|Doubts of the possibility of creating a modern Maritime Silk Road that passes through the South China Sea, which Viet Nam calls the East Sea, continue to dog experts concerned by on-going territorial disputes in the region. — Photo bienphong.com.vn
HA NOI (VNS) — Doubts of the possibility of creating a modern Maritime Silk Road that passes through the South China Sea, which Viet Nam calls the East Sea, continue to dog experts concerned by on-going territorial disputes in the region.
The Maritime Silk Road, first proposed by China in 2013, is one-half of China's bigger ambition to establish an inter-continental goods flow from East Asia to Europe.
The other half involves building land routes to serve as economic corridors, what China calls the "belt," in the One Belt-One Road (OBOR) strategy to promote economic co-operation across Euroasia.
At a conference to discuss the prospects of such a project held in Ha Noi yesterday, international relations experts spoke of concerns that China has something else in mind hidden behind the strategy. There is a possibility that ASEAN, with nearly half of its members directly involved in the South China Sea dispute, might feel forced to ignore the dispute for fear of damaging the economic prospects the Maritime Silk Road promise.
"China wants ASEAN countries to be more economically dependent on China and thus withhold support for South China Sea claimants [in the ASEAN bloc)," said Professor David Arase of the Hopkins-Nanjing Centre in Nanjing, China.
The South China Sea dispute is one of the most pressing security issues in East Asia, especially with tensions boiling after China's recent massive island reclamation following its unilateral territorial claim of 80 per cent of the whole sea under the nine-dash line.
Viet Nam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to the sea and islands.
India's National Maritime Foundation Director Dr. Vijay Sakhuja said that the OBOR strategy, if successful, would connect 63 per cent of the world population, which contributes up to 29 per cent of global GDP.
The economic growth such a massive connectivity could produce is huge.
But, as Sakhuja pointed out, the regional perception towards that particular Maritime Silk Road is not positive. He said regional countries are, "anxious because they don't know for sure if it is another ploy by the Chinese," adding, "There must be more clarity on the China's side."
Dr. Trinh Van Dinh of the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, said that this was not the first time China has pushed to open such kind of a road.
He warned that, "History tells us that every new road by the Chinese emperors served the goal of invasion or expansion of the country."
"This OBOR strategy is very likely to be no different to those ancient roads, to realise the renaissance of China, or the ‘China dream' as President Xi Jinping says," he said.
Dr Xue Li from the Institute of World Economics and Politics of China's Academy of Social Sciences said that the Chinese dream was to turn the country from being an East Asian nation to a Central Asian country and into the biggest power at the eastern edge of Eurasia. — VNS