China's 'One Belt, One Road' initiative is no Marshall Plan: experts

At a press briefing of the third session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) on March 2, the spokesperson drew a clear distinction between China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative and the Marshall Plan of the United States, saying that it is improper to make a comparison between the two plans.

Interpreting the spokesperson's statement, Guo Xuetang, director of the Institute of International Strategy and Policy Analysis under the Shanghai University of International Business and Economics and author of Who is China Threatening: Interpreting the China Threat, said that the official clarification reflects the Chinese government's concern over the "China Threat" theory.

The "One Belt, One Road" initiative, known as the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, is seen by some as the Chinese version of the Marshall Plan, which laid a solid foundation for the US' global supremacy. The analogy conveys an implication that China is moving toward hegemonism, which is a cause of concern in the international community amid China-US rivalry.

Chinese scholars believe that the China-US relationship is falling into the "Thucydides Trap", a terminology used to describe a scenario in which if a rising power challenges a established power, a war often ensues, said Guo.

In the real world, when the strategic judgments of two great powers correspond with the antagonistic emotions they have toward each other, a healthy rivalry could turn into a war. Therefore, during the Cold War, the Marshall Plan led to a 40-year confrontation between the US and the former Soviet Union, both of which have nuclear weapons.

But Guo said, "China and the US can coordinate their differences, despite the fact that the two countries have contradictions (in many fields)."

"The one-sided judgment of the 'One Belt, One Road' initiative as China's effort to utilize its excessive production capacity and deal with the US pivot to the Asia Pacific is incorrect," said Guo, adding that the Marshall Plan, which was an economic plan aimed at reaching a political goal, is different from the "One Belt, One Road" initiative that is a result of China's comprehensive strategic considerations.

The US rose to the great power status after the World War II, when the Marshall Plan was put forward to drag the Western European countries out of decadence. At that time, the US wanted more space to unleash its excessive capacity, and benefited from the US dollar-centered Bretton Woods System, the then international monetary system. Currently, China is in a similar situation as the US more than six decades ago, where it has overcapacity, abundant foreign exchange reserves, and globalizing currency. Hence, it is easy to liken the "One Belt, One Road" initiative to the Marshall Plan.

However, the two plans have some substantial differences, according to Zhang Ziran, researcher of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative "focuses on benefiting the countries along the Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road without attaching additional conditions", which is not akin to the Marshall Plan, which was used by the US to contain the former Soviet Union and communist Eastern European countries.

(The article is translated and edited by Ding Yi.)

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