China's global vision: Bruno Maudes' study examines the implications of China's Belt and Road project, arguably the most ambitious geopolitical initiative of our times.

Author:Williams, Stephen
Position:Book review
 
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BELT AND ROAD: A CHINESE WORLD ORDER

By Bruno Mafaes 20 Hurst [pounds sterling]

ISBN 978-1-78738-002-8

In April, leaders from 37 countries massed in Beijing to compete for multi-billion dollar infrastructure deals at China's second Belt and Road Forum. With its aim of connecting China to the rest of the world via a "belt" of land corridors and a "road" of shipping lanes, Beijing's Belt and Road project is expected to involve more than $1 trillion in investments.

While the leaders were attracted by the prospect of significant financial support for ports, railroads and highways, the summit came at a time of increasing concern that client countries could be lured into "debt trap" projects that leave them open to punitive renegotiations and, in the worse cases, outright asset confiscation by Chinese lenders.

Global opinion was fiercely divided in the run-up to the summit. While many countries see the Belt and Road as an opportunity to play a key role in an emerging global trade network, others see the scheme as a direct threat to sovereignty and an unhealthy assertion of Chinese power.

In his recent survey of the unfolding project, Belt and Road: A Chinese World Order, Bruno Magaes attempts to summarise the thinking behind the Belt and Road and what its likely consequences and implications will be for China and the rest of the world.

From Southeast Asia to Eastern Europe and Africa, the Belt and Road involves projects in 71 countries, offering unparalleled opportunities to expand Chinese business, diplomacy and cultural influence. As Portugal's Europe minister from 2013 to 2015 and now a resident of Beijing, Magaes devotes considerable space to the possible impact on Eurasia, arguing that the Belt and Road offers a vision of world politics and trade across the supercontinent that differs radically from what went before.

With the increase in Chinese-dominated trade and financial flows along the Belt and Road, cultural and political influence in Eurasia will inevitably follow, he argues.

"Whoever is able to build the infrastructure linking the two ends of Eurasia will rule the world," he states.

Yet while China has been wildly ambitious in its conception and early execution of the scheme, Beijing is unlikely to have things all its own way, says Magaes, arguing that China's great power rivals will also attempt to muscle in.

"If you want to draw an accurate map of Eurasia you need to add the gradual expansion of Indian power from the Suez Canal to...

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