6 months ago

Diplomatic World_nummer 56.

86 Autonomous Region and

86 Autonomous Region and the Tibet Autonomous Region are economically lagging in relation to the maritime facades. Their development should consolidate the territorial unity of the country. Further, at the Eurasian continental level, the New Silk Road initiative involves connecting the two ends of the Eurasian continent, Europe and China, through Russia in the North and Central Asia further South by a bundle of lines of communication, including goods, people, and energy transport. Finally, the maritime component aims to consolidate the energy and trade connections between China and the Middle East but also with Africa and Europe through the Straits of Malacca. The Northern Route linking China to Europe via the Arctic Ocean is also envisaged as a shorter and alternative route. At a global level, for China, this is a geo-economic strategy of opening up the country through continentalisation, because it depends too heavily on its maritime facade. From the point of view of the Chinese geopolitical perspective, the Middle Kingdom seeks to surround itself with allies, and position itself at the center of a geopolitical space structured for its own security and prosperity. The aim of the Chinese project is to place the country at the center of the geopolitical map once again. In this respect, the Chinese geopolitical objective is not different from other world powers. On the geostrategic level, the project can also be interpreted as a strategy of counter-encirclement resulting from the positioning of military infrastructures by the USA and its allies. The map (map: The New Silk Road Initiative) highlights the perception of encirclement of China and Russia, which comes from the presence of US and NATO bases as well as from the anti-missile defense infrastructure around Eurasia. This location of military infrastructure is primarily a legacy of the Cold War, which was characterized by the containment of the USSR but also of China by the US. After the fall of the USSR, the Unipolar project of the US and their allies aimed to westernize the Eurasian continent and to ascertain the prevalence of a system of Western alliance, associated with a strategy of roll-back. However, with the come back of Russia and the rise of China, the world has evolved towards a more polycentric structure. A new containment strategy can now again be expected, because we can once more witness a rise of the geopolitical rivalries between the US, China and Russia. The missile shield project has been pursued and the new US security strategy (2018) explicitly designates Russia and China as its main adversaries. This looming confrontation might jeopardize Eurasian stability and therefore European stability itself. Europeans, as close allies of the USA should avoid further polarization of global alliances as they will not be in a position to defend their own interests. Europeans should rather find a way to play the role of moderators between USA and China but also Russia. China is combining two approaches, one is geostrategic, and the other is geo-economic. In the China Sea, China claims sovereignty over the Paracel and Spartley Islands, and is in competition with its neighbours (Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan). China also wants a reunification with the island of Taiwan, separated from them in 1949. The various actors have entered a race of “Polderization” to claim sovereignty over the different islands. This area is a growing commercial and energy hub for China. Its control also aims to counter the pressure exerted in the geographical proximity of its territory by the US and its allies in the Pacific Ocean. US military bases are set up in Japan, South Korea and in the Philippines. The US fleet is sailing in the Pacific near its territory, and around Taiwan. In the event of a serious conflict, China’s energy supply routes through the China Sea and the Strait of Malacca may be disrupted by US naval dominance in the Pacific and by their bases, which are all close to the shores of China. The Silk Roads including the Northern Sea Route and the continental infrastructures are alternative routes to the Southern seaway from the China Sea to the Indian Ocean, on which China now depends. In addition, the development of western China, the Achilles heel of the country’s security, helps to stem the destabilization coming from the western flank, subject to waves of radical Islam from Southeast Asia, and to the external support of regional separatism. The New Silk Road project also allows the development of the China-Kazakhstan-Russia corridor, the China-Central-

Asia-Iran-Turkey corridor, as well as the Eurasian links between China and Europe. It is part of a multicentered vision of the world, where China is at the center of a new system of economic and political cooperation, and not a subset of Western-centered globalization with the US as the main power of the Eurasian continent. During his visit to China in January 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron announced his intention to participate in projects on the Silk Road routes in Eurasia and Africa on a case-by-case basis. He insisted that the New Silk Road should evolve towards a shared project and does not provoke a new hegemony. OBSTACLES REMAIN, WHAT ARE THEY? THE POSITIONING OF EUROPEANS The enormous cost of the projects is a first obstacle, even if China has the financial means to initiate many infrastructures. To be implemented successfully outside the Chinese territory, the infrastructure projects will also have to be co-financed by the partners of China. It is also an opportunity to internationalize the project and promote a better balance of interests. Secondly, geopolitical instabilities along these corridors are an obstacle to investment. If a project leads to distrust in some countries, opponents to this project might have an interest in a destabilization of the territories of transit. Some countries like the USA and India would also like a reorientation of the connections to have a more North- South direction than East-West. These rivalries on the geopolitical orientation of the Eurasian infrastructures highlights the need for the New Silk Road initiative to take into consideration the interests of the different countries likely to be impacted by the project. Finally, there is the ambivalence of the Europeans themselves, who are divided on the position to take regarding Chinese economic power. Indeed the fear of Europeans is to see trains filled with goods in the direction of China-Europe, returning to China empty. Yet some European states are already positioning themselves to take advantage of the New Silk Road project. This is the case in the Balkans with Serbia and Greece, and the Visegrad group, at the heart of the 16 + 1 format, which includes the countries of Central and Eastern Europe who seek to connect themselves to the Chinese project. The 16 + 1 format was conceived after the first China-Central and Eastern European Countries Economic and Trade Forum, held in Budapest in 2011. The countries included are China, 11 EU members: Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and five EU candidates: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. It has been said, Geopolitics is anticipating the space-time of others powers. The European project, mainly embodied by the European Union, needs to be renewed today. Its paradigms are still too entrenched in the last century. The project was born in the context of the Cold War, at a time of the containment of the Soviet Union, and in a context where Communist China had not yet reached its current power. After the end of the Cold War, the project should today adapt itself further to the emergence of a multicentered world. EU could evolve towards an alliance of European nations driven by a geopolitical strategy to reaffirm their own centrality in the future global balance of power. It would be wise for Europeans to engage this Chinese project in a constructive way. The New Silk Road is an opportunity for the Europeans to position themselves on the Eurasian continent. It is also a way to ascertain the project leads to a better balance of interests. Europeans are so far positioning themselves in a dispersed way in order to reap the benefits. Therefore, a better coordination between them would be required. The project is above all an opportunity for Europeans to think on a Eurasian scale. They would need to identify their geopolitical interests as part of a reformed European project according to geopolitical principles. For the cooperation projects and alliances of European nations, geography suggests a better balance between the Euro-Atlantic, Euro-Mediterranean and African areas and also Euro-Arctic and Euro-Asiatic spaces. According to the recent historical perspective, the Eastern flank of Europeans has been neglected during the Cold War. The rivalry with the USSR and communist China held back trade between Europe and large parts of Eurasia and the shift of the geopolitical center of gravity was located in the Euro-Atlantic space. Today, the project of the New Silk Road is an opportunity for Europeans to connect with the East of the Eurasian 87