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Research Report

China, Europe and the Maritime Silk Road

Frans-Paul van der Putten
Minke Meijnders
Copyright Date: Mar. 1, 2015
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 37
OPEN ACCESS
https://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep05402
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Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 7-8)

    As the world’s largest trading nation, China is responsible for approximately 10 per cent of the global trade in goods.² Most of these goods are transported by ship, and consequently China is a major destination and starting point of international shipping routes. Seven out of the ten busiest container ports in the world are located in China, with the port of Shanghai being the world’s largest.³ Against this background, it is not surprising that China plays an active part in international shipping. Three Chinese shipping companies are among the twelve largest container transporters.⁴ China is the third-largest ship-owning nation,⁵ and...

  2. (pp. 9-17)

    The Chinese government regards the port of Piraeus in Greece as the main entry point for Chinese exports into the Southern, Eastern and Central EU, as well as the key hub for seaborne transportation across and around the Mediterranean Sea.14 In June 2014, China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang attended the China–Greece Marine Cooperation Forum and visited the port of Piraeus, which is partly operated by the Chinese state-owned firm COSCO. Li referred to COSCO’s involvement in Piraeus as a ‘pearl’ in Sino–Greek cooperation,15 and stated China’s ambition to help turn Piraeus into ‘China’s gateway into Europe’, to make...

  3. (pp. 18-24)

    Besides constructing and operating ports, China also deploys several activities at sea, both commercial and military.

    China is a major player in several commercial maritime sectors. As was mentioned in the introduction, it leads in shipbuilding: in 2013 China built 41 per cent of the world’s new ships, followed by Korea and Japan. It mostly builds dry bulk ships (57 per cent of tonnage delivered), oil tankers (18 per cent) and container ships (14 per cent).78 These include high-tech ships such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) ships, very large gas carrier (VLGC) ships, super-large container ships, duplex stainless steel chemical...

  4. (pp. 25-32)

    The activities outlined above give a broad picture of Chinese involvement along the China–Europe sea lanes. The question that emerges is whether China has a broader strategic aim underlying all of these activities, and what their relevance is for Europe.

    The Maritime Silk Road, as envisioned by China, will greatly improve connections between the western Pacific, the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, between South Asia and East Africa, and between East Asia and Europe.118 However, this is merely the maritime dimension of a broader strategic framework that China refers to as One Belt, One Road. The other main...

  5. (pp. 33-34)

    China’s Maritime Silk Road is not aimed primarily at changing China’s role in international shipping, but rather is part of a highly ambitious long-term programme for the economic integration of a vast zone that comprises Europe, Africa and most of Asia, including Russia, on the basis of infrastructure development. There are many possible developments that could disrupt China’s plans – which are still undefined and at a very early stage – including domestic changes within China, opposition from other countries, or unforeseen economic or technological challenges. It therefore remains to be seen whether and how this programme evolves after the...