The Political Economics of the New Silk Road

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Abstract

What has now been coined the term XXI Century Silk Road had evolved from a speech given by Chinese premier Xi Jinping in Kazakhstan in 2013. It was initially a plan aimed at promoting the bilateral relations of China and its neighbors; however, the initiative had since then traversed the region’s borders and become a global project.

This paper examines the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative in light of Chinese-EU relations. It reviews the initiation of the Silk Road Project and focuses on its political economic analysis through investigating the potential routes the Belt can take, the EU-Chinese trade and investment standings as well as the global political context that the increased cooperation and connection is likely to influence.

The paper uses the Modern Silk Road concept as an example of China’s foreign policy in the wake of globalization and the emergence of a new multipolar world order. To set the stage we will begin with a political-economic approach of the New Silk Road. Highlighting the possibilities of Chinese high culture, which accommodate global governance, we state that the Modern Silk Road project is one of its materialized forms. The concept of the New Silk Road (together with the Eurasian Union) denies the previous era of corruption and personality cult and indicates a milestone in the development of China, proving that it is already a globally responsible power (Värk, 2015).

Even if transport by land is significantly more expensive than transportation by sea, the New Silk Road may have significant advantages: It may take only two weeks, saving potentially a week in shipping time, and diversify China’s dependence on sea transport that could reduce the importance of its regional diplomatic conflicts. Already these aspects show that the purpose of the Modern Silk Road is basically not to explore cost-efficiency but to contribute to the establishment of a new, multipolar world order. The fact that the Modern Silk Road is a supply-driven concept in spite of the historical one underlines this argument. Even if politics dominate, henceforward directing the economic activities, we will nonetheless examine the China-Eastern European relations through the lenses of trade and investment as well.

After the initial analysis and description of the Silk Road Economic Belt as a tool of Chinese foreign policy, the paper goes on to examine the potential routes the railway takes from China to Europe. It reviews the trade and investment ties that the two entities share and assesses how this initiative contributes to the rise of Europe and China beside the USA. Lastly, it outlines how various regional and global powers are affected by the renewal of the Silk Road.

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Baltic Journal of European Studies

Tallinn Law School, Department of Law, School of Business and Governance, Tallinn University of Technology

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