President Trump has promised an expansion of trade trade and putting America first. But China President Xi Jinping.. has his own plan to put China first -- and it's already working. We traveled to three countries in Southeast Asia.. South Korea, the Philippines and Singapore.. to find out about the Chinese initiative called One Belt One Road. It may be the biggest threat of its kind to America -- that you've never heard about.
Our first stop, Singapore. The ships at harbor stretch to the horizon. The port's key position at the Strait of Malacca has made Singapore rich. The Strait of Malacca is a crucial shortcut between India and Asia. Economically and strategically, one of the most important shipping lanes on the planet. Which makes Singapore critical to China's new plan to dominate the world economy. China calls it One Belt, One Road.
Chan Heng Chee: And they just took.
Chan Heng Chee is Singapore's Ambassador at Large.
Sharyl Attkisson: Is what China is doing the biggest global outreach by any country, you think, of all time?
Chan Heng Chee: Well, when Xi Jinping announced the one belt, one road initiative, everyone thought it was a grand vision, is the greatest vision of all times. It's a vision that captures the old silk road economic initiative.
The old silk road refers to a network of trade routes used for hundreds of years to move goods like silk and spices. China intends to spend a trillion dollars to build new connections among Asia, Europe and Africa, developing supply routes over land and water, putting China in a position to control trade and dictate terms. It's already building coal power plants in Pakistan. Buying interest in foreign oil companies. And building a 6 billion dollar railway that will connect 8 countries.
Sharyl Attkisson: How do you think, if you are someone looking after US interests, that the United States ought to view this strategic move by China?
Chan Heng Chee: I think the United States should pay attention to this and if the United States sees itself as a global leader then you would ask yourself, oh what are they doing that I'm not doing? And actually, you know, if this succeeds, where am I?
Today's western influence on Singapore is obvious in its city center dressed to the nines. But China's influence is rising. It's already is spending one-third of its One Belt One Road investments in Singapore and recently closed an 11 billion dollar deal to buy a Singaporean warehouse and logistics firm. Will China's tempting investments reorder the world order and pull U.S. allies in a different direction? Kirk Wager is the former US Ambassador to Singapore. He says the U.S. may be losing ground.
Kirk Wagner: That's been a little bit of a frustration for me. Now, we have 37 hundred American companies that are based here in Singapore. Some people are getting the memo. But there are 21 thousand American companies in Mexico.
Sharyl: What does Singapore do? What do these other Southeast Asian nations do with two great world powers trying to befriend and court them?
Chan Heng Chee: You know, most ASEAN countries, the 10 countries in Southeast Asia really don't want to choose. They would like to be in the center, you know? And I've said, trade is promiscuous. You can trade with as many partners as you'd like. Some countries have found the United States less willing to engage them, you know, and so they've been engaging far more with China.
Against the opulence of Singapore, The Philippines is a rustic cousin. Almost 13 million people live in the capital of Manila, a chaotic collection of wealthy sky rise neighborhoods built around a colonial-era polo club. The Philippines is another key country in China's One Belt One Road initiative. By all accounts, Filipino President Duterte, elected last year, is pivoting away from the US toward China saying One Belt One Road lines up with his own goal of upgrading his nation's infrastructure.
Jose Cuisia: This administration particularly has indicated that they're shifting away from the US, which I think is a mistake in my own view.
Jose Cuisia was the Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. until last year.
Jose Cuisia: the president would like to develop stronger ties with China and Russia. He believes that we've been too close to the US and that he would like to strengthen relationships by showing that he is not as closely affiliated with the US as the previous administrations.
Gene Yu: I think that from a geopolitical perspective, the Philippines is at an absolute critical juncture, I don't want to call it a battle, but essentially the competition over influence.
Gene Yu is a former US Army Green Beret who now runs a security business in the Philippines, Black Panda.
Gene Yu: In my opinion, One Belt One Road is essentially China's answer to the Marshall Plan of what the States did after World War II.
In the Marshall Plan, named after Secretary of State George Marshall, the US spent the equivalent of 103 dollars billion to rebuild 16 European countries and secure alliances. China's investment and potential payoff are even bigger.
Solita Monsod: It's not exactly that way.
Professor Solita Monsod, a Filipino economic, is skeptical of deals being offered by China such as loans so risky that Western countries won't make them, and borrowing countries won't be able to pay the money back.
Sharyl Attkisson: I don't mean to cast aspersions on China's initiative, but it's almost like bribery it seems to me.
Solita Monsod: Well what else is it? The fact is that China is willing to give softer loans, etc, and the clients are too anxious to get this money.
She sees uncertainty in the prospect of a rising China.
Sharyl Attkisson: Why do you think the United States should be concerned about that?
Solita Monsod: So China gets, you know South Asia and the Pacific, then it will look forward more and it will start bullying if it can. The same way that the United States did 100 years ago or 50 years ago. I would rather have the evil I know than the evil I don't know. Let's put it that way.
The last stop in our examination of One Belt One Road is Korea.
Sharyl Attkisson: Do you view the potential changes as something favorable for the region and the world?
Congresswoman Hye-hoon Lee: I'm very concerned that China is becoming the biggest country in the world.
Congresswoman Hye-hoon Lee leads South Korea's opposition party.
Congresswoman Hye-hoon Lee: China's attitude toward our society is pretty much hostile.
Announcer: And it's up to the infantry to clear out the pockets of dire hard communists.
China has been hostile since the 1950s when it backed communist North Korea in the Korean War. In contrast, the US has stood by South Korea.
Announcer: A once proud capital of the Korean republic is a mass of ruins.
And watched it grow from one of the poorest countries in the world to one of its biggest economic success stories. Today, 10 million people live in the modern, bustling capital city of Seoul. For all of South Korea's ties to the US, China is South Korea's number one trade partner. And in a position to tighten the screws. So earlier this year, when South Korea positioned U.S. anti-missile batteries amid North Korea's aggressive missile launches, China called that provocative and slapped South Korea with threats and trade cuts. Congressman Kim Byeong-gi serves on South Korea's defense and intelligence committees. He wants China to use its influence to rein in North Korea. China is exerting more economic influence in South Korea, as well as military influence in North Korea.
Congressman Kim Byeong-gi: China and North Korea has developed a strategic partnership, and if China really thinks that we are good friend, China should make their bad friend do the right things.
Sharyl Attkisson: Is China exerting more influence than before?
Ra Jong-yil: China is a big political and economic power and growing sort of a military power as well.
Political science professor Ra Jong-yil was a campaign adviser to South Korean president Moon Jae-in, who was elected in May. In the end, he suspects China's One Belt One Road is less about spreading prosperity and more about China trying to build a more dominant role on the world stage.
Ra Jong-yil: China is just beginning to throw its weight about to its neighbors. I think it is just the beginning.
In China, President Trump was offered lavish treatment, full of pomp and ceremony but few commitments. Of the competition for Southeast Asia, President Xi simply said, " The Pacific is big enough to accommodate both China and the United States."