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Conceptualising China's New Silk Road Initiative: What 'World'? What 'People'? What 'Dramas'?

Wednesday 16 May 2018
Arsenaalstraat 1
2311 CT Leiden

Announced in 2013, China's New Silk Road (NSR), otherwise known as Belt & Road Initiative, is the only truly global geo-economic initiative so far into this century. First and foremost a geo-economic initiative, NSR has already had palpable geopolitical repercussions. The debates in the academic and think tank literature as to how one can conceptualize NSR is still raging. Scholars have begun to conceptualize NSR in terms of, inter alia, classical geopolitics, IPE, history, culture and civilization, a new Zeitgeist (Frankopan, 2015), discourse, connectivity, and in terms of the rise / return of China. One difficulty is that we do not have a well-developed theory or geo-economics. Therefore, this paper submits that the next best option is the literature on critical geopolitics. 

This paper argues that a (potentially) highly fruitful way in which to start to conceptualize NSR is 'critical geopolitics' ( Ó Tuathail, G Toal, 1996). More specific the paper adopts the approach duties by O Tuathail and Agnew (1996) that puts forth a new conceptualization of geopolitics. They argue that "[g] eopolitics is defined as a discursive practice by which intellectuals or statecraft 'spatialize' international politics and represent it as a 'world' characterized by particular types of places, people and dramas "(1996). Following their approach, this paper distinguishes between 'formal' and 'practical' geopolitics when it comes to NSR by investigating the Chinese international / formal discourse regarding NSR and what practical geopolitical measures have already been taken as illustrative points to shed light on the discourse.

Registration: Please register in advance at l-peg@hum.leidenuniv.nl to receive a copy of the paper.

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