Summary: As we watch the candidates babble in the Campaign2016 circus, we can look across the Pacific to see a rational geopolitical strategy, something America has not had for decades. Here’s a note about China rebuilding its fabled Silk Road — revised for the 21st century.
The Grand Design of China’s New Trade Routes
Over the next several years, China will devote significant resources to the construction of Eurasian trade routes under its Belt and Road Initiative.
As transit routes come online, the proportion of Chinese maritime trade passing through South China Sea chokepoints will shrink.
The new infrastructure built as part of the Belt and Road Initiative will support China’s economic rebalancing by opening new markets, generating demand for higher value-added Chinese goods and helping China build globally competitive industries.
Improving transit routes will lead to new security and political risks, and China’s efforts to mitigate these threats could create frictions in the very areas where Beijing is trying to diversify its trade routes.
In 2013, China’s President Xi Jinping proposed a plan to stimulate development in Eurasia by constructing what he called the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road — revivals of the overland and maritime trade routes that once connected China and Europe. Since then, the “Belt and Road Initiative” has become a fixture in official Chinese discussions on both foreign and domestic policy. Nonetheless, the initiative is still loosely defined. Beijing claims there are about 60 Belt and Road countries, but there is no public listing of these countries.
Although the initiative clearly centers on infrastructure investment, Chinese media coverage offers no straightforward definition of what projects count as part of the program. A pledge to install signs and information kiosks in Armenia is said to be under the banner of the Belt and Road Initiative, as is a $46 billion infrastructure investment package that Xi promised to Pakistan in April.