Billions of dollars are flowing out of China, as part of the country’s Belt and Road Initiative, to build ports, railways, roads, pipelines, and telecommunications facilities across the Eurasian land mass (the “belt”) and along the coast of the Indian Ocean (the “road”). The physical infrastructure undergirds growing trade, financial, academic, and political networks. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s rhetoric about a wealthy China giving back to the world and win-win cooperation is not without foundation, as hungry governments, not just in the developing world but also in Europe, gratefully soak up Chinese investments. But Rolland’s helpful survey reveals the initiative’s strategic motives, which include providing outlets for China’s excess production capacity and generating a Eurasian center of gravity as a counterweight to U.S. influence in maritime Asia. Rolland speculates that Xi’s long-term vision is to create a world order in which Western-style rule of law and democracy promotion are replaced by deference to Chinese interests and the international application of Chinese “stability maintenance” techniques.
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