Abstract: The Chinese geopolitical project of the One Belt has strategic implications for neighborhood regions. The Chinese Road Initiative and how it selectively draws certain European countries into alignment with China’s interests. The high attention should be on the Chinese investments in critical infrastructure in several NATO and EU countries. It demonstrates how China is focused on achieving its goals. It appears as exploiting the business / investment environment in the midst of US issues with Iran. China will play a card as the best alternative to secure lucrative energy contracts as well as close deals. For one side China is not democratic. But they have studied how to do business with democratic countries.
Keywords: China, NATO, One Belt One Road, Russia, USA
The Chinese geopolitical projects of the One Belt have strategic implications for neighborhood regions. It is argued that the implications need to be considered within the framework of the future development of the neighborhood relationship. The relationship is a security dilemma at the present time. Taking the opportunity offered by this initiative, China explores building a new form of the power systems between the One Road countries. China has a high strategic interest in providing security for prevent non-traditional security threats in its One Road countries such as food security, water, energy, including an environmental protection and climate change and ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Middle East.
China creates more complex challenges to NATO, than Russia. Why? Because China did not perform a traditional military threat to the NATO. But Beijing sets up a power on global levels, requiring a considerable shift of collective thinking for an alliance that, despite operations in Afghanistan, has primarily considered Europe its traditional heartland.
That China is a challenge is self-evident: Europe is full by products made in China, as also are the United States and Canada, and China is successfully investing in the emerging technologies that will define the next great industrial wave of digitized production and value chains. In addition China’s military reach is highly growing, as is its political self-confidence in international diplomacy. Also NATO should deter Russia, but Russia does not have the capacity as China to dominate Europe and Asia. However China has a strategic concept and road map, that will allow it to expand its influence on the whole Eurasian continent and beyond, fundamentally that develops Chinese global strategies. China is not a kinetic challenge for NATO, and NATO has not to deploy maritime forces to the South China Sea.
However a bigger challenge for NATO is that of the forms of the China’s involve-ment in European economies, mostly on whole sectors of the economy – IT, industry, energy, construction, consumer commodities, food and others.
NATO does not have a right for regulating such political-economy aspects. For instance Turkey as member of the NATO, used arms made in China.
THE CHINESE ROAD INITIATIVE AND HOW IT SELECTIVELY DRAWS CERTAIN EUROPEAN COUNTRIES INTO ALIGNMENT WITH CHINA’S INTERESTS
The countries of bigger concern to the NATO officials and decision-makers with whom we recently discussed these matters were Greece, Hungary, Portugal, and Italy. It would be a big deal if Italy is economically linked to China. Italy is a sizeable European economy, it’s a significant fact that it is a NATO ally that hosts U.S. military bases, and one of four major European allies, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France being the other three, it already gets a seventy percent of Chinese foreign direct investment in Europe, with investments increasing over ten times from 2010 to 2016.
But smaller countries such as Portugal and Greece, where China has targeted investments in energy grids, transportation, and ports, are equally capable of preventing coordinated action among European countries. In result, the growth of Chinese business in the Greek port of Piraeus motivated Italy to bandwagon with China and compete with Greece. Also Italy prepared to sign on to the Chinese initiative in April 2019, French President Macron lamented that China was exploiting Europe’s divisions.
NATO’s cover is compounded by the fact that it does not have expertise on China, foreign direct investment, and global value chains. NATO staff can be augmented by so-called “voluntary national contributions”, staff seconded from capitals. Such as initiative will only help NATO move forward if there is a political alignment at the high level of member states. The high attention should be on the Chinese investments in critical infrastructure in several NATO and EU countries. Chinese state companies have already acquired a number of European seaports and container terminals, including Piraeus in Greece, Antwerp in Belgium, Valencia and Bilbao in Spain and six other ports in France, the Netherlands and Croatia. After Italy joined the Belt and Road Initiative last year, China began looking at the ports of Trieste and Genoa.
There are a number of strategic advantages for China that stem from this scaling presence in Europe, be it through improved information gathering, arms exports or the dual use of critical infrastructure. China’s upgrading of its naval forces certainly points to its resolve to protect the Belt and Road projects actively.
After China opened its first military base in Djibouti in 2017, the country now has its first military supply and logistics hub.
