Eurasian Integration “a la Chinese”: Deciphering Beijing’s Vision for the Region as a “Community of Common Destiny”

Beijing’s vision of a 21st century version of the ancient Silk Roads was revealed during two speeches by Xi Jinping, one in Astana and the second in Jakarta, at the end of 2013.1 Kazakhstan and Indonesia were not chosen by mere chance, just one month apart as the official sites for the launch of the Chinese continental “belt” and maritime “road” ideas; rather they were selected as symbols of China’s renewed outreach to both its continental and maritime neighbors. Symbolism is also evidently at play in the Silk Road theme chosen by the Chinese leadership for what has now become the defining foreign policy concept of the Xi Jinping era. All the key elements in what, by March 2015, would formally become the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI)2 and would from then on be repeated in official speeches and rhetoric broadcast by the Chinese propaganda apparatus, were already laid out in Xi’s 2013 speeches. These include his vision of a Eurasian continent interconnected by “five links” (policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration, and people-to-people exchanges), bound by the “Silk Road Spirit,” and striving to build a “community of common destiny.”

Most international attention has so far been focused on Xi’s second “link” – infrastructure building –  and on whether, in spite of its own significant domestic economic problems, Beijing will be able to fulfill its promise of massive investment in the region, more than $1 trillion in total. Little attention has been devoted to the other “links” and to how, taken together, they comprise a Chinese vision for regional integration. The trans-Eurasian transportation network is, indeed, only the physical manifestation of China’s plan for deepening relations with its neighbors at all levels and only the first step in the creation of a regional order that will by 2049—the 100th anniversary of the founding of the PRC—integrate the economies of the Eurasian landmass and tie them more tightly to China.

The real purpose of BRI is as much geopolitical as it is economic, and supported by an intangible narrative being woven around the Initiative’s construction projects. Elements of what a revamped order might look like have discreetly emerged in concepts associated with BRI, most notably the “community of common destiny” and the “Silk Road spirit.” As innocuous as they might appear, these concepts give important indications of Beijing’s view of the regional order that BRI could call into existence, in terms of both the distribution of power within it and the norms that would govern a future Eurasian community. This narrative is a work in progress, but it is an essential component of China’s vision for itself as a great power and for its increased leadership role in the region.

The first section of this article describes past debates about China’s identity as a great power. The second examines the tenets of China’s preferred world order. The last deciphers the “community of common destiny” concept and shows how BRI offers a window into a future Sinocentric regional order.

China’s Great Power-ness in Debate

Ever since the foundation of the PRC, Chinese leaders have demonstrated an admirable consistency in the strategic goals they set for their country: in addition to defending national sovereignty and territorial integrity, Xi Jinping, like all his predecessors, aims at building a strong and prosperous nation that can regain its rightful place on the international stage. A risen China will inevitably disturb the international status quo, and the Chinese leadership would prefer to avoid conflict as a consequence of changes in the balance of power. China’s political and intellectual elite has been preparing for the country’s rise for almost four decades, scrutinizing its “comprehensive national power” and comparing it to others,3 studying its role in the world, debating its prospects for leadership, and trying to navigate around the so-called “Thucydides’s trap.” As David Shambaugh points out, it is remarkable that “few, if any, other major or aspiring powers engage in such a self-reflective discourse.”4

