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2 - Fragmented sovereignty and unregulated flows: The Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar corridor

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 November 2020

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Summary

Abstract

The concept of the Silk Road has recently been repackaged as a China-led inter-state enterprise that will lead to ‘a win-win attempt for all’. This technocratic utopia of superior infrastructure, smooth transport routes, and boosted trade should be challenged, because it ignores the countless flows and networks across Eurasia that states fail to control. The zone connecting China to India across Myanmar and Bangladesh exemplifies the obstacles that the broader scheme is generally likely to face: distrust, implementation deficits, fragmented sovereignty, sensitive spaces, and unregulated cross-border flows. In this chapter, it is argued that the plan, far from offering benign progress for all, will damage many livelihoods and lead to adverse political, environmental, and security outcomes.

Keywords: One Belt One Road, Belt and Road Initiative, BCIM corridor, aspiring sovereigns, social connectivity, India-China corridor

Introduction

Policymakers across Asia have become extremely excited about a novel initiative, OBOR (One Belt One Road). Launched by the People's Republic of China in 2013, the plan is also known as BRI (Belt and Road Initiative), or the New Silk Road. It promotes economic integration between China and the rest of Eurasia through investments in infrastructure, increased trade, and cultural exchange (Ngo and Hung, this volume). Playing on the ancient and nostalgic notion of the Silk Road, its publicity is full of romantic images of camel trains crossing deserts and ancient trade vessels braving the high seas (for example, Arif, 2013; China Economic Net, 2015; Gateway to Guangdong, 2015; Mao, 2015; Cheung and Lee, 2017; Silk Road Fund, 2017). The OBOR initiative signifies benign overland connectivity between China, Central Asia, West Asia, and Europe (the Silk Road Economic Belt) and maritime connectivity between China, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Northeast Africa, and Europe (the Maritime Silk Road).

At first sight, this may appear to be simply a 21st-century repackaging of ancient trade routes – now without caravans and junks but with railroads, highways, oil and gas pipelines, state-of-the-art seaports, giant container ships, and an ‘e-Silk Road’ (Silk Road Chamber of International Commerce, 2017).

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Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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