For centuries the Indian Ocean was a vital conduit in the British empire, connecting colonies in South Asia with Africa as part of a vast imperial network. Today, the Indian Ocean once again plays as a vital role in an emerging global trading empire, this time China’s. Beijing is developing a strategic trading agenda known as the Maritime Silk Road that is part of its new, robust global strategic “One Belt, One Road” policy designed to link the PRC to the world’s major trading hubs in Africa, Central Asia, and the Persian Gulf, among others.
In Africa, the Chinese are rapidly building massive rail and port infrastructure projects in Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, and Tanzania. While it is not known if all of these various projects are part of a larger integration plan into the Maritime Silk Road, there is no doubt that once these new facilities are operational Chinese enterprises stand to gain significant benefits.
Separately, the Chinese navy is aggressively challenging the status quo on all sides of the Indian Ocean, simultaneously unnerving the region’s hegemonic powers in New Delhi, Washington, and London.
With so many countries bordering the Indian Ocean, the stakes for Africa are extremely high, according to a new report from the South African Institute of International Affairs. The report’s authors, Elizabeth Sidiropoulos and Chris Alden, join Eric and Cobus to discuss the new geopolitics of China, Africa, and the Indian Ocean.
- “Silk, Cinnamon and Cotton: Emerging Power Strategies for the Indian Ocean and the Implications for Africa,” Elizabeth Sidiropoulos and Chris Alden, South African Institute of International Affairs, June 18, 2015
- “China’s ‘Maritime Silk Road’: Don’t Forget Africa,” Shannon Tiezzi, The Diplomat, January 29, 2015
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