The Impact of China’s Belt and Road Initiative : From Asia to Europe book cover
1st Edition

The Impact of China’s Belt and Road Initiative
From Asia to Europe

ISBN 9780815396109
Published December 1, 2019 by Routledge
266 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This book merges macro- and micro-level analysis of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to dissect China’s aim in creating an integrated Eurasian continent through this single mega-project.

BRI has been the source of much interest and confusion, as established frameworks of analysis seek to understand China’s intentions behind the policy. China’s international activity in the early 21st century has not yet been successfully theorised by IR scholars because of a failure to satisfactorily encompass its complexity. In addition, the mix-and-match syncretism of the Chinese approach to foreign policy has been under-emphasised or omitted in many analyses. Bringing together complexity thinking and analytic eclecticism to assess the degree to which this scheme can transform international relations, Garlick critically examines this large-scale interconnectivity project and its potential impacts.

The book will be of interest to scholars and practitioners in the field of international relations and China studies including academics, policy-makers and diplomats around the world.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The role of the Belt and Road Initiative in China’s international relations

Introduction: the complex and multifaceted rise of China

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI): China’s ‘new silk roads’

Reactions to the BRI as frames of interpretation

Developing a theoretical-methodological approach for the Belt and Road

Organisation and contribution of the book


Chapter 2: Theorising the Belt and Road Initiative

2.1 Introduction: how to theorise the BRI’s complexity?

2.2 China’s flexible, syncretic approach to policy-making in a complex world: implications for the BRI

2.3 Theory 1: Tang Shiping’s social evolution paradigm (SEP)

2.4 Theory 2: Neo-Gramscian hegemony

2.5 Theory 3: Offensive mercantilism

2.6 Complex eclecticism: a theoretical-methodological framework for analysing the BRI below the macro-level



Chapter 3: Complex eclecticism

3.1 Introduction: why complex eclecticism?

3.2 Sil and Katzenstein’s analytic eclecticism: strengths and weaknesses

3.3 International relations (IR) theoretical schools: mainstream, non-mainstream and non-Western

3.4 Moving from inter-paradigm debates to conceptual toolkits

3.5 Complexity theory / complexity thinking (CT)

3.6 Incompleteness and difficulty: an impasse or a way forward for IR theory?

3.7 The problem of complex systems in IR

3.8 An outline of CT’s conceptual toolkit

3.8.1 Nonlinearity / sensitivity to initial parameters

3.8.2 Feedback loops

3.8.3 Emergence / self-organisation

3.8.4 Tipping points / edge of chaos

3.8.5 Black swans

3.8.6 Path dependence

3.9 Conclusion: combining complexity and eclecticism to analyse the BRI


Chapter 4: Applying complex eclecticism to the Belt and Road Initiative

4.1 Introduction

4.2 Interdependence, institutions and non-state actors

4.3 Power, states and anarchy

4.4 Norms, ideas and intersubjectivity

4.5 Non-mainstream concepts: harmony of interests / world society / relationalism / patriarchal authoritarianism / economic inequality / natural environment

4.6 Complexity theory / complexity thinking (CT)

4.7 Conclusion


Chapter 5: The characteristics of the Belt and Road Initiative

5.1 Introduction

5.2 The emerging characteristics of the Belt and Road Initiative

5.2.1 The Belt and Road is supposed to encompass over 60 countries in Asia and Europe

5.2.2 The Belt and Road is intended to improve connectivity across Eurasia, primarily by focusing on improving transport and energy infrastructure, with the other stated goals probably being subsidiary

5.2.3 The Belt and Road contains two main routes, the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and the Maritime Silk Road (MSR)

5.2.4 The Belt and Road contains sub-projects

5.2.5 The Belt and Road is a continuation of previous official Chinese government policies

5.2.6 The BRI is Xi Jinping’s flagship foreign policy initiative, and thus closely associated with his leadership

5.2.7 The BRI involves the use of institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the Silk Road Fund, and regional forums

5.2.8 The Belt and Road is intended to have appeal for foreign audiences as well as the domestic Chinese one, thus boosting China’s soft power abroad and legitimacy at home

