China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, an economic expansion plan that follows the trade routes of the medieval Tang and Yuan dynasties across Eurasia, is overly ambitious because, like all grand strategies, it is aspirational. Yet the future of Eurasia is written into its design.
This new Silk Road serves several goals of China’s leaders, who are intent on making their country a full-fledged superpower. It is a branding operation for many of the roads, bridges, pipelines and railroads that China has already built, linking it with the former-Soviet-controlled countries of energy-rich Central Asia. In the process, One Belt, One Road seeks to develop — and at the same time surround — the Muslim region of China that abuts Central Asia.
Further westward, China intends to create an organic alliance with Iran, a state that because of its immense size, location and population, as well as its long imperial tradition, functions as the fulcrum for the Middle East and Central Asia.
The larger Chinese goal is to dominate Eurasia, which means relegating Russia to a second-tier power.
China and Russia share a land border of more than 2,600 miles, an interminable stretch of birch forest separating mainly the Russian Far East from Chinese Manchuria, whose particulars were formally agreed upon only in the last decade. In 1969, the dispatch of about 30 Soviet divisions to this border, and China’s deployment of 59 divisions in response, deepened the Chinese-Soviet split and allowed for President Richard Nixon’s opening to China and his détente with the Soviet Union.
Read the full essay in The New York Times.
More from CNAS
CommentaryGlobal Supply Chains, Economic Decoupling, and U.S.-China Relations, Part 1: The View from the United States
The trade war has defined the current adversarial relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). While President Donald J. Trump has at times...
By Sagatom Saha & Ashley Feng
CommentaryHow China Is Exploiting the Pandemic to Export Authoritarianism
The Chinese Communist Party is now undertaking its most audacious effort yet at shaping international perceptions....
By David Shullman
ReportsForging an Alliance Innovation Base
Executive Summary This report presents a blueprint for a community of technology innovation and protection anchored by America and its allies. Unless the United States builds ...
By Daniel Kliman, Ben FitzGerald, Kristine Lee & Joshua Fitt
CommentarySharper: Global Coronavirus Response
As regions across the United States enforce states of emergency and a growing list of countries restrict travel, close schools, and quarantine citizens, the economic and human...
By Chris Estep & Cole Stevens