How Singapore can gain from Belt and Road initiative


SINGAPORE - Home affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam spoke about the Belt and Road Initiative, an effort by China to recreate the Silk Road through infrastructure projects that connect Asia, Europe and Africa. He discussed the implications of the initiative for geopolitics and Singapore in his talk at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

Let me give my views on the possible implications or impact of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

First, let's look at the larger geopolitical trends.

One, the rise of China. It is likely to be the largest world economy in absolute terms, though not in per capita terms. This is likely to happen sooner rather than later.

China aims to be a superpower - understandably. When you consider the combined metrics of economy, technology, population, you will conclude that China's aim to be a superpower is realistic.

Two, there will inevitably be a change of relative power between America and China. I am not suggesting that America is in actual decline. It is more a question of relativity.

In absolute terms, it will be some time yet before China or any other country can match the US, let alone surpass it, militarily.


Nevertheless, over time, the United States will have less and less scope for unilateral action, especially in areas of the globe where China has strong interests. China will not be able to ignore US interests either. They will have to find a new modus vivendi.

China is fast drawing level with the most advanced countries in many fields and surging ahead in some. Its infrastructure, technology, education system are now better than world class.

China's rate of growth now is roughly double that of the US. If you look at trade, it is now the world's largest trading nation, and the largest trading partner for most countries.

The history of trade shows that the global economic centre of gravity for much of human history was in China and India. And the Silk Route was the spine of world trade.

The Silk Route brought great wealth to China, and to the cities along the route.

With the BRI, China tries to recreate this history. It is bold, it is innovative, it is ambitious. It exemplifies the vision of a country that is today the world leader in many aspects of infrastructure technology.

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