Throughout history, competition for resources and the land that houses those resources has been a leading cause of war. From ancient armies fighting over fertile farmland and sea access to contemporary wars fought for oil and minerals, this trend continues to endanger the global peaceful order.
With this in mind, logic would dictate that the most assured way to diminish the likelihood of war would be to create a rules-based trading order in which it would be more profitable and therefore less destructive for countries to trade resources between one another, as opposed to attempting to conquer one another for zero-sum control over the exploitation of these resources.
Yet even within the modern rules-based trading order which began to gradually emerge after the Second World War, during the second half of the 20th century, the world was largely divided not between “socialism and capitalism” as many in both the U.S. and former USSR claim, but it was instead more accurately divided between the haves and the have-nots.
Developed nations took much of the world’s resources which only reinforced the poverty of the developing world.
Today, however, there is an alternative both to senseless warfare and violent competition, as well as an alternative to a world divided between rich and poor. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) looks to provide win-win opportunities to nations at all levels of their economic development.
The BRI allows the poorest nations to trade their way to prosperity while offering wealthy nations access to emerging markets for exports while simultaneously offering consumers in the developed world the opportunity to purchase erstwhile inaccessible goods from the developing world.
But the BRI is about more than just a circular pattern of win-win trade at a global level. It is also about providing developing countries with specific expertise, infrastructural development, and technological assets to help people to lift themselves into a better material condition on a sustainable model.
In the 20th century, many developing nations fell victim to the “borrow and bust” model whereby short-term cash injections created nominal wealth in countries that had no means of sustaining it.
By contrast, the BRI-related projects in the developing world look to add permanent value to specific economies that will allow local people to excel at that which they are most naturally attuned to doing whether this is agriculture, industrial production or the extraction of valued commodities.
Finally, in building a truly global trading network, the BRI guarantees that the success of emerging exporters, growing industrial economies and long developed economies is a mutual win-win goal.
The BRI is effectively a growing economic ecosystem in which human development is nourished by increased prosperity. This, in turn, will help to avoid violent conflict as the BRI looks to end the leading cause of war: competition for resources.
By substituting competition for cooperation, the BRI stands to provide the world with a future that rejects war based on the deeply pragmatic notion that if peace makes better economic sense than war, it will prevail.
Thus, while the BRI is primarily considered a trading and economic growth initiative, it is also an opportunity to create a more peaceful world here and now as well as in the lifetime of future generations.