It is possible to discern a subtle but steady progression in the intellectual debate about China’s identity and role as a great power—from a largely introverted developing country, calmly “observing” and “biding time” (Deng Xiaoping’s foreign policy mantra was to “observe calmly, secure our position, cope with affairs calmly, hide our capacities and bide our time, maintain a low profile, and never claim leadership”) as it engages cautiously with the outside world, to a more proactive player seemingly ready to shape its regional environment according to its own desires. As Gilbert Rozman observes, China opted for great power identity in the 1990s, noting by the end of the decade that “of all the contenders in the quest for national identity […], the notion of China as a great power (daguo) has gained a clear-cut victory.”5 Since then, the internal conversation about China’s identity has continued to evolve. Debates were particularly intense during Hu Jintao’s first five-year term (2002–2007), a period marked by a gradually growing confidence about the upward trajectory of the nation’s power. China’s first open acknowledgement of its intention to achieve great power status appeared in 2003 in the form of the “peaceful rise” slogan, soon to be replaced by “peaceful development” and then by “harmonious world.”6 The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership’s sense of optimism and its anticipation of impending glory, already palpable as Beijing prepared to host the 2008 Olympic Games, was reinforced by the fallout from that year’s global financial crisis. In the eyes of Chinese analysts and policy makers, the crisis exposed the institutional and social flaws of the Western development model and provided a historic opportunity to promote changes in the international system.7 With the global center of gravity increasingly shifting toward Asia, the possibility of a multipolar world seemed close at hand. In this new world, China’s role and voice would inevitably be greater.8

The impending power shift to Asia prompted elites to sharpen their vision of what China’s role should now be and to develop an accompanying grand strategy that would better fit the new international context – and serve China’s interests. Options for China’s foreign policy priorities, the nature of its power, and the most desirable strategy for achieving a smooth power transition, were discussed at length. Overall, the proponents of a low-profile, prudent, and gradualist approach tended to lose ground as the debate progressed.9 Xi Jinping’s accession to the top leadership marked a shift to a more proactive foreign policy approach, following the 2009-10 rise in assertiveness. The Chinese leadership would “strive for achievement” in order to better defend its redefined “core interests.” 10 Days after his designation as general secretary of the CCP in November 2012 Xi pledged to realize the “Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the nation.”11

Whereas the rise of China may be assessed using material measures of national power, William Callahan writes that the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is a “moral narrative that seeks to correct what is seen as the historical injustice of the century of national humiliation and return China to its rightful place at the center of the world,” looking back to “the heyday  of imperial China as a model.”12 Xi’s China dream is about “revival” or “renewal,” which means regaining China’s past place as a great power, enthroned as the political, economic and cultural center of Asia. The BRI provides the closest approximation to date of what the region will look like once this vision is fulfilled, opening a window into the vision for a Eurasian continent whose economic and political map has been reshaped according to China’s own worldview, in its own image, and reflecting its own unique characteristics.

A Quintessentially Chinese Order 

As Christopher Ford notes, China’s discontent with the existing US-dominated world order has been a constant feature of official rhetoric for several years.13 Back in 2002, Jiang Zemin already lamented that “the old international political and economic order, which is unfair and irrational, has yet to be changed fundamentally.”14 Chinese analysts consider that what is called “globalization” should more accurately be referred to as “Westernization or Americanization,” a process that has enabled the West to dominate the world politically and economically. The existing international order’s prevailing norms and rules of interaction are considered as principally serving US hegemonic interests and as such, are “axiomatically” unfair to rising powers, including China.15 The Chinese leadership has recently become more vocal about the need for the existing order to adjust and adapt to the new distribution of global power, and more openly critical about the tenets of the current system. Fu Ying, director of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress, has for example argued on several recent occasions that the “old concepts” that underpinned the US-led world order (such as the rejection of nondemocratic governments and the building of military alliances that create exclusive blocs) have lost their relevance and that what is needed now is “new thinking to build a new global framework, or, we may use the term global order.”16 In the “natural order of things” China’s ascent to great power status will “lead to the creation of a new world system” that better reflects its own interests and values.17

Xi’s “China dream of the great rejuvenation of the nation” could not be complete with projected identity based solely on material strength. It requires an ideational dimension too: one that could be a credible substitute for failed Marxist-Leninist ideology, that would not present any challenge to CCP rule,18 and that would not just be a “countermodel” to the Western system19 but would offer to the world a uniquely Chinese paradigm.

