Over the next 15 years, more hard infrastructure is projected to be built around the world than currently exists. As our infrastructure is transformed, so will be the economies it fuels, the regions it connects, and the global commons it underpins. These trends are too powerful and potentially beneficial for the United States to stop, and too consequential to ignore.
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In February, following a protracted dispute, Djibouti unilaterally terminated a container terminal contract with Dubai-based DP World. The strategically located country on the Horn of Africa may gift control of the terminal to Chinese companies, which inaugurated a free trade zone in the same area earlier this month. The terminal is located just miles from the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa and even closer to China’s only foreign military base. “If the Chinese took over that port, then the consequences could be significant,” the top U.S. military official in Africa said during a congressional hearing in March.
Earlier this month, the leaders of Japan and India paused to lay the foundation stone for a high-speed railway. Shinzo Abe was visiting Narendra Modi’s home state, where a 500-kilometer bullet train using Japanese financing and technology will link Mumbai and the industrial city of Ahmedabad. Modi called Japan “a true friend” and the train a “symbol of new India.” Abe agreed, saying, “The project symbolizes India-Japan friendship.” It also illustrates the high-stakes competition underway to connect the Eurasian supercontinent. China has stolen the spotlight, but other regional powers are not standing still.
Since the rise of Europe’s colonial powers in the sixteenth century, Asia’s economic activity has been concentrated on its coastlines. But that could change as China, Japan, Russia and other regional powers connect Asia internally and with Europe by reaching across the Eurasian landmass.
China’s biggest diplomatic event of the year was on May 14–15, when President Xi Jinping welcomed leaders from 28 countries and delegates from 110 countries at the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing. For expert insights from Christopher K. Johnson, Matthew P. Goodman, and Jonathan E. Hillman click here.