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Silk Roads and Bullet Trains

Gerald Chan

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Understanding China’s New Diplomacy

Silk Roads and Bullet Trains

Gerald Chan

What is China’s high-speed rail diplomacy? What is China’s infrastructure diplomacy? How do they relate to each other and to the country’s Belt and Road Initiative? Can China finance the numerous projects around the world under the initiative? This book assesses the important implications of China’s new diplomacy for the global political economy. It argues that a new developmental path called ‘geo-developmentalism’ is in the making: China plays a leading role in promoting growth and building connections across Eurasia and beyond.
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Introduction

Silk Roads and Bullet Trains

Gerald Chan

Chapter 1 introduces the book, lays out its organisation, and highlights its contributions to the existing literature.

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The New Silk Road

Silk Roads and Bullet Trains

Gerald Chan

Chapter 2 asks what is the ‘New Silk Road’ or ‘one belt, one road’ initiative? It provides a contextual background to the rest of the book. It posits ten puzzles about the ‘one belt, one road’ initiative, including the origins of the initiative and the tricky balance between the inland route and the maritime route, and hence between the continental order and the maritime order in geopolitics. By solving the ten puzzles, I hope readers will get a clearer and better understanding of the initiative that goes beyond what is readily available in the media.

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China’s high-speed rail diplomacy

Silk Roads and Bullet Trains

Gerald Chan

Chapter 3 asks what is China’s high-speed railway diplomacy? It points out that China’s high-speed rail is a major infrastructure connection, among many others being proposed or constructed under the ‘one belt, one road’ initiative. China now has the longest high-speed rail network in the world, and it has started to actively export its high-speed rail products and technologies. Yet there is little or no in-depth academic study of this phenomenon and its global impacts. This chapter fills this void. It shows that China’s global high-speed rail development is part and parcel of the country’s infrastructure diplomacy, which in turn is a core component of its ‘one belt, one road’ initiative. The chapter argues that the potential impacts of such a worldwide enterprise on global development would be huge, in terms of international political economy, geopolitics, power shifts and social relations.

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Gerald Chan

Chapter 4 asks why and how has China risen to become such a competitive industrial power in high-speed rail construction, all within about a decade or so, despite the fact that the country is a real latecomer to the industry. The country’s high-speed rail network now takes up over 65% of the total global mileage. How did China turn itself around from a position of knowing very little about high-speed rail systems to leading the world in the field? What explains this great technological leap forward? To what extent can other countries learn from China’s experience, especially those which want to develop their own high-speed rail system? This chapter puts forward ten reasons to explain China’s rise. It argues that answers to the questions will have a huge impact not only on technology transfer, but also on the generation of global wealth and its distribution.

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Financing infrastructure projects

Silk Roads and Bullet Trains

Gerald Chan

Chapter 5 asks some of the most fundamental questions about China’s ‘one belt, one road’ initiative: Where is the money coming from? How does China finance the various infrastructure projects that it has initiated under the plan since 2014? What are the impacts of such infrastructure developments on the global financial system? Is a new international financial order in the making? This chapter argues that the scale of change in global developmental financing as a result of the implementation of the plan does point to the making of a relatively new global financial architecture. The main reason is that China has reached a consensus with international financial institutions and other countries that there is a dire need for infrastructure developments in many parts of the world, so as to sustain healthy economic growth. China is able to show to other stakeholders that it has the financial and human resources as well as the political will to do so.

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Gerald Chan

Chapter 6 asks how do other countries see China’s ‘one belt, one road’ initiative, especially those in Asia, including Japan, South Korea and Taiwan? Different countries apparently have different responses, ranging from highly supportive to highly negative with many variations in between. In terms of significance to the success or otherwise of the initiative, the attitudes and behaviour of three countries stand out: the US, Russia and India. The Sino-US relationship is arguably the most important bilateral relationship in the world, as the US is the sole superpower and China is a fast-rising global power. Russia and India are important because of their strategic positions along the paths of the ‘belt and road’ connecting China with Europe: Russia occupies a pivotal position in China’s New Silk Road on land via Central Asia, while India occupies a similarly important position in relation to China’s new maritime Silk Road along the Indian Ocean.

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Theorising ‘one belt, one road’

Silk Roads and Bullet Trains

Gerald Chan

Chapter 7 asks how can we theorise China’s ‘one belt, one road’ initiative? It argues that a new theory emerges from China’s implementation of the initiative, based on the empirical analyses presented in the foregoing chapters. I call this new theory ‘geo-developmentalism’ or, alternatively, ‘neo-functionalism with Chinese characteristics’. I shall explain why I do so. I shall also trace the growth and development of such a theory, which complements as well as challenges the existing model of development championed by the West under the Bretton Woods system. This chapter spells out the core elements that make up this theory, based on evidence found in the launching of various mega infrastructure projects. These elements include: a win-win formula, infrastructure building, connectivity, geo-economics and geopolitics, cooperation, non-interference, new finance, new institutions, a functional approach and a working peace system.

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Conclusion

Silk Roads and Bullet Trains

Gerald Chan

Chapter 8, the concluding chapter, draws together the findings from the previous chapters. It tries to project a little into the future as to the likely development of China’s ‘one belt, one road’ initiative based on developments in the recent past and on visible current trends. To do this, the chapter will re-examine the ten conundrums of Chinese foreign policy that I have framed previously, in light of China’s new diplomacy of the ‘belt and road’ initiative.