UK flags concern, doubts over OBOR project
LONDON: Britain has expressed concern over China's ambitious transnational One Belt One Road (OBOR) infrastructure-linked project, claiming there are doubts about it meeting acceptable global standards as also about Beijing's short and long-term political aims.
According to a report published by The Guardian, Prime Minister Theresa May has not given her formal endorsement to the USD 900 billion New Silk Road being promoted aggressively by Beijing since 2013 also due to concerns over cyber security.
British government sources have reportedly confirmed that London opted not to sign a memorandum of understanding giving official endorsement to an initiative that is being viewed by critics as a personal project of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Prime Minister May has during her first bilateral visit to China said that Britain views Beijing as its "natural partner", but shied away from giving unequivocal backing to the OBOR.
She said both countries would continue to work together "to identify how best we can co-operate on Belt and Road across the region and ensure it meets international standards", suggesting that an agreement might not have been reached.
There is a view in British government circles that they would like to see the OBOR "implemented in the right way".
Critics of the project maintain that it is designed to pull other countries deeper into China's sphere of influence, to allow Beijing and its appointed infrastructure contractors to acquire unfair preferential treatment.
According to The Guardian, China still lacks significant western endorsement. Countries like Australia, France, Germany, the United States and the European Commission are yet to give their unqualified backing to this huge project.
Britain is reportedly insistent that the project is carried out in a transparent manner and adheres to international standards.
One official was quoted as saying, "It's about ensuring the tendering process is fair and equitable."
Prime Minister May is not the first world leader to raise concerns about intellectual property theft with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron have also done so.
During her interaction with the media after bilateral delegation-level talks with the Chinese, May said, "As partners committed to global free trade, we can work to ensure that as our companies innovate and develop new products, they are confident that their intellectual property and rights will be fully protected, including against cyber threats."
Britain and China, however, appear to be in agreement about tackling unfair trade practices.
Both sides have agreed to carry out a joint trade and investment review to identify priorities for promoting growth in goods, services and investment. The issue of dealing with human rights abuses as well as the threat posed by North Korea was also flagged during the visit.