Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The G.C.C. and China’s One Belt, One Road: Risk or Opportunity?

By Jeffrey S. Payne | Research Fellow/Academic Affairs Manager - National Defense University's Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies

MEI | Aug 11, 2016

China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative is both a reflection of China’s growing need for deeper engagement with the regions to its west and a grander vision for Chinese foreign policy. OBOR is an ambitious plan for integrating the provinces of China, especially underdeveloped ones in the west and south of the country, with Eurasia through intensified trade, telecommunication, and infrastructure. The plan faces immense challenges. Parts of Eurasia remain unstable, the region attracts major powers whose interests regularly diverge, and political challenges are rampant. Yet, the potential payoffs for both China and Eurasia if OBOR succeeds are substantial. In the Gulf region, OBOR’s impact is intended to maximize commerce among all actors, but its impact is likely to extend beyond economics.[1] OBOR does not provide an equal opportunity for all states, and, in the case of the Gulf, it is Iran that will likely benefit over all others. The states of the G.C.C. also factor in to Beijing’s plan, just not to the same degree―and that is the problem. This imbalance will have political ramifications for the Gulf, and as OBOR progresses, the G.C.C. will need to measure its potential economic gains against the political risks associated with China’s efforts. There is a way for the states of the G.C.C. to effectively address this developing regional environment, and that is to mirror China by engaging eastward. Using OBOR and existing comparative advantages will allow the states of the G.C.C. to balance Iran’s potential windfall.