SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

Li Yanming “One Belt One Road” – Search for Chinese Strategies and Implication

We had the 58th SGRA Forum at the Tokyo International Forum, Glass Tower, in the afternoon, on November 18 (Sat.) 2017, under the title “Geopolitics of ’One Belt, One Road’, Does it tie together Asia ?”

Participants in the Forum were well-balanced. Two members each were from Japan, China and Korea. The key-note speaker was Prof. Jianrong ZHU/Toyo Gakuen University. Reporters were Dr. Yanming LI/The University of Tokyo; Prof. Young June PARK/ Korean National Defense University; Dr. June PARK/Seoul University, Asian Research Center; and Prof. Kei KOGA/Singapore Nanyang Technological University.  The panelist/debater was Gouta NISHIMURA/The Chief Editor of “Toyo Keizai” (weekly magazine).  The panelists were mainly researchers in international politics or international politics/economy. We can say that the viewpoints of economics and journalists/practitioners were well-integrated with the involvement of Chairman or moderator Prof. Hitoshi Hirakawa (Kokushikan University) and panelists.


At the 19th Chinese Communist Party Convention (October 18 – 24) which was held just before the Forum, “One Belt One Road” became the key-words that China’s General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized repeatedly.  Moreover, these words were written in the Agreement of the Communist party as an explanation of their foreign policy. Accordingly, the forum became very timely and got the interest of a lot of people.

At the end of the year 2017, Japan’s Prime Minister Abe also expressed his intention that Japan’s foreign policy would have a close connection with the “One Belt One Road” policy and it is said that political relations between Japan and China would be improved in 2018.  Economic cooperation between Japan and China based on “One Belt One Road” idea would attract people’s attention hereafter.


In the key-note address of Prof. ZHU, he analyzed the “One Belt One Road” policy in terms of its concrete idea, background, process, main means, and strategic purpose. At the latter part of the reports, the reaction or response of each country participant were introduced. I think it would be supported by developing countries in Central Asia by reason that “One Belt One Road” would meet with their demand for improving their infrastructure. On the other hand, however, the United States, European countries, Japan. Russia and India may have an anxiety or caution based on geopolitical concerns.  Against such anxiety, the Chinese Government shows their counter measures. They are emphasizing their connections with developing strategies or ideas of developing countries. They put their priority on “land” instead of “sea” in promoting the economies of developing countries. On this point, we discussed that there would be plenty of room for cooperation between Japan and China.


At an individual session, a plant (including infrastructure) export strategy, which Japan once promoted in the 1970s, was introduced. Then, the “New Aid Plan” was introduced. It has been promoted by Japan at the latter part of 1980s. It was called “Trinity”, which included direct investment toward Asia from Japan, transferring of technologies and enlargement of trade toward Japan.  Dr. Li (myself) proposed that this plan has a similarity with “One Belt One Road” in the sense that, as an external economic policy, both aim for economic development.


Prof. PARK (Young June) reported, from the standpoint of foreign strategies and naval power of China. “One Belt One Road” is one of the strategies on land (not sea) by China to avoid direct confrontation with the United States of America (America) on the sea.


Dr. PARK (June) reported about the Middle East, referring to the policy, aid and construction of harbors by China in this area. In this area, however, very complicated relations (domestic or international – especially between America and Russia) are developing. So, China has to increase their political and military presence in the area in order to keep their economic position in the power vacuum.


The last reporter, Prof. KOGA discussed about attitude, standpoint and role of Asian countries which are not big countries or we can say “outer” countries. Even in small countries, they have to balance themselves between big powers like America and China in order to keep their interests. On this point, Prof. PARK (Korea) explained that Korea also takes a similar strategy.


At the open forum, there were various questions from the floor. However, we can say, as a whole, precaution or fear of “One Belt One Road” is still strong.  It will be almost the same with Japanese society where people have been considering “One Belt One Road” with precaution or fear.

In the panel, some people pointed out that “One Belt One Road” is just one of the results or an extension of the Chinese “Go Global” strategy which has already started at the latter part of 1990s. Some people said that “One Belt One Road” is just bundling of strategies which China has encouraged individually between two countries. However, once “One Belt One Road” is shown on a world map, it will be quite natural that geopolitical anxiety would increase.


On the other hand, since China declared “One Belt One Road” officially in 2013, China did not fully explain to the world its contents, and we can say that the process of forming this policy is still opaque. But Mr. Nishimura pointed out, in such an opaque situation, we can say that China has been keeping their open attitude, judging from the operation circumstances of AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) which has been supporting “One Belt One Road”. He said also that if Japan fears that China would lead in the establishment of global standard by themselves, Japan should join positively and take initiative, neither taking a wait-and-see attitude nor keeping at a distance. Many panelists agreed with him. When we look this issue from a long viewpoint like global history of economy or anthropology, various points in dispute like a shift of the center of the world would be brought up. It will be necessary to realize another big meaning of “One Belt One Road”, not only power balance of geopolitics.


Due to the limited space of this paper, I cannot fully write about individual points in dispute. But, I believe that that the main purpose of this forum has been achieved. We could give a place where we learn and think of “One Belt One Road” from various train of thought.

All the report about the forum will be issued as the SGRA Report by autumn, 2018.

So, I appreciate you would read it then.


When we planned this forum, “One Belt One Road” was not yet talked about in Japan.

Of course, there have been study or lecture meeting for limited audiences like specialists or in economic fields. But, I think there have been few occasions for ordinary people or scholars who keep their distance from the government authorities. .   


I, as a planner of this forum, have an impression that we are given another research assignment. We have to find out a process of forming “One Belt One Road”.  Namely, who did work out an idea and how?  How did he get to such results through power relationship of each of the actors?


Lastly, I like to express my thanks to all the SGRA staff members who supported us in every detail approving our program and all panelists who agreed to present and discuss their reports. I thank all audiences also who kindly came and participated in the forum and gave us many questions and the people who showed their interests individually in subject of the forum.




SGRA NEWS ( Report of  the 58th SGRA Forum) in Japanese (original)



(Special Lecturer, The University of Tokyo, College of Arts and Sciences)



Translated by Kazuo Kawamura

English checked by Max Maquito