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The Maritime Silk Road and the PLA: Part One

By March 19, 2015April 29th, 2023No Comments

The past decade has seen a considerable amount of speculation concerning China’s military intentions in the Indian Ocean (and overseas generally), revolving in large part around the “String of Pearls” concept (namely, a possible network of future Chinese naval and military installations stretching across the Indian Ocean). While this speculation has, occasionally, been ill-informed, even verging on the feverish, with some Western observers foreseeing a veritable Chinese invasion of the Indian Ocean, it is nonetheless clear that China has a real interest in an increased military presence and activities along the sea lanes vital to the Chinese economy. Chinese president Xi Jinping’s fall 2013 announcement of the new “one belt, one road” (yidai yilu) strategic initiative, based on the concept of the ancient Silk Road caravan route, has only served to further fuel such speculation. This is particularly true of the initiative’s maritime component, generally referred to as the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” (21 shiji haishang sichou zhilu) and comprising a maritime trade and transportation route reaching though the South China Sea and Indian Ocean to the eastern Mediterranean, encompassing South and Southeast Asia, East Africa, as well as the Near and Middle East. The Maritime Silk Road makes it unmistakably clear that China’s strategic interests in and along the maritime routes leading to the west (as well as the number and vulnerability of Chinese citizens working in the adjacent countries) will only increase in coming years.

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