To this end, intellectual elites have revisited the nation’s history and its traditional political and strategic culture for inspiration. They have drawn parallels between previous periods in Chinese history and contemporary world politics and borrowed from earlier thought to develop new concepts applicable to China’s 21st-century rise. Concepts have been “excavated and reconfigured” to construct a new “frame of reference for a modern Chinese identity,” which mixes historical narratives and repackaged traditions.20 Neo-Confucianism has made a remarkable return, and elites believe that China can use its traditional culture as a way to “radiate outward” across Asia.21 In a Politburo study session in January 2014, Xi demanded for example that “the charm of Chinese culture” be shown to the world and that “modern Chinese values” be disseminated.22 It is not yet clear, however, what these values are, nor how they could provide the basis for shared beliefs and norms across a region as culturally and politically diverse as the area covered by BRI.

A construct still in progress, China’s identity as a great power is, nevertheless, clearly based on a strong sense of exceptionalism.23 The official narrative is carefully crafted around the notion that because of its unique characteristics, China will be a great power entirely different from, and morally superior to, recent Western historical examples.24 China will not reproduce the exploitative and aggressive Western model, which has, by now, amply demonstrated its many flaws and shortcomings. The missionary character of the West, which seeks to spread its values (freedom, democracy, and human rights) and institutions, imposing them by force if necessary, has inevitably led to wars and military conquest. By contrast, China is portrayed by Chinese writers and political elites as inherently good, benevolent, and peaceful: "For several millennia, peace has been in the blood of us Chinese and a part of our DNA," declared Xi in his keynote speech at the United Nations office in Geneva this year.25 China rests on the rule of virtue and “humane authority”26 and favors “harmony with differences,”27 a concept often translated in official rhetoric as China’s willingness to benevolently let other countries follow their “own development path.”

These themes are now woven, almost as subliminal messages, into the narrative associated with BRI. According to the roadmap published by the Chinese government in March 2015, the values of “peace, mutual benefit and mutual learning, inclusiveness, and openness” are elements of the “Silk Road spirit” that has “been passed from generation to generation, promoted the progress of human civilization, and contributed greatly to the prosperity and development of the countries along the Silk Road.”28 A Xinhua editorial asserts that non-Chinese versions of new Silk Road initiatives, such as American and Japanese projects, “seek domination by preaching confrontation and excluding other contenders.” The editorial argues further that “unlike the great sea routes to the New World discovered by the European navigators that prompted bloody conquest and colonization, the Silk Road was always a road of peace.”29 BRI, infused with the Silk Road spirit, pledges respect for the right of all countries to “independently choose their social systems and development path.”30 In other words, it rejects political transformation and the promotion of democracy, considered as a cause of “color revolutions” and regional instability. In his opening speech to the BRI summit in Beijing in May 2017, Xi pledged that China has “no intention to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, export our own social system and model of development, or impose our own will on others. In pursuing the BRI, we will not resort to outdated geopolitical maneuvering.” China only hopes to create “a big family of harmonious co-existence.”31

Community of Common Destiny or Tianxia Redux?

References to a “Silk Road of peace and prosperity”32 that harkens back to a mythical past refurbished in order to fit Beijing’s contemporary purposes are not just empty talk. The Chinese leadership has not only demonstrated a remarkable determination to regain its rightful place as a great power, it is also increasingly showing its willingness to act as a “driving force in the reconstruction of the global economic governance system,” which “needs to be reformed and adjusted.” According to Fu Ying, BRI is the answer to this need: BRI will transform “the existing international system and will help its gradual evolution into a fairer and more inclusive structure.”33 The initiative is an attempt to reverse the Westernization process and to challenge US domination, explains prominent PLA strategist and adviser to the national security commission, General Peng Guangqian. In his view, BRI “does not limit the nature of a given country’s political system, is not underlined by ideology, does not create tiny circles of friends, does not set up trade protectionism, does not set up economic blockades, does not exercise control of other countries’ economic lifelines or change other countries’ political system.” In contrast to the existing international political and economic order, defined by “its inequality, its forcefulness and its exclusiveness,” and in which “military, financial and language superiority” are used for “selfish, predatory [and] mercenary” purposes, the Belt and Road strategic concept “upholds the Silk Road spirit of openness and tolerance where all countries, big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, are equal.”34 Similarly, in a thinly-veiled critique of Washington’s alliance treaties, Xi’s BRI Forum speech called for “a new type of international relations” based on “partnerships of dialogue with no confrontation and of friendship rather than alliance.”35

