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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

Not Just a Bridgehead: EU’s (Possible) Vision for Taiwan

From a geoeconomic perspective, Taiwan represents a hot spot that unites the flows of goods and capital from near mainland China, from the South-East Asian cauldron, as well as a bridgehead for Western transoceanic commerce and investment. Not truly an island (in the sense of isolation), but a focal meeting point between two seas and an (open) ocean, Taiwan strategically lies in one of the best positions in opening up the Asian markets to larger influxes of EU-based products and capital. Read more ...

The Abe Doctrine’s Future in a Challenging Security Environment

The “Abe Doctrine,” set out in a speech by the Japanese Prime Minister on January 18, 2013, is indeed revolutionary since it revisits Japan’s role in international affairs and means to reassert the country’s position as a regional great power.  Yet, it may set in motion forces inside and outside of the country with considerable geopolitical and economic implications. The challenges that this strategic doctrine faces today are clearly visible in the context of the nuclear proliferation crisis in Asia. Read more ...

A (Legally) Turbulent Affair: The Textile Industry in Uzbekistan

When thinking where to invest next, Uzbekistan would not necessarily rank first among your options. Nonetheless, a constant high cotton production, low-wage workforce, a relative proximity to the largest  markets, combined with a (seemingly) supportive state agricultural policy and incentives for investors made Uzbekistan’s textile industry an attractive business venue. However, as always, there is another side of the coin. This Mercantile Digest analyzes the challenges (legal and political) of Uzbekistan’s textile industry, while also offering advice for investors in order to prepare themselves in such a delicate economic environment. Read more ...

The European Union’s Perennial Turkish Dilemma

Given their geopolitical position and economic interdependence, in all likelihood, Turkey and the European Union (still) have much to offer each other. Going back from the establishment of the modern republic on the ruins of the former Ottoman Empire, throughout the long Cold War years, and then in the post-9/11 era, Turkey’s officially stated position in the liberal world order has been that of an aspiring Western power and European partner, with Islamic characteristics. Read more ...

Geopolitical Influence on Media and Media Freedom in the Western Balkans

In the beginning of the ‘2000s, media in the Western Balkans failed to face problems of corruption, manipulation and political propaganda that – in time – evolved to be an easy target for external actors and open possibilities for increasing their soft power in certain countries and, therefore, in the entire region. This brief aims to analyze how globally (or regionally) relevant powers – US, Russia and Turkey – are using the media in Western Balkan countries and its loopholes to maximize their geopolitical interests. Read more ...