This report aims to assess how the Chinese involvement in ports along the Asia–Europe maritime corridor – from the South China Sea to the Mediterranean Sea – is relevant for the European Union (EU), in particular when seen in the context of the One Belt, One Road concept.
The Chinese government is currently developing an ambitious programme of maritime infrastructure construction along the main Asia–Europe shipping route. China’s initiative for a so-called ‘21st Century Maritime Silk Road’ is aimed at port development in South-East Asia, around the Indian Ocean and in the eastern Mediterranean region. The Silk Road Economic Belt initiative, that has been launched earlier, is aimed at infrastructure cooperation in a zone that stretches from Xinjiang (the north-western part of China) to the Baltic Sea. The Chinese government uses the term ‘One Belt, One Road’ to refer to the combination of these two initiatives.
This ‘One Belt, One Road’ concept has significant consequences for the European Union, which are explored in this report. One possible consequence could be that China will have increasing leverage over the trade routes between China and the EU. Another potential consequence could be that Europe’s role as a hub in international transport and logistics decreases to the benefit of other regions such as Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and China itself. Indeed, while both of these consequences are likely to occur, it is not clear to what extent this might be the case. In order to gain a better understanding of such developments, this report outlines China’s involvement in maritime infrastructure, as well as the broader context of its role in shipping and railways between China and Europe.