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Call for Papers

China’s New Silk Roads: Connections, Interactions and Consequences

China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) issued its Vision and Actions on Jointly Building the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road in March 2015. This vision aims to connect Asia, Europe and Africa along five routes, improve ports and routes for better maritime connections, and strengthen collaboration to create six international economic corridors (see Figure 1), namely (i) New Eurasia Land Bridge, (ii) China – Mongolia – Russia, (iii) China – West Asia – Central Asia, (iv) China – Pakistan, (v) China – Indochina Peninsula, and (vi) Bangladesh – China – India – Myanmar. We refer to this vision either as China’s New Silk Roads or as the Belt and Road initiative, where the ‘belt’ refers to economic and overland transport routes and the ‘road’ refers to a network of maritime routes connecting regions through Chinese sea ports.

Figure 1 The New Silk Road Economic Corridors

The Belt and Road initiative focuses on improving infrastructure connections, policy coordination, unimpeded trade flows, financial integration, and open dialogue between different cultures. A US$40 billion Silk Road Fund has been established to finance the Belt and Road initiative, in which the newly established Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank will also play a role. The number of countries involved in the Belt and Road initiative, which always centers around China, is not fixed and varies per document (see Herrero, A.G., and J. Xu (2016), “China’s Belt and Road initiative: can Europe expect trade gains?”, Bruegel Working Paper, issue 5, 2016). Since the New Economic Land Bridge, which ends in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, plays a central role in the initiative, as is evident from Figure 1, we follow Herrero and Xu and include the EU-28 countries as part of the Belt and Road initiative.

Table 1 Belt and Road country group overview (percent of world total in parentheses)

Table 1 provides an overview of the size of the Belt and Road initiative, sub-divided at the World Bank regional level, in terms of the number of countries involved, their land area, their population, and their income level. There are 72 Belt and Road countries, together accounting for about 40% of the world’s land area and 60% of the world’s population (mainly in East Asia and South Asia) and the world’s income level (mainly in Europe and East Asia). The group of other countries, that is non-Belt and Road countries, is concentrated in the Americas and Africa, but also consists of a number of countries in the Pacific and Asia. This special issue of CJRES analyses the connections, interactions, and consequences of China’s New Silk Roads along four main lines of analysis:

Trade and investment flows

  • The consequences for trade- and investment flows for countries and regions included in the Belt and Road initiative, such as China, Central Asia, and Europe.
  • The consequences for trade and investment flows for countries and regions excluded from the Belt and Road initiative, such as Africa or the Americas.
  • The relationship with physical geography

  • Are there serious environmental consequences of the Belt and Road initiative?
  • If climate change enables the opening up of a northern maritime route for large parts of the year, then how useful is it to invest in the Belt and Road initiative?
  • Urbanization and agglomeration

  • To what extent can we expect the Belt and Road initiative to affect the international distribution of spatial activity in terms of urbanization and agglomeration?
  • To what extent can we expect the Belt and Road initiative to have within-country spatial consequences for some of the core countries, such as China?
  • Geo-political consequences

  • What are the geo-political consequences of more cooperation within Eurasia, also in light of recent democratic election results (Brexit in the UK, Duterte in the Philippines, and Trump in the USA), hinting at de-globalisation sentiments (no TPP and no TTIP)?
  • To what extent does the Belt and Road initiative strengthen the global role of China in international organisations, through AIIB and other organisations?
  • To what extent are the Eurasian countries involved in the Belt and Road initiative also supportive of the initiative, as it puts more power in the hands of China and Russia?
  • Guidelines for submissions

    Authors interested in contributing to this special issue are invited to submit Abstracts of up to 400 words by email to Francis Knights at landecon-cjres@lists.cam.ac.uk no later than 1 September 2017. Selected authors will be invited to submit papers following the Editors’ selection from the Abstracts. Full papers would be due by 1 February 2018, and all submissions will be subject to the formal peer review process. A selection of papers will be presented and discussed at a two-day workshop at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands in February 2018. Accepted papers would be included in the special issue, scheduled for publication in March 2019.

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