Wang Yiwei: The Belt and Road Initiative – book summary

Wang Yiwei is a professor with the School of International Studies, director of the Institute of International Affairs and Director of the Center for European Studies at Renmin University of Beijing, and one of the most important experts of international affairs and European-Chinese relations in China. What makes Wang Yiwei’s book particularly interesting is, first and foremost, that his information and advice reach the highest circles of politics, therefore the book, in fact, reflects the opinions and ideas of China’s leadership.

The close relationship between the book and the position of the Chinese government is demonstrated by the fact that the Appendix to the book includes the official document entitled Vision and Proposed Actions Outlined on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, issued jointly by the Chinese National development and Reform Committee, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce.

The greatest virtue of the book is that it provides an extensive and comprehensive overview of the One Belt, One Road initiative. Accordingly, in the introduction the author asks such questions frequently phrased by the public such as: why was it given this name? What is the similarity between the new and the old Silk Road? What objectives does the Chinese government have in view? When will China finish the initiative?

The book can be divided into four large conceptual units. First, it introduces the One Belt, One Road initiative, and the underlying economic and political drives. It highlights the five types of relationships of the new Eurasian unity: new infrastructure; commerce and investments; standardized monetary system; common consciousness of political unity and increasing intensity of relationships between citizens (business, exchange programmes, tourism). The author puts the initiative into an interesting historical perspective, not only describing the significance of the old Silk Road, but also detailing its relationship with the development phases of Chinese economy (reform and opening, going global). He highlights the historical-geopolitical significance of One Belt One Road (problem of maritime vs. continental power), drawing a parallel between One Belt, One Road and the Marshall Plan as well as the other countries’ ideas about the development of the Silk Road.

In Part Two, the book presents the opportunities for China, the Asian region, Europe and the world offered by the implementation of One Belt, One Road. Wang Yiwei calls the reader’s attention to the fact that united with China, Europe could regain its global role lost after World War II.

In the third conceptual unit, the author examines the dangers facing the implementation of One Belt, One Road.  Although he describes countless security (terrorism, natural disasters, etc.), economic (e.g. financial risks), legal and moral risks, the author considers the geopolitical challenges presented by the United States to be the biggest.  However, Wang Yiwei is optimistic: he thinks the problems can be coped with by the collaboration of countries.

Finally, in the last part, Wang examines the theoretical (e.g. the theory of global integration) and practical ways of cooperation being the basis of One Belt, One Road. In the context of a pragmatic approach, he makes a suggestion how the implementation of One Belt, One Road can be measured (e.g. implementation of infrastructure, reduction of customs duties, increasing aid and investments, scientific cooperation, etc.)

As a summary, the author concludes One Belt, One Road is such public good which is beneficial for all the countries and citizens of the world. Furthermore, the initiative is a good basis for the rise of Eurasia, which, the author thinks, is in the interest of China as well as Europe.

Reference: Wang Yiwei: The Belt and Road: What Will China Offer the World in Its Rise, New World Press, Beijing, 2016.

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