From: Foreign Policy
From Russia to Central Asia, Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative triggers bad memories of Chinese imperialism.
In 1904, Halford Mackinder theorized that whichever nation ruled the “World-Island” of Africa, Asia, and Europe would “command the world.” One hundred and nine years later, in Astana, Kazakhstan, Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping made his move, declaring himself the prophet and China the engine of Afro-Eurasian integration. The era of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) diplomacy had begun.
The World-Island quickly proved too small for Xi’s vision. One month after the Astana speech, Xi went to Jakarta to announce that China would “strengthen maritime cooperation with ASEAN countries … and vigorously develop maritime partnership in a joint effort to build the Maritime Silk Road.” In January, Foreign Minister Wang Yi invited more than 30 Latin American and Caribbean nations to join the BRI. Days later, the State Council issued a white paper on China’s Arctic strategy whose final sentence encouraged Arctic Council members — which, unlike China, actually border the Arctic — to work with China to “participate in the governance of the Arctic, and advance Arctic-related cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative.”