It has become a truism that China’s BRI strategy seeks to drastically reshape economic space in Eurasia, with a tremendous amount of analysis expended upon its political and security significance. At its core, much of the analysis is concerned with seeking to understand the ramifications of China’s transformation from rising to rhizomatic power, spreading concrete capillaries across vast expanses of the world. However, such work tends to retain a state-centered territorial logic, in which this girdle of Chinese influence across the continent manifests itself within the compartmentalized spaces of individual states.
This project will seek to examine the ways in which the political space of Eurasia is being fundamentally reshaped by BRI. In order to do so, it will primarily focus upon the northern and southern arcs of China’s strategy, where such classical state-centered territorial logics are being supplanted by something more innovative. The Southern Sea Route component of BRI has seen China’s desire for a “string of pearls” in the Indian Ocean invoke strong reactions in both countries receiving China’s infrastructural largesse (Sri Lanka, Maldives), and other regional players, most notably India and the United States. Meanwhile, the Northern Sea Route re-emerged as a central plank of BRI policy in June 2017, promising to once again transform Arctic geopolitics. This project will compare the ways in which these northern and southern dimensions of BRI work to transform Eurasian political space, and the implications of this transformation for the United States and Japan.
The project will focus on the infrastructure being developed within these Silk Road Strategies. ‘Infrastructure’ here refers to not only the ‘hard’ material concrete being poured between steel pylons at new ports around the Indian Ocean, but also the more ‘intangible’ infrastructures of satellite navigational systems and regulatory frameworks, through which China will seek to assert its control over these maritime spaces. A comparative analysis of this infrastructure will allow us to discern the contours of this new political space, and survey its impact upon the underlying geopolitical conditions which gave rise to the US-Japan alliance.