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.
Anyone interested in great power competition should read One Belt One Road, as Freymann combines extensive research with rigorous analysis to elucidate the PRC’s true intentions for global economic expansion. …Would be a welcome addition to syllabi for undergraduate curricula in political science, professional military education, and Chinese foreign relations disciplines.
Freymann cuts through the Western narrative about One Belt One Road to show that China is more often successfully attracting willing partners than preying on victims—a provocative conclusion that requires Western policymakers to think again.
Freymann’s expertly researched and accessible work helps clarify misconceptions and provides a coherent set of recommendations for policymakers. Required reading.
When is an overland road a ‘belt?’ Where is a maritime sea lane a ‘road?’ Answer: in the sloganeering ambition of China’s One Belt One Road initiative. But what is it? Is it ‘China’s Marshall Plan’? Is it a scheme for ‘debt-trap diplomacy’? Is it really new, or does it build on older aims and ideas? Eyck Freymann is our guide, and his beautifully written book escorts us by land and sea to Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Greece, and beyond to answer these questions and more. As the Michelin Guide notes when it awards three stars: this book ‘is worth a special journey.’
A brilliant book—lucid, sober, and thoughtful in its conclusions, it deserves to be read widely. Eyck Freymann cuts through the hype and brings light, not heat, to understanding how China combines diplomacy and economics. With a huge range of sources, he shows that One Belt One Road is likely to be neither a new Chinese empire nor simply a trade network. Essential reading.
The most sophisticated and illuminating piece of work on the Belt and Road.
Eyck Freymann sheds fresh light and understanding on the most important competition of the this century. With One Belt One Road, the author has earned his place as one of the foremost experts on the economic strategies of the Chinese Communist Party. In this impeccably researched and well-written book, Freymann corrects misunderstandings and provides coherent recommendations that, if implemented, with preserve America’s and the free world’s competitive advantages.
- 360 pages
- 6 x 9 inches
- Harvard University Asia Center
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