What should multinational companies expect from China’s Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road?
China’s “One Belt One Road” (OBOR) initiative is an ambitious platform for China to try to soak up its acute industrial overcapacity and support growth for distressed state industry. It is arguably China’s most audacious effort yet to try to engineer growth. It reaffirms the grip and control China’s government has over major assets in the economy, as well as the socioeconomic imperative to keep them producing. It also illustrates the leadership’s lack of progress, at least thus far, in migrating growth drivers away from state-financed investment toward household consumption. Finally, it represents an intervention and deployment of central government funds that flies in the face of the celebrated Third Plenum promise to let markets play a decisive role.
We believe that OBOR and its publicly proclaimed goals—that it is about driving new China-ASEAN-Central Asia trade connectivity, cooperation, integration, and growth—require deeper analysis to come to a reliable assessment of its prospects. Our examination focuses on what we can glean about the real drivers of the initiative and the likely receptivity to it by the counterparties who will have to engage to make the project’s prospective pieces successful.