The Structural Implications of Belt-and-Road Arbitration: China’s Legal Gamble across Eurasia

The Belt-and-Road Initiative is a grand vision about connectivity, infrastructure, trade and unimpeded FDI flows. It is a path to China’s largest export market – the European Union – which does not only propose to ‘transit’ Eurasia (and coastal East Africa), but to radically transform it along. And, thus, mere construction and outpours of capital do not suffice for such an ambitious project. The scale and depth of the Belt-and-Road Initiative require a substantial ‘investment’ in establishing a common normative nexus. For connectivity to actually exist as a functional feature of the project, it must also – on the long-term – take the shape of legal harmonization. Read more ...

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Tilting the East Asian Balance of Power: Japan’s Remilitarisation

Is remilitarisation a bad thing? It may be in an ideal world where power politics do not exist and geopolitical constraints do not shape state behaviour. However, in a world dominated by realist considerations, the argument can go both ways. Essentially, whether militarisation is considered a bad or a good thing depends on the vantage point of the one who asks the question. If Japan were to rearm itself, however, it may be argued from the same vantage point that this would be a good and a bad thing at the same time. Read more ...

The Strategy of Influence behind China’s Belt and Road Initiative

China has systematically presented its Belt and Road – or One Belt, One Road – Initiative (BRI) as an international development project, destined to build a “community with a shared future for mankind” throughout Eurasia and beyond. In official discussions and statements, Beijing has carefully avoided the word “strategy,” which might have created the impression that the generous offer of massive investments in infrastructure along the new Silk Road conceals in reality an imperial and hegemonic design. Nonetheless, suspicions as to the real motifs of the BRI persist, especially in light of the Chinese military buildup and reforms undertaken in recent years. Read more ...

Three Take-Outs from the Central Asian Presidential Meeting

On 15th of March, the close celebration of Nowruz brought together in Astana the heads of four of the five Central Asian states, with the notable exception of Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, president of Turkmenistan, who was instead represented by the speaker of the Parliament, Akja Nurberdyeva. Hosted by Kazakhstan, at the initiative of the Uzbek president, Shavkat Mirziyoev, the summit was praised post factum as a significant step for closer regional cooperation. Read more ...

At the Edge of Europe: Stabilizing the Balkans through Geoeconomic Regionalism

Just like a century ago – and throughout their entire history – the Balkans remain a zone of structural instability. In this respect, the demise of the Cold War confrontation (and rhetorics) did not bring along the advent of a stable, rule-based environment. Therefore, although the Balkan area is an essentially coherent cultural sub-space, while still being radically diverse, the relations of its constituent states have been marked by a confuse set of bilateral – and adversarial – interactions. Read more ...

Recommendation | A Pivot to Europe: China’s Belt-and-Road Balancing Act

In the international agora, China is increasingly reaching out to Europe. Driven both by economic necessities and strategic imperatives, a grand design for crossing (and transforming) Asia has been advanced: the Belt-and-Road Initiative. As they share a common (extended) neighbourhood in the Middle East and Central Asia, the two actors’ manner of interaction – cooperative or adversarial – shall define the future of the region. Read more ...

At the Far Ends of the Silk Road | A DAVA Review of 2017

The present publication marks the first period of our activity as a think-tank specialized in international affairs along the Silk Road. It consists of seven reports – a selection of the best contributions of our experts from the past year – that deal with pressing issues of the moment, but which will – undoubtedly – shape the strategic environment in 2018. These are the problems of today, but the roots of tomorrow’s challenges. Read more ...

Chinese-Serbian Economic Cooperation: Sudden Wealth and a Game of Musical Chairs

Chinese investments in Serbia provide an interesting political and economic setting. From the Serbian perspective, a rising global power is offering formidable resources for development. These are coupled with sufficient geographical (and perhaps geopolitical) distance so as to appear merely and genuinely ‘business-oriented’. In a seemingly intensifying game of ‘musical chairs’ between strategic orientations of Serbia towards the EU/US and/or Russia, the Chinese offerings might indeed seem like an escapist dream. Yet, as recent events tend to show, the geopolitical distance is shrinking fast and China is likely to introduce its own chair into the game at one point. What remains to be seen is whether it will be too hot for Serbia to sit on when the time comes. Read more ...

Recommendation: Left Behind? Reassessing the Balkan Quest for EU Integration

At the fringes of the European Union, but entirely engulfed by it, the Balkan countries have set upon their quest for integration ever since the late ‘90s. In their lasting interaction, the partners have engaged in an often inconsistent negotiation framework that moved from the idea of ‘sharing everything but institutions’ to a more cautious approach, dominated by (im)patience and mutual demands that did not generate any tangible outcome. Read more ...

China’s Offering in the Western Balkans

China’s role in the contemporary international order has exponentially grown over the past decade and has culminated with president Xi’s announcement of the ‘millennium project’: One Belt One Road (or the Belt and Road Initiative).  Considering that no country is currently offering such an ambitious endeavor to the world in the near future, China has underlined its leading position in the global agora. And a key role in the revitalization of the ancient Silk Road was put forward for the Western Balkan countries. Read more ...