggressive foreign policy, but the pursuit of internal and external stability and the creative spirit of the people of the Celestial Empire.

The second strategy may be described as an introvert, inward orientation focusing on building up internal geopolitical power within the wall, a clear designation and protection of China's “strategic frontiers of vital space," a deliberate policy of preserving the unity of state and civilisational frontiers. In this regard, Beijing follows the instructions of the great reformer Deng Xiaoping: “Hide your strength, bide your time."

In fact, the expert and analytical community of China did not arrive at a consensus about which of the strategies is more preferable in modern conditions. Many believe that the concept of the “wall" is no longer relevant; China is gaining strength and power every day, which must be used by the Celestial Empire to ensure its rightful place in the world ranking.

China can influence the shaping of the global perspective of humankind. Strictly speaking, it is the adherents of this strategy that represent the core of the People's Republic of China (PRC) President's associates. In turn, Xi Jinping, having announced the ambitious Belt and Road programme, helped China to come out of the shadows, highlighting its global ambitions to take a rightful place in world politics.

According to the Chinese traditional worldview, China occupies a mid-position and, as per its political philosophy, is the Celestial Empire fulfilling a unique destiny of the interpretation of the Will of Heaven, the mission of bringing harmony to the world. Although this view is archetypal and can be traced back thousands of years, it is still relevant in modern political discourse.

Global Dimension of the Belt and Road

Today, no one doubts China's increased potential accompanied by its growing ambitions and opportunities in modern international politics, especially amidst the chaos and turbulence of the world order, which, as the Chinese believe, needs adjustment and harmonisation. The existing negative trends in world politics, including high regional conflictogenity, weak negotiability of countries, unfair distribution of social wealth in the world and inadequate representation in international organisations of the greater part of the world community, require “restoration of order and harmony" and “creation of the community of common destiny for mankind" in international relations. Promoting harmony, peace and prosperity and demonstrating an effective and fair social model is China's lofty mission. And in this regard, one may consider the Belt and Road Initiative as a Chinese globalisation model.

Thus, in a loose global political sense, the Belt and Road Initiative is not a separate geopolitical interest or a transport and logistics project, but a unique political philosophy of interaction, a strategy for building the modern world as a path of cooperation and common prosperity towards progress. This is the official message of the Chinese side to the world delivered through the reinterpretation of an ancient symbol, the Great Silk Road representing the magnificence, power and spiritual mission of China.

Kazakhstan shares the political philosophy of cooperation of countries for the sake of joint prosperity. Our country also assesses the main risks of modern international relations, which are of concern to the Chinese leadership. That is why the sides share views with respect to almost all the global issues of our time; they do not accept the use of force in international relations, ignoring the rules of international law, standing for the inviolability of sovereignty and territorial integrity, condemning interference in the internal affairs of states and imposing on them an ideology and a development model.

Belt and Road as a Topical Regional Development Project

The international turbulence and the slowdown of economic development in the regions that have traditionally been the drivers of world economic growth make it relevant to unlock the potential of Central Asia as a region with a new momentum of development. As is known, so far our region has been perceived as a periphery of world development, a kind of a landlocked area far from world transport corridors and communications.

In this context, China's vigorous economic growth over two decades and the Chinese Belt and Road strategic initiative provided Central Asia with a good opportunity to become a new growth point in Eurasia. The synergy between the regional evolvement and economic performance of modernising China has become in demand.

Our countries consider China as a wealthy and fastest growing business partner interested in broad-scale cooperation and modernisation of transport corridors for conjunction with other prosperous markets. Central Asian states found themselves at the crossroads of reviving business ties between East and West, North and South, which actualised the creation of country and regional hubs in Central Asia.

Besides the objective of modernising the economy and ensuring strong domestic growth, China itself faced the challenge of providing a favourable international and regional environment through the implementation of a new open Chinese “outward" regionalism, whose paradigm involves creating a Chinese regional order, the so-called Pan-Sinica. The geopolitics of the new Chinese “outward" regionalism is being implemented through economic diplomacy and proactive measures.

One of the tools of the geopolitical strategy of China is open border or cross-border regionalism. Chinese cross-border regionalism involves evaluation of its own outlying territories as contact spaces to project their global strategies. They are implemented through the political mechanisms of expansion and diversification of cross-border cooperation in the framework of the policy of “reform and openness," “outward-looking" policy and programme on building “border zone of openness."

The “new regionalism" is not opposing the globalisation trend. Countries do not limit themselves to national development; they benefit from regional cooperation. Chinese cross-border regionalism is also being implemented through regional programmes for the development of the western, north-eastern and south-western regions of the country, the construction of cross-border trade-economic, transport, cultural corridors, etc.

The “soft power" policy of China is implemented through political support for developing countries on the principles of non-interference in internal affairs, respect for state sovereignty and investment in relevant regional infrastructure projects that improve the capabilities of business communications in Asia.