Whether subtle or forthright, China’s rejection of the US-led model and its expressions of dissatisfaction with the legitimacy and effectiveness of the current global governance system are increasingly difficult to ignore. But exactly what lies beyond this critique, and what kind of order Beijing would like to see emerge instead of the current one are more complicated to capture.36 BRI is now presented as China’s response to a pressing need for change. Tracking its associated concepts, such as the idea of a “community of common destiny,” and trying to understand their deeper meaning, can, therefore, give some indication of what kind of system the Chinese leadership would favor. 

Hu Jintao used the term community of common destiny (minyun gongtongti) in his 17th National Party Congress report in 2007 to describe the special relationship between the mainland and Taiwan, implying that two politically different entities could have reasonably good relations despite their dissimilarities.37 Xi first used the term at the April 2013 Boao Forum as he underlined to the (mostly Asian) participants the need for common development: “As members of the same global village, we should foster a sense of community of common destiny, follow the trend of the times, keep to the right direction, stick together in time of difficulty and ensure that development in Asia and the rest of the world reaches new highs.”38 Over the next two years, Xi used the term more than 60 times, including in major foreign policy speeches—for example, when announcing the Maritime Silk Road to the Indonesian parliament on October 2, 2013, and a few weeks later, in front of a domestic audience, during the Conference on Diplomatic Work with Neighboring Countries.39

Xi also used the term community of common destiny in the context of two major events related to security: during the first meeting of the new National Security Commission in April 2014 and at the summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in May 2014. At the former, Xi highlighted the connection between national security and economic development and underlined that internal and external security were equally important to China. He also noted that China needed to “pay attention to its own security, but also to common security, create a community of common destiny, promote mutual benefit and advance together toward the objective of common security.”40 One month later, during the CICA summit, Xi asserted: “We all live in the same Asian family. With our interests and security so closely intertwined, we will swim or sink together and we are increasingly becoming a community of common destiny.”41 

The context in which the concept has been used, therefore, provides several important indications about its meaning. First, it is inclusive, suggesting the possibility of countries working together despite major sociopolitical or cultural differences. Second, it applies mostly to Asia and China’s neighbors.42 Third, the concept has both an economic and a security component. Its objectives are to consolidate both “common development” and “common security,” reflecting Xi’s general view that “development is the foundation for security, and security is a condition for development.”43 

BRI does not intend to create a new regional, supranational institution that would be the Asian equivalent of the European Union.44 Beijing has not set up any central institutional mechanism, nor secretariat45 to give shape to and rule this “community of common destiny,” and no treaty has been signed. Belt and Road countries are “not required to transfer their sovereignty nor to accept any military presence.”46 BRI transcends traditional regional boundaries and “eliminates the artificial divisions between the Middle East, West Asia, Central Asia, and East Asia.”47 The Chinese authorities insist that it is open and inclusive and that all are welcome to get “aboard the express train of China’s development.”48 However, according to two Chinese analysts, these countries, especially the ones that “more or less depend on its economy,” could eventually “form a bloc” with China49 and build a “new type of coalition” that is “not directed against a third party, but which, faced with security threats, can speak with the same voice and have a united response.”50

Without a rigid institutional framework, the community resembles an informal network. The principles and norms that will regulate and frame the interactions between its members have not been clearly stated, other than the fact that they should be “jointly built through consultation to meet the interests of all.”51 Yet, it is impossible not to notice that China is the biggest and most powerful participant in the community and provides leadership: initiating the BRI project, portraying itself as the magnanimous provider of public goods; proposing a list of possible areas for cooperation under the umbrella of BRI; and urging other countries to join.52 Beijing also offers material incentives in the form of investment, infrastructure projects, and general economic and security benefits to the members of the community. In return, it expects that they tacitly agree not to challenge China’s core interests, criticize its posture, or interfere in its internal affairs, as one Chinese academic explained to me in December 2016. 

