21st Century Maritime Silk Road

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Apr 1, 2022, 5:44

The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiative has the potential to significantly expand China's maritime strategic space beyond its enclosed adjacent waters. China will be able to build resilience in the face of economic or diplomatic isolation due to this initiative.

At the same time, by investing in fragile states, China is taking significant risks that may impact its economy. Along with the Belt, the 21st Century Silk Road aims to build a production and trade network connecting the maritime domain to the Eurasian hinterland and Western China. This would be a historic first, helping to open up landlocked Central Asia and improve connectivity in South Asia.

21st Century Maritime Silk Road - Overview

The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road concept was introduced during Chinese President Xi Jinping's speech to the Indonesian Parliament and Premier Li Keqiang's speech at the 16th ASEAN-China summit in Brunei.

The 21st-century Silk Road will begin in Fujian province and travel through Guangdong, Guangxi, and Hainan before reaching the Malacca Strait. It travels from Kuala Lumpur to Kolkata and Colombo before crossing the rest of the Indian Ocean to Nairobi. It then travels north around the Horn of Africa, through the Red Sea, and into the Mediterranean, stopping in Athens before joining the land-based Silk Road in Venice.

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21st Maritime Silk Road: Essential Suggestions for the European Union

  • While the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road does not preclude the EU from pursuing democratic and human rights ideals, a failure to better account for regional and individual state demands and their need for growth will marginalize the EU as China continues to expand its engagement along the Road.
  • The EU would benefit from a proactive strategic policy prescription for the Indo-Pacific formulation for long-term regional stability, particularly given the 21st Maritime Silk Road's security implications.
  • Rather than taking sides, the EU should advocate for a peaceful transition to new regional security arrangements concerning the 21st Maritime Silk Road that include its members while strategically exploiting the interplay and merger of the importer of record's (IOR) maritime and terrestrial security spaces for economic, diplomatic, and security gain.
  • Given that combating piracy, counterterrorism, and ensuring safe passage for a significant amount of trade between the EU and the Indian Ocean are high priorities for all parties involved, the EU may decide to establish and enforce a code of conduct relating to the 21st Maritime Silk Road. They can do so by selecting a track 2 platform comparable to the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific or through strategic groupings of external actors in the region, whether in bilateral, trilateral or quadrilateral formats.

In collaboration with the Silk Road Economic Belt and Sea Initiative, the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road aims to bridge a massive global terrestrial-maritime connectivity gap, potentially resulting in positive development and cooperation. The Road increases competition for development assistance and connectivity in the Indian Ocean Region, increasing militarization.

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FAQs on 21st Century Maritime Silk Road

Q.1. What is the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road?

The 21st Maritime Silk Road is the maritime version of the historic Silk Road, which linked Southeast Asia, China, the Indian subcontinent, the Arabian Peninsula, Somalia, Egypt, and Europe. It began in the second century BC and flourished until the fifteenth century CE.

Q.2. Which country is leading the development of the 21st century Silk Roads?

The ambitious initiative launched by Xi Jinping to connect China with the rest of the Eurasian continent can be costly and difficult.

Q.3. What are the salient features of the 21st Maritime Silk Road?

The 21st Century Silk Road reflects a shift from China's low-profile international strategy to a more proactive international strategy to help shape a new international and regional order.

Q.4. What is the main advantage of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road?

By promoting the 21st-century Silk Road, China hopes to reduce territorial disputes in the South China Sea with ASEAN claimant states and strengthen mutual trust. It can also serve as a conduit for Chinese companies and capital to invest abroad in infrastructure, manufacturing, foreign commodity trade, and service sectors.