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PostNew Silk Road: China's Modern Empire (John Heelan, UK, 04/29/19 3:24 am)
Perhaps the world should watch closely as China stats to create an infrastructure based on the (Modern) Silk Road described as a key project of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Questions are being asked about about Chinese ambitions as much as the unknowns that surround the plan such as China's long-term political ambitions and the economic viability of the infrastructure. China has launched a Forum to discuss the New Silk Road with 37 chiefs of state and 5000 participants from 150 countries taking place in Beijing yesterday and today. So far China has spent more that $70 billion to finance autoroutes, ports, railways, bridges, oil pipelines, power stations, and telecom infrastructures (although security doubts has been raised about using Chinese Huawei products to build the new 5G networks).
Further, the EU member states are divided on whether to join the New Silk Road. The non-signers are Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Greece, whereas signatories are Italy, Malta and Portugal. Two things strike me: firstly a Communist state using capitalist tactics to buy influence (shades of the British Empire run from boardrooms in the City of London) and the fear of competition from other nascent empires such as those of Russia, United States and India.
JE comments: The massive project is officially called the Belt and Road Initiative. "Silk Road" sounds like a throwback to the Orientalism of yore. Are the Chinese OK with that name, or do they find it patronizing? As John Heelan observes, the Chinese seem to be using the British model of empire--commerce and infrastructure first, political domination next. The US model is based rather on military alliances and frequent attempts at nation-building.
Still to be determined: Will the Chinese win the "hearts and minds" or soft-power contest?