Globalization, B&R provide impetus for Arab nations

By Toumert AI Source:Global Times Published: 2018/5/16 22:13:40

Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT


As the world tries to understand the 21st century's geopolitical challenges, Arab countries are finding themselves at a crossroads when finding ways to make their economies more sustainable by targeting connectivity, technological innovation and entrepreneurship.

To achieve this ambitious agenda, policymakers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are turning their attention to two main drivers for sustainable growth.

One is globalization and free trade to secure market access and investment flows. The other is participation in the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative, not only to regain their status in the world economy as it was during the era of the ancient Silk Road, but also to profit from the China Manufacturing 2025 strategy.

MENA countries are facing an existential crisis as active economic players in a world that is undergoing a new industrial revolution, one that is no longer based on fossil fuel and simple commodity trading.

Arab countries are navigating an unpredictable path of growth and security concerns.

For many reasons, Arab countries isolated themselves economically and culturally from the world once they regained their independence in the middle of the 20th century. That was abnormal, since for centuries the Arab world was known as the "mover and shaker of globalization" due to its geographical position. These countries traded with all existing civilizations nonstop for almost 2,000 years via the ancient Silk Road.

The result of that isolation was also felt even within the MENA region, with inter-Arab cooperation too fragmented to allow for people and goods to move freely within the region.

All indicators point to the same conclusion: the future of the Arab world does not reside in obsolete local economies, and the traditional sources of growth in Arab countries won't support any sustained economic expansion. GDP figures for recent years reflect that reality.

How will they be able to generate enough jobs to absorb new entrants to the labor market, knowing that more than half the population is under the age of 15. Without sustainable, strong growth, how will the MENA region have the resources to build an economic infrastructure for the 21st century's Industrial Revolution 4.0?

Only a policy of embracing globalization, integration in the international economy and protecting a free global flow of commodities, investment and knowledge, can lead to the rejuvenation of the Arab dream of a leading role in global affairs.

That policy shift is actually easy to make. Indeed, MENA states have a strong partner with whom they cultivated a common destiny: China.

With protectionism on the rise, xenophobia and more extreme right parties taking hold of Western politics, only China appears to speak for inclusive growth and safeguarding globalization.

As we engaged and prospered during the ancient Silk Road, today we have an opportunity to engage China within the 21st century B&R initiative and the China Manufacturing 2025 plan.

The B&R is not a trading engine; it is a driver for integration between the MENA region and China. To be successful in moving ahead in the B&R project, Arab policymakers, working though the Arab League in Cairo, must create a special team to put forth a global Arab vision for working with the B&R.

There is a newfound motivation in the Middle East and North Africa to drive economic change based on technology to reduce costs significantly and drive GDP growth Saudi Arabia's "Vision 2030" is a symbol of such changes.

This is exactly what the China Manufacturing 2025, coupled with the B&R, aims to achieve: technological development, entrepreneurship, innovation and building integrated global economical solutions that start at the local level. The hope is to link people and economies to create shared interests.

The Arab world faces a stark choice: inclusive growth and global integration or the risk of total economic and social failure.

A solution and a partner are at hand. By linking to the B&R initiative and engaging China through its Manufacturing 2025 plan, the Arab world can have an opportunity to change its fate.

The author is director of Education, International Bachelor Program at the International School under China Foreign Affairs University.

Posted in: INSIDER'S EYE

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