Thursday, May 28, 2015

Building the New Silk Road - CFR

James McBride,

Council on Foreign Relations - May 25, 2015

More than two thousand years ago, China's Han Dynasty launched the Silk Road, a sprawling network of commerce that linked South and Central Asia with the Middle East and Europe. Today, the idea of a "New Silk Road," an intertwined set of economic integration initiatives seeking to link East and Central Asia, has taken hold in the United States and China—for very different reasons.
In 2011, the United States launched its vision of greater Central Asian economic and infrastructure integration in the hopes of supporting political stability as it withdrew from Afghanistan. By 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping was assertively articulating his own vision for a China-led Silk Road that would streamline foreign trade, ensure stable energy supplies, promote Asian infrastructure development, and consolidate Beijing's regional influence.
It remains to be seen if the United States and China will clash over their competing plans for developing energy resources in Central Asia’s Turkmenistan, creating infrastructure in Pakistan, or winning political influence with local governments throughout Asia. Other Asian powers like India and Russia, meanwhile, are seeking to define their own approach to regional integration. While these ambitious projects hold the potential to reshape one of the world’s least integrated areas, all must contend with local rivalries, logistical roadblocks, security risks, and political uncertainty.