5.2.9 The Belt and Road is ambitious, large-scale, loose, and vague

5.2.10 The BRI is intended to achieve win-win cooperation among participating nations

5.3 Conclusion: unpacking the implications


Chapter 6: The Belt and Road Initiative’s regional impacts

6.1 Introduction

6.2 Central Asia

6.2.1 Applying the complex eclecticism toolkit to Central Asia

6.3 Central and Eastern Europe (CEE)

6.3.1 Applying the complex eclecticism toolkit to CEE

6.4 Southeast Asia

6.4.1 Applying the complex eclecticism toolkit to Southeast Asia

6.5 South Asia

6.5.1 Applying the complex eclecticism toolkit to South Asia

6.6 The Middle East

6.6.1 Applying the complex eclecticism toolkit to the Middle East

6.7 Conclusions


Chapter 7: Assessing the impacts of China’s Belt and Road Initiative

7.1 Introduction

7.2 Summary of the findings in Chapters 4-6

7.3 Assessing complex eclecticism

7.4 Assessing the macro-level theories

7.5 The Belt and Road’s global implications

7.6 Conclusion: the Belt and Road Initiative into the future


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Jeremy Garlick is an Assistant Professor at the Jan Masaryk Institute of International Studies, University of Economics in Prague, specialising in China’s international relations. He lived in China between 2008 and 2010, and again between 2013 and 2015, working at the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. He also lived in South Korea for five years, teaching at several universities and institutes. He first arrived in the Czech Republic in 1994, where he taught at Masaryk University of Brno for three years, and speaks fluent Czech. In 2014 he obtained his Ph.D. in Political Science from Palacký University in Olomouc, Czech Republic. He has published papers in peer-reviewed impact journals and more than a hundred articles in major English-language newspapers in China, the UK and South Korea.


"Jeremy Garlick’s book presents a comprehensive and unique theoretic approach based on rich and solid empirical studies to understand the BRI, China’s flagship foreign policy under President Xi Jinping. The theoretical-methodological framework, or what he calls 'complex eclecticism' in this book, creatively utilizes a set of conceptual stepping stones to bridge the gap between the confusing, multi-regional empirical reality of the BRI and existing grand theories from the IR literature. The result is a remarkable book that both foreign policy observers and international relations scholars cannot afford to miss." Suisheng Zhao, Professor of International Studies, University of Denver, and Editor, Journal of Contemporary China

"A tightly researched, lucid account that should stand out amidst the growing literature on this subject. The book dissects BRI’s diverse, often loosely connected, multi-country projects, making the central story accessible to both international affairs specialists and the general reader." Kishan S. Rana, Honorary Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi; Public Policy Scholar, Woodrow Wilson Centre, Washington DC; former ambassador and diplomat with service in China; served as a joint secretary on the staff of PM Indira Gandhi (1981–82); author of eleven books on diplomacy

"Within the mushrooming academic literature on the Belt and Road Initiative, this ambitious book stands out as it achieves something remarkable: it offers a truly original perspective on its sources, mechanisms and implications. Embedding a meticulously systematic and analytically rigorous assessment of BRI in the critically important debates and scholarship in the discipline of international relations, Jeremy Garlick provides intellectually impressive and as comprehensive as possible evaluation of what is certainly one of the great puzzles of global politics today. This book is an important contribution to the understanding of China's foreign policy and China's evolving relationship with the world." Dragan Pavlićević, Department of China Studies, Xi'an Jiaotong – Liverpool University

"Jeremy Garlick’s book offers a unique theoretical understanding of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. The complex eclectic framework serves as a vehicle for deeper discussions on Xi Jinping’s proposal. The book uses three types of theoretical understanding: Tang Shiping with the social evolution paradigm, through Robert Cox with neo-Gramscianism, and Jonathan Holstag’s offensive mercantilism. Thus, the book explains the Chinese proposal from very different perspectives. Going into more detailed scope of understanding Jeremy Garlick presents an eclectic approach of combination of almost all IR schools and discusses BRI from very different angles. The presented approach is very Chinese in the sense that the Chinese culture is all about finding middle ground, based on everlasting processes and not-fixed principles, being always flexible. And, in fact, this understanding also refers to the Chinese theory of Chinese (ethical) knowledge as the foundation, Western knowledge (and technology) for practical application of zhong wei ti, xi wei yong (中为体,西为用). This in fact shows the Chinese flexible and pragmatic approaches, as does the book. The complex eclectic framework shows that BRI is a multidimensional, multilevel and multidirectional proposal that serves China’s global aspirations and Xi Jinping’s desire for China’s future role in the world. Going beyond the eclectic framework, the book presents a necessary theoretical toolbox from which each of us can take the most suitable approach towards understanding the Belt and Road Initiative." Dominik Mierzejewski, Associate Professor, Department of Asian Studies, Faculty of International and Political Studies, Chair at Center for Asian Affairs (university-based think-tank), University of Lodz, Poland

"Garlick provides a deep and refined understanding of China's Belt and Road Initiative that is often over-simplified by media pundits as well as the mainstream IR theorists. He shows the complexity of China's rise and the fluidity of its theoretical implications. He makes the case that eclecticism and interdisciplinarity is the future of IR studies." Jessica C. Liao, Assistant Professor of Political Science, North Carolina State University

"This book provides a stimulating discussion on the relationship between two complex and difficult subjects: international relations theory and China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The book challenges conventional thinking on these subjects and deserves to be read by both scholars of international relations and of China’s changing role in the world." Duncan Freeman, Research Fellow, College of Europe, EU-China Research Centre, Department of EU International Relations and Diplomacy Studies