OBOR reflections


The ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) initiative is undoubtedly a major undertaking, with enormous economic potential and geopolitical repercussions. The Chinese authorities are pushing hard to involve other relevant nations and, in particular, to further the infrastructure projects on which much of the success of the initiative rests. It is not our purpose here to delve into the specifics of the initiative, its conceivable transformative power, the opportunities it creates or the difficulties it may face. But, regardless of what we might conclude from such a ‘higher-level’ discussion, it is clear that such a matter is of interest to Macau.
First, Macau is a part of China: its fortunes are tied to those of the motherland. In very general terms, the way China fits and interacts with the world will have, one way or another, meaningful effects upon the local economy and society. Secondly, the initiative can foster substantial changes in the economic architecture of Asia. That fact alone may transform both the domestic and international frames within which we operate. If such changes take place, they are likely to have a bearing on the flows that underpin the local economy.
It is reasonable to conclude, then, that we would be wise to develop a better knowledge and understanding of the initiative. One that goes beyond a general expression of support – which is evident, anything other than that would be astonishing – or vague statements on the region’s participation in the national endeavour. In other words, it would be apposite to move beyond the usual – and sometimes necessary – platitudes, and think strategically about the issue, also from the particular point of view of Macau.
However, there seems to be little consideration or awareness about the evolution of the initiative and its possible or probable impact upon this Special Administrative Region. And it is not easy, in a first approach, to gauge what specific contributions we could make for the national diplomatic effort. There are certainly areas where a relatively modest but meaningful contribution can be conceived, namely those that we usually associate with the so-called ‘soft-power’. Beyond that, things turn more complicated. Our main export and half of the economy are casino services, plus the services associated with them – not the easiest fit to OBOR priorities.
But the alternative cannot be just expecting the government to put forward some money so that our companies can participate in that process.