CHINA’S BELT AND ROAD: DESTINATION EUROPE
The initiative has a land and a sea component, known respectively as the Silk Road Economic Belt and the TwentyFirst-Century Maritime Silk Road. The preferred abbreviation in China for the combined initiative is Belt and Road, also called One Belt, One Road, while outside the country it is often referred to as the New Silk Road. Unlike the original Silk Road, however, the new project is not predominantly about transportation infrastructure but about economic integration. The initiative does not attempt to unbundle production and consumption—the vision of the original Silk Road—but rather to unbundle different segments of the production chain. It attempts to create a set of political and institutional tools with which China can start to reorganize global value chains and stamp its imprint on the rules governing the global economy.
Europe cannot ignore this landmark Chinese project. How the European Union reacts to the initiative will have a decisive impact on what model of economic integration will be
adopted across the borderlands dividing Europe and China and, eventually, in the Eurasian supercontinent as a whole. Europe’s response to the Belt and Road should pursue a multipronged strategy of bargaining, containment, and balancing, as this is the most appropriate way to promote European interests and values.
AN ECONOMIC PROJECT?
Commentaries and analyses of the Belt and Road Initiative have made frequent reference to the Silk Road, the old camelpowered network of routes that linked Europe and Asia from the time of the Parthian Empire until the beginnings of the modern age. In official Chinese statements, such allusions no doubt try to capitalize on the evocative associations the name carries and a sense that China, the discoverer and keeper of the secret of silk manufacture, was also the great power