OBOR, explained

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Last week, President Xi Jinping of China showcased China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) initiative to world leaders, including Putin. But what exactly is it?

One Belt, One Road (abbreviated OBOR), also known as The Belt and Road (B&R) or The Belt and Road Initiative is a development strategy and framework, first proposed by Xi  2013.

Based on the ancient Silk Road – a vast network of trade routes linking China’s merchants with those of Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe, it focuses on renewing connectivity, cooperation, investment and trade between China and Eurasia.

It consists of two main components, the land-based “Silk Road Economic Belt” (SREB) and oceangoing “Maritime Silk Road” (MSR).

The SREB, composed of roads, railways and bridges, has hubs in Ürümqi, Dostyk, Astana, Gomel, Brest, and the Polish cities of Małaszewicze and Łódź, the latter two as logistics and transhipment hubs for trade with other European countries.

The MSR is a complementary initiative linking China with Southeast Asia, Oceania, and North Africa, through several contiguous bodies of water – the South China Sea, the South Pacific Ocean, and the wider Indian Ocean area.

On February 15, 2016, with a change in routing, the first train dispatched under the SREB scheme arrived from eastern Zhejiang Province to Tehran. Plans are underway to extend the route past Tehran, through Istanbul, into Europe.

Although OBOR has no official list of member countries, an estimated 60 countries have signed on. The strategy underlines China’s push to take a bigger role in global affairs, and its need to export China’s production capacity in areas of overproduction such as steel manufacturing.

It is expected to require funding levels of US$8 trillion through to 2020. If successful, experts say it could pave the way for China to eclipse the US as the world’s superpower.