China used its hosting of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou earlier this month as a kind of
coming out party. It was the Middle Kingdom’s way of signaling its intentions to move beyond just being an economic powerhouse.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is keen to accelerate his “One Belt, One Road (OBOR)” strategy which represents part of the “Chinese Dream,” its genesis came in late 2012 following Xi’s rise to the presidency.
At its simplest, it’s just a reimagining of China’s centuries-old onshore routes covering Asia, Russia and Europe. Where it goes further is its extension to the maritime routes from China’s east coast to Europe through Asia and around the African continent.
His plans are ambitious as the strategy relies on balancing several international agreements between Beijing and key players from Africa, Europe and its Asian neighbours. This includes 90 deals with 65 countries, amounting to a whopping $4 trillion in potential investment.
Its planned chief economic benefit will be to boost China’s slowing domestic growth by reducing the economy’s dependence on infrastructure investment at home, as well as injecting further revenue into China’s export industry.
So what impact will it have on Australia? Our real problem is how OBOR plays with our closest ally. It is a point of conflict for Beijing and Washington who are already at loggerheads over China’s aggressive maritime conduct in the South China Sea.
Economically, China is our largest trading partner yet Australia cannot afford to sever its political and security ties with Washington. While OBOR’s success is uncertain, Australia may have to make some tough decisions in the next few years especially as the Chinese government continues to make a number of key decisions on its future.