One Belt One Road: Chinese Power Meets the World

One Belt One Road: Chinese Power Meets the World

by Eyck Freymann


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In 2013, Chinese leader Xi Jinping announced a campaign for national rejuvenation. The One Belt One Road initiative, or OBOR, has become the largest infrastructure program in history. Nearly every Chinese province, city, major business, bank, and university have been mobilized to serve it, spending hundreds of billions of dollars overseas building ports and railroads, laying fiber cables, and launching satellites. Using a trove of Chinese sources, author Eyck Freymann argues these infrastructure projects are a sideshow. OBOR is primarily a campaign to restore an ancient model in which foreign emissaries paid tribute to the Chinese emperor, offering gifts in exchange for political patronage. Xi sees himself as a sort of modern-day emperor, determined to restore China’s past greatness.

Many experts assume that Xi’s nakedly neo-imperial scheme couldn’t possibly work. Freymann shows how wrong they are. China isn’t preying on victims, Freymann argues. It’s attracting willing partners—including Western allies—from Latin America to Southeast Asia to the Persian Gulf. Even in countries where OBOR megaprojects fail, Freymann finds that political leaders still want closer ties with China.

Freymann tells the monumental story of Xi’s project on the global stage. Drawing on primary documents in five languages, interviews with senior officials, and on-the-ground case studies from Malaysia to Greece, Russia to Iran, Freymann pulls back the veil of propaganda about OBOR, giving readers a page-turning world tour of the burgeoning Chinese empire, a guide for understanding China’s motives and tactics, and clear recommendations for how the West can compete.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674247956
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 11/17/2020
Series: Harvard East Asian Monographs , #439
Pages: 330
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Eyck Freymann is a DPhil candidate in China Studies at the University of Oxford. His work has been published or cited in the New York Times, The Economist, and The Atlantic.

Table of Contents

List of Maps, Figures, and Tables ix

Acknowledgments xiii

Note to the Reader xvii

List of Abbreviations xix

Introduction 1

Part I One Belt One Road

1 What Is Obor? 9

2 Origins: OBOR's Many Fathers 21

3 Emperor Xi: Making the Past Serve the Present 44

4 The Emperor's New Brand: Promoting OBOR at Home and Abroad 69

Part II Chinese Power Meets the World

5 Strategic Promiscuity: Sri Lanka Flirts with OBOR 95

6 The Skeptical Bulldozer: Tanzania Turns Away 130

7 The Eagle's Nest: China Prevails in Greece 160

8 OBOR Shapes Four Regions 193

Conclusion: How Should the West Respond? 230

Appendix A Official List of OBOR Countries 245

Appendix B Measuring OBOR's Size: Figures and Methodologies 247

Appendix C Selected Reading 250

Appendix D Citations of Key Chinese Sources 260

Notes 263

Bibliography 287

Index 321

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