Rethinking Asia

Tutzing (Germany) ― An expert forum and newly launched publication broach the debate on the security and cooperation implications of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Photo: Oryk Haist

The Silk Road Economic Belt, is the “Belt” component of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and is changing the face of inter-state dialogue and cooperation between Asia and Europe. A new report launched at “Rethinking Asia,” an expert forum co-hosted by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) and Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in February, shows that the Belt, although an economic initiative, has wider security implications.

The BRI is an ambitious Chinese vision to promote infrastructural development and connectivity. Announced by Xi Jinping more than four years ago, it has an ostensibly economic character. Yet, the scope and scale of the planned undertakings have strategic implications in Central and South Asia, and for Europe.

The specific implications of the Belt component for cooperation and security were centre stage during the “Rethinking Asia” forum, which was held in Tutzing Germany on 13 and 14 February. Attendees included representatives from the European External Action Service, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, and the EU’s Special Representative to Central Asia, as well as senior officials, scholars, experts and civil society organizations from China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Does China’s Belt initiative advance or hamper inter-state dialogue and cooperation? And what are the governance implications for the participating states? These were two of the questions that directed discussions over the two conference days, and charted next steps.

On the occasion of the Forum, FES and SIPRI launched their joint report titled “Silk Road Economic Belt: Considering Security Implications and EU-China Cooperation Prospects.” The outcome of a one-year project by FES, the report examines the impact of the “Belt” on local and regional security and political dynamics in Central and South Asia, and its interactions with EU interests in the region.

Building on a number of recommendations that the joint SIPRI-FES report put forward for policy considerations at EU level, participants of “Rethinking Asia” explored additional cooperation avenues for China, EU, and local states to pursue mutual benefit, common development, and shared security.

“The next step is to prepare and publish a policy brief based on these recommendations and findings,”

says Knut Dethlefsen, of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung’s Department for Asia and the Pacific in Berlin, one of the authors of the planned policy brief expected to be published late March.

“We will continue working together with SIPRI also on this endeavour, with Dr Lora Saalman, of SIPRI’s China and Global Security Programme co-authoring the policy brief.”

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