CHINA'S MARITIME SILK ROAD: Advancing Global Development.

AuthorHoadley, Stephen

CHINA'S MARITIME SILK ROAD: Advancing Global Development

Author: Gerald Chan

Published by: Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham, UK, 2020, 175pp, 70 [pounds sterling].

A more timely, informative and balanced introduction to China's 'new silk road' initiatives would be hard to find.

China's Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI, displays at least three broad thrusts:

* the overland Belt;

* the maritime Road; and

* the Digital Silk Road.

Gerald Chan, professor of politics and international relations at the University of Auckland, has already written a book on the overland belt (Understanding China's New Diplomacy: Silk Roads and Bullet Trains, 2018). He is currently (as at April 2021) completing a book on the digital silk road. This review focuses on the second of Chan's trilogy, the maritime road.

Readers will be aware that President Xi Jinping set the BRI in motion in 2013 and backed it up with new Bank of China-capitalised financial institutions. These included the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, the New Development Bank, the Silk Road Fund and the South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund. By 2021 the BRI and its affiliated institutions encompassed over 140 countries ranging from the Pacific Islands through Asia, Africa, the Americas, the Middle East and Europe. Some governments, like New Zealand's, have merely signed a non-binding memorandum of agreement and have yet to engage materially, whereas others like Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Cambodia are deeply entwined with the BRI. Governments wary of China have refused to sign up; these include not only the United States but also Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan and Australia.

The maritime aspect of the BRI is reflected in China's financing and state corporations' building of port facilities along China's principal trade routes. These port facilities can then support the vessels, crews and cargos deployed by the China Overseas Shipping Company and a half-dozen other state entities. Reliable official inventories are scarce, Chan points out, but he cites scholarly estimates of ports in which China entities have financed and constructed facilities and now control parts or all of port operations. Estimates of the numbers of ports with a significant penetration by China range from 46 to 76.

Chan identifies and lists 33 countries with substantial port investments from China. He then singles out four ports for closer analysis: Gwadar in Pakistan, Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Djibouti in East...

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