China’s One Belt One Road policy, or OBOR, represents the largest infrastructure program in history. Yet little is known about it with any certainty. How can something so large be so bewildering?
In One Belt One Road: Chinese Power Meets the World (Harvard East Asian Monographs, 2020), Eyck Freymann, a DPhil Candidate in China Studies at the University of Oxford, explores the nature, function, and purposes of OBOR. Drawing on primary documents in five languages, interviews with senior officials, and on-the-ground case studies in Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Greece, Freymann sifts through the purposeful ambiguity of the Chinese Communist Party and unravels a series of popular myths about OBOR.
He finds that OBOR is not controlled by a monolithic state apparatus; that recipient nations do not consider OBOR a debt trap; and that appeal of OBOR is growing, not shrinking.
Ultimately, Freymann argues that the infrastructure projects are a sideshow to something else: Xi Jinping’s project to restore China’s greatness in world affairs and to solidify his place at the helm of the new Chinese empire.
John Sakellariadis is a 2020-2021 Fulbright US Student Research Grantee. He holds a Master’s degree in public policy from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia and a Bachelor’s degree in History & Literature from Harvard University.