The new foreign policy initiated by President Xi highlights the importance of China's relations with neighbouring countries and the construction of the New Silk Road. In order to strengthen economic ties, deepen interaction and expand areas of cooperation of the countries of Eurasia, China successfully applies the new model of cooperation, jointly building economic corridors along the Great Silk Road, taking into account the interests of the participating countries. Beijing rightly believes that to achieve this goal and establish a relevant and effective regional cooperation structure, it is necessary, first, to strengthen political contacts, develop transportation infrastructure, ensure smooth flow of trade, strengthen the monetary circulation and contribute to the rapprochement of the peoples of the region.

The Chinese leadership believes that the regional integration of Asia is a necessary stage in the course of economic globalisation. Despite this, due to the large difference in the levels of development in the subregions of Asia and the weak ties between the countries, cooperation in the region is not yet well developed in comparison with Europe and North America. Therefore, the Belt and Road project is difficult to implement, financially costly and oriented for long-term strategic perspective of the integration of all sub-regions of South, Southeast, Central and West Asia. The Belt and Road project is designed to stimulate the exchange of benefits between regions, to promote and improve the Eurasian supply, production and pricing chain and, ultimately, to bring Asian-wide and Eurasian cooperation to a new level.

In this respect, Beijing is willing to patiently work in more flexible formats of international regional cooperation, considering it with the neighbouring countries as a high priority. It is interesting that today we see the diversity of approaches from China: traditional bilateral format of “strategic partnership" with the neighbouring countries; bridging national development programmes (for example, bridging the Nurly Zhol new economic programme of Kazakhstan and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative); connecting the existing integration formats of cooperation (for example, the famous connection of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB)) and multilateral coordination within the activities of international organisations, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). This flexibility of approaches allows China to achieve the goal, making the necessary maneuver in case of blocking or limitation of one format or another.

Belt and Road Initiative and National Development Strategies

Despite the fact that the Belt and Road Initiative is presented by China as international, its starting point is the motive of giving a new development impetus to the Chinese economy.

As noted in the report of President Xi at the 19th CPC (Communist Party of China) Congress: “The economy has maintained a medium-high growth rate, making [6.9 percent in 2017 – Ed.] China is a leader among the major economies. With the gross domestic product rising from 54 trillion yuan (US$7.9 trillion) to 80 trillion yuan (US$11.7 trillion), China has maintained its position as the world's second largest economy and contributed more than 30 percent of global economic growth. Supply-side structural reform has made further headway, bringing a steady improvement in the economic structure. Emerging industries like the digital economy are thriving; the construction of high-speed railways, highways, bridges, ports, airports and other types of infrastructure has picked up pace. Agricultural modernisation has steadily advanced, with annual grain production reaching 600 million metric tonnes. The level of urbanisation has risen by an annual average of 1.2 percentage points and more than 80 million people who have moved from rural to urban areas have gained permanent urban residency. Regional development has become more balanced; the Belt and Road Initiative, the coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and the development of the Yangtze Economic Belt have all made notable progress. Through devoting great energy to implementing the innovation-driven development strategy, we have seen much accomplished toward making China a country of innovators... The new institutions of the open economy have been steadily improved. China now leads the world in trade, outbound investment and foreign exchange reserves." /2/

Experts say that further strengthening of the positive trends of socio-economic and political development of China is associated with the following ideologies: 1) establishment by China of a moderately prosperous society – “Xiaokang;" 2) construction of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era and 3) implementation of the Chinese dream about the great revival of the Chinese nation.

For Kazakhstan, actively involved in the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and carefully looking at the Chinese experience of modernisation, the goals set by the Chinese leadership today and the methods of implementation, which helped the Great Eastern Neighbour to achieve enormous success, seem very remarkable.

Leader of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, setting the strategic goal of joining the club of the most developed countries of the world /3/, offers a number of specific development objectives close to the experience of the Chinese reforms. In particular, our strategic course of development is characterised by such key systemic concepts as creating a “society (state) of universal labor;" creating a sustainable economic basis of political reforms (“First Economy, Then Politics"); modernisation of public consciousness leading to understanding of Kazakhstan's own path and special role of the Leader of the Nation in the process of building a modern competitive state. These strategic objectives are achieved through the implementation of social modernisation with the aim of eliminating social disparities; establishing a professional state responsible to society; achieving high standards of living for most citizens and modernisation of public consciousness, suggesting the revival of the Kazakh nation in the new environment. These goals are largely consonant with the objectives sought by China today. In this context, similar strategies of internal development of the two countries applied through the establishment of strategic bilateral political relations, effective economic communications along the Silk Road and friendly people-to-people contacts establish the necessary synergy in the relations, even in the face of increasing challenges and problems in world politics. It is clear that since the declaration of the Belt and Road Initiative, the two countries have established a particularly trusting and successful communication in economic terms to solve the challenges and problems faced by the two states.

List of references:

1. Amrebayev A. M. “Silk Road Economic Belt: from Idea to Reality" // “Kazakhstan in Global Processes" No. 3, 2014, pp. 30-39

2. “Full text of report delivered by Xi Jinping at the 19th CPC Congress," 2017-11-03 //

3. Strategy “Kazakhstan-2050": new political course of the established state, December 14, 2012 //
Created at : 14.09.2018, 17:25, Updated at : 14.09.2018, 17:25