Regarding a setup of military critical infrastructure in South of Europe, China now has a power to influence on the political decision-making in the countries concerned. And such measures from the China side, it will be the reason for NATO and the EU to have frequently discussions about how to respond to this challenge. At a minimum, NATO should have much faster implemented their maritime strategy, which dates back to 2011, and with the EU, develop more focused activities to support their national infrastructure. NATO and the EU could even jointly reflect on whether they want to involve China in maritime operations in the Mediterranean region.
THE CHINESE ROAD INITIATIVE
AS VERY AMBITIOUS FOREIGN AND ECONOMIC STRATEGIES
These projects have strategic goals for Chinese economic leadership through a wide program of infrastructure building throughout China’s neighboring regions. Major foreign policy analysts view this initiative largely through geopolitical aspects, seeing it as Beijing’s attempt to gain political leverage over its neighbors. There is no doubt that it is part of Beijing’s strategic calculation. However, this analysis argues that some of the key drivers behind OBOR are largely motivated by China’s pressing economic concerns. China hopes its transnational infrastructure building program in order of growing its Chinese remote rural areas. The initiative will have a heavy local focus as well. The Chinese Government also wants to use OBOR as a platform to address the country’s chronic excess capacity. It is more about migrating surplus factories than dumping excess products. One of the least understood aspects of OBOR is Beijing’s desire to use this initiative to export China’s technological and engineering standards. Chinese policymakers see it as crucial to upgrading the country’s industry.
And another side of US President Biden: he initiated the setup of an “analogue” of the Chinese Belt program, that doesn’t stop China from pursuing their BRI project. It rather creates a healthy competition and fairness in relation to investment opportunities. And China doesn’t want to monopolize global investment infrastructure through its BRI project. The West operates a system which incorporates accountability, rule of law, integrity etc. Should there be a reform of existing institutions and an “analogue” of China’s BRI concept, it will contribute to global wealth and prosperity as global population increases.
In the nutshell, any country is free to pursue an initiative which will contribute to global prosperity as far as they operate within international norms / laws.
It’s China who prefers the West to have such idea and subtly likes that attention. It appears as part of their media campaign to sell their idea. I doubt if they are envisaging such attempts. But they are creating an environment for the International Community to accept their system of governance, and also to demonstrate that taking over Taiwan is legitimate. China is more concerned about its image and Taiwan. The more the West demonstrates that China is the major threat without any pragmatic / credible alternatives, the more it plays into the Chinese calculus of being the next global power, and the trap of implicitly supporting the Chinese media campaign about the decline of American power.
It demonstrates how China is focused on achieving its goals. It appears as exploiting the business / investment environment in the midst of US issues with Iran. China will play a card as the best alternative to secure lucrative energy contracts as well as close deals.
Sometimes, one of the challenges that democracies face is, it becomes difficult for a government to keep focus due to internal issues which sometimes magnify on a global scale.
The ability for the West to strengthen its values may be something that Chinese media finds uncomfortable e.g human rights, rule of law, accountability, integrity, fairness. If these values are compromised, it becomes easy for China to compete favorably, and portray the West as one of them (China) in terms of values.
For a fact, China is a big market. The Chinese media prefers the West to see it as such and exploit the fears and greed of Western businesses and corporations. This is why China seeks to influence big Asia markets like Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau etc., that it sees as a potential rival to its economic / political success.
China has studied the “way of life” of Western democracies and appears to understand the way they do business. This is why China has invested a lot in its media because they understand that one of the pillars of Western democracies is the media / journalism.
For one side China is not democratic. But they have studied how to do business with democratic countries.
They initiated the implementation of policies that promote accountability, integrity, rule of law etc., and especially the respect for the rights of everyone i.e. implementation of sound human rights policies. It’s unfortunate but there is due process. This is why European countries need a paradigm shift. If the media and relevant institutions are involved in some way, it may contribute to some extent in addressing the issue. If NATO is keen on a good image, they should enhance information power resources as well.
* Advisor, Association for the Study of EthnoGeoPolitics, Kazahstan
 Francesca Ghiretti. March 23, 2021. The Belt and Road in Italy: 2 Years Later Two years after the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, where does the BRI stand in Italy?
 Brad Lendon and Steve George, CNN. July 13, 2017