China’s Maritime Silk Road – Strategic and Economic Implications for the Indo-Pacific Region



Nicholas Szechenyi, Zack Cooper, Matthew Funaiole, Jesse Barker Gale, Jonathan Hillman, Gurmeet Kanwal, Harsh V. Pant, Gregory B. Poling and Andrew Shearer

China unveiled the concept for the TwentyFirst Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) in 2013 as a development strategy to boost infrastructure connectivity throughout Southeast Asia, Oceania, the Indian Ocean, and East Africa. The MSR is the maritime complement to the Silk Road Economic Belt, which focuses on infrastructure development across Central Asia. Together these initiatives form the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative designed to enhance China’s influence across Asia.

There is a shortage of infrastructure investment to meet the needs of developing nations across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region and most nations have welcomed the opportunity to bid for Chinese funding. At the same time, there are growing questions about the economic viability and the geopolitical intentions behind China’s proposals. Thus far MSR initiatives have mainly been concentrated in the littoral states of the Indo-Pacific region, especially port-development projects, which is raising questions about whether these investments are economic or military in nature. These large-scale investments are also structured in ways that invite questions about the potential for China to exert undo leverage over the domestic and foreign policies of heavily indebted recipient countries.

To shed light on some of these themes, CSIS has commissioned seven experts to unpack the economic and geostrategic implications of China’s infrastructure development across the Indo-Pacific region under the MSR. Their research is presented in this volume. The essays begin with analysis of four infrastructure projects, three by China under MSR and one by India as a counter to MSR. These are: Kyaukpyu (Myanmar), Hambantota (Sri Lanka), Gwadar (Pakistan), and Chabahar (Iran):