The roundtable “New Models of International Cooperation: Multiple Perspectives on the Belt and Road Initiative (OBOR)” was held at the DOC Research Institute’s HQ in Berlin on 31 May 2017.
The programme consisted of two sessions. The first session mainly concentrated on China’s perspective in proposing the “One Belt One Road Initiative” (hereafter OBOR) and keynote speakers included Prof. Yuyan Zhang, who is the Senior Fellow and Director General of the Institute of World Economics and Politics in China. The second session mainly demonstrated the understanding of this initiative from external angles, and speakers from Russia, Iran, Germany, and the European Parliament shared their thoughts. The DOC’s Supervisory Board Chairman Vladimir Yakunin moderated the event.
Experts from China interpreted OBOR through four dimensions, including physical connectivity, the role of finance in the initiative, institutional framework building, and cultural exchange. As a long-term plan, OBOR is targeted at addressing infrastructural shortages in developing countries, and consequently contributes to the growth of the global economy that is urgently demanded. Speakers emphasised that China’s aim is not to gain hegemony through OBOR, but to cooperate with any countries who will join the initiative. Furthermore, concerns such as the idea that China’s resource-seeking intentions are underlying the initiative were highlighted through the presentation of statistics showing its decreasing strategic mineral imports between 2011 to 2016 from countries and regions incorporated within OBOR.
Speakers in the second session complemented the study of OBOR outside of China from their respectively distinct angles. While recognising the substantial potential changes brought by this grand project, the challenges to OBOR in Central Asia and the Caucasus regions due to its complex geopolitical features, diverse culture and heritage, etc., were pointed out. Because of its geopolitical gravity, its role as a regional security provider, and its economic status at present, Iran’s importance in OBOR was outlined. Voices from the European Union were also heard at the end of this session – the EU welcomes this initiative and hopes OBOR leads to a Eurasian regime with solid principles, including transparency, institutional certainty, environmental responsibility, and social responsibility, and thus to a new model of international cooperation.
After interactions between speakers and participants discussing challenging questions such as the possible cultural consequences of OBOR for the presently western-dominated world, Dr. Yakunin concluded that while political leaders talk about political collaboration, the responsibility of researchers is to dig into the substance of how this initiative should be successfully implemented. He proposed that joint research on this topic should be established in the future. As a response to the proposal, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Institute of World Economics and Politics and the DOC Research Institute was signed by Prof Yuyan Zhang and Dr Yakunin, to facilitate collaboration between the two institutions.