China’s Silk Road Project is the biggest infra-structure project of the 21 century. It has the potential to create opportunities not only for the countries along its stretch but also for Europe. But beyond the promise of greater connectivity and investment opportunities, the opportunity costs are high.
The investment volume of China’s state backed companies and in infra-structure projects can hardly be matched by European counterparts. Therefore, European businesses and politics need to become creative in developing alternative forms of contributing and cooperation.
The specific implications of the Belt component for cooperation and security were centre stage during the “Rethinking Asia” forum, which was held in Tutzing Germany on 13 and 14 February. Attendees included representatives from the European External Action Service, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, and the EU’s Special Representative to Central Asia, as well as senior officials, scholars, experts and civil society organizations from China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.
Does China’s Belt initiative advance or hamper inter-state dialogue and cooperation? And what are the governance implications for the participating states? These were two of the questions that directed discussions over the two conference days, and charted next steps.
Knut Dethlefsen and Lora Saalman suggest that a bottom-up practitioners approach provides the opportunity to play out a European skill-set and open additional cooperation avenues. Converging interests between China and the EU exist in achieving development goals and minimize security risks along the Silk Road. The EU can contribute on a whole range of tools in standardizations, capacity building and best practice.
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