Published: April 11, 2014
Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy
APThe thrust on reviving the ancient maritime route is the ﬁrst global strategy proposed by the new Chinese leaders for enhancing trade and fostering peace. Photo: AP
The Maritime Silk Route emphasises on improving connectivity but more importantly, it aspires to improve China’s geo-strategic position in the world
China is experiencing a “Deng Xiaoping Moment 2.0.” The new Chinese leadership seems fairly optimistic in its effort to reshape the country’s global posture in a bold and creative way, a key element of which is to build up an economic system through external cooperation. Undoubtedly, the proposal of reviving the Maritime Silk Route (MSR) demonstrates this innovative approach. Indeed, the success of the MSR initiative will be consequential to regional stability and global peace. It is little wonder then that this proposal has attracted enormous interests among policy makers and scholars.
The thrust on reviving the ancient maritime route is the first global strategy for enhancing trade and fostering peace, proposed by the new Chinese leaders. The MSR inherits the ancient metaphor of friendly philosophy from the old Silk Route to build the new one. It emphasises on improving connectivity with Southeast Asia, South Asia, West Asia and even Africa, by building a network of port cities along the Silk Route, linking the economic hinterland in China. More importantly, it aspires to improve China’s geo-strategic position in the world. According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, “The reason why China proposed the building of the Maritime Silk Route is to explore the unique values and ideas of the ancient Silk Route… and achieve common development and common prosperity of all countries in the region.” In fact, since the Tang Dynasty, the MSR had been a major channel of communication, through which ancient China made contacts with the outside world.Diffusing tension
Amid the ‘irresistible shift’ from the West to the East, Beijing is concerned with the U.S. pivot to the Asia-Pacific region. Also, the MSR could be an attempt to counter the “string of pearls” argument. China’s acrimonious relations with some states in Southeast Asia due to maritime disputes have created complex circumstances for itself in building better relations with its neighbours. Through their vision of re-energising the MSR, Chinese leaders aim to impart a new lease of life to China’s peripheral policy and diffuse the tension. Chinese leaders want to re-assure their commitment to the path of peaceful development, emphasising that “a stronger China will add to the force for world peace and the positive energy for friendship, and will present development opportunities to Asia and the world, rather than posing a threat.” The idea of the MSR was outlined during Li Keqiang’s speech at the 16th ASEAN-China summit in Brunei, and Xi Jinping’s speech in the Indonesian Parliament in October 2013. Chinese leaders underlined the need to re-establish the centuries-old seaway into a 21st century MSR, while celebrating the 10th anniversary of the ASEAN-China strategic partnership. The main emphasis was placed on stronger economic cooperation, closer cooperation on joint infrastructure projects, the enhancement of security cooperation, and strengthening “maritime economy, environment technical and scientific cooperation.”