When China’s President Xi Jinping articulated his idea of the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) in Astana in September 2013 and again a month later in Jakarta,1 what emerged was a vision to parlay large-scale economic dynamism into a foreign policy projecting Chinese influence overseas in the name of development. Inclusive and expansive at once, this is an ambitious vision and one which could seal ours as the Chinese century if it succeeds in weaving the loose ends of China’s overseas interests into a coherent whole. Three years into SREB, now better known as the “Belt & Road Initiative” (BRI), a part of the vision is slowly taking on flesh. The volume of media reports attests to this. What remains less clear is the strategic implications and opportunities of BRI on China’s partners. Occupying a slight sliver at the intersection of West Asia and the Middle East, Europe and Africa – regions of intimate relevance to BRI – Israel too has joined the new Silk Road caravan. Where does it fit in, and what difference does BRI make?
- “Promote friendship between our people and work together to build a bright future” (text of Xi Jinping’s speech at Nazarbayev University, Astana), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, 8 September 2013, http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/ce/cebel/eng/zxxx/t1078088.htm; “Xi in call for building of new ‘Maritime Silk Road’”, China Daily, 4 October 2013, http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2013-10/04/content_17008940.htm ↩