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Gaining and Maintaining Access by Diplomatic and Economic Means: The Implications of China's Belt and Road Initiative

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[Technical Report, Monograph]

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Chinas Belt and Road Initiative BRI is often portrayed as a grand design to displace US presence by diplomatic and economic means, but perhaps this interpretation is exaggerated. Indeed, Chinas vision for the twenty-first century entails national rejuvenation by 2049. Should Chinas vision succeed, Americans should be concerned, as Chinas authoritarian system directly conflicts with US interests and values. A critical aspect of Chinas strategic approach is using non-military means through its BRI to gain and maintain access to strategic regions. Yet, despite the seeming effectiveness in gaining influence through non-military means, diplomacy and economics alone have distinct limitations. This monograph evaluates the effectiveness of diplomatic and economic instruments in gaining and maintaining access to desired theaters via Pakistan in two case studies. The first assesses US use of diplomatic and economic means after September 11, 2001 to gain and maintain operational access for the conduct of Operation Enduring Freedom. The second seeks to understand how Chinas use of diplomatic and economic activity through the BRI allow it to gain and maintain operational access to South Asia and the Indian Ocean. Ultimately, this monograph argues that perceptions of national interests are more important in determining a nations relationship with great powers than merely the diplomatic and economic instruments such powers can orchestrate. Where interests align, diplomacy and economics can help achieve operational access but where interests diverge, these instruments are unlikely to have the desired effects and tend to produce resentment at perceived violations of national sovereignty.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
  • Government and Political Science

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[A, Approved For Public Release]