The Abacus

What's in a name? China plays down OBOR's strategic drivers

By: AFR
17-05-2017

China's ambitious foreign policy plan to overhaul global trade routes by spending billions of dollars on new infrastructure is an interesting case study in brand management.

After Xi Jinping, at the start of his presidency in 2013, outlined his plan for a new "Silk Road Economic Belt" and a "Maritime Silk Road" to improve China's links with Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East, it became known as "Yi Dai Yi Lu."

This directly translates as "One Belt, One Road" (OBOR). However, two years on from the plan's unveiling, China's top decision-makers announced a name change. While the Mandarin version stayed the same, its official English translation was tweaked to the "Belt and Road Initiative".

 

"China wants to promote, encourage, support and part-finance infrastructure projects throughout the region to accelerate economic growth and open up trading opportunities," said Former Victorian Premier John Brumby, who is a director of Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei in Australia and the president of the Australia China Business Council.

"I don't think it's any more complex than that."

Mr Brumby said there were opportunities for local companies in management, engineering or architecture across OBOR projects and "the language in Australia needs to be more supportive."

"There's still a good prospect for Australia to be a site for at least one if not two significant OBOR projects," he said. "If I was a betting person I would say that would be a hard infrastructure project in Northern Australia like a rail line but I wouldn't rule out a soft infrastructure project in education, training and R&D."

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