Such a pattern of interaction, based on an implicit contract between a culturally and politically central China at the core and its Asian neighbors at the periphery, has a taste of “déjà vu.” Down to the 19th century, China’s foreign policy was organized around what sinologist John Fairbank described as the tributary system or tianxia.53 Emperors would grant foreign countries permission to establish trade and diplomatic contact with China on the condition their emissaries would demonstrate their subservience by presenting them tribute in the form of gifts such as “native products and rare commodities,” as well as symbolic gestures such as head bows to the floor (“kowtow”). In exchange, the Chinese ruler would offer precious gifts such as gold and silk, and various “important symbols of legitimacy and acceptance into the civilized Sinocentric world.”54 China’s neighbors sought economic profit but also military protection, or at a minimum China’s “credible commitment not to abuse its power in return for their acceptance of China’s civilizational supremacy.”55 Although a disputed concept, the tributary system reflects the reality of a Sinocentric Asia, depending heavily on China not only for culture but also for security and trade.

As Major General Qiao Liang noted at a National Defense University seminar on international security, the Belt and Road strategy “has a tianxia feeling.”56  “The markings of a modern metamorphosis of the ancient China tributary system,” as Peter Chang describes it,57 were particularly evident during the recent BRI Forum. Around thirty world leaders and 1,500 delegates attended, some ready to sign MoUs related to commodities such as oil and gas, water, agricultural land, and market access. The representatives of international organizations and world leaders did not kowtow physically but symbolically, as they offered words of praise and endorsements of Xi’s BRI vision. Fiji even ended its diplomatic relations with Taiwan to establish ties with Beijing instead.58 In exchange, Xi did not offer them gold or silk, but promises of more investment, free trade agreements, loans, industrial parks, railways, power grids, law enforcement assistance, and education cooperation.59

Beyond the symbolic purpose of regaining China’s position at the center of Asia, the regional order that could emerge as a consequence of BRI’s success would be very different from the one favored by the liberal democracies. Unlike Western countries, China does not impose any conditionality on its partners: no government transparency, anticorruption measures, or commitment to “good governance, economic freedom and investments in their citizens” 60 is required in exchange for investment, economic assistance, and security cooperation. By helping its authoritarian neighbors deliver economic growth, China will offer them ways to strengthen and preserve their rule.61 Enhanced security cooperation thanks to BRI will also allow these countries to improve their social control techniques. The community of common destiny is not a group of democracies interacting with each other according to a set of liberal rules and values such as good governance and the protection of human rights. The meaning of BRI’s “inclusiveness” is that democracies are not prevented from joining, but also that neo-authoritarian states have the same access to Chinese investment and trade benefits as any other country, without political conditionality. Maintaining Eurasia’s political and social diversity does not mean, however, that all countries are equal. Because of its size, civilization, and hard and soft power, China sees itself at the apex of the community it aims to create.

This new role for China as the regional hegemon is envisaged, in Samuel Huntington’s words, as an “extended projection of the Chinese civilizational identity.”62 The norms that BRI wants to project under the guise of the Silk Road spirit are wrapped in a coat of neo-Confucian principles and elements of traditional Chinese wisdom that have been carefully selected to fit the broader purpose of rejecting universal rights and liberal norms. Rather than creating the basis for a new ideology or international order that would replace the current one with new institutions and rules, BRI might lead to Eurasia becoming an illiberal insert into the global order. The region would still trade and interact diplomatically with the rest of the world, but the influence of Western values and norms would be considerably diminished.


There are reasons to be skeptical about the prospects for a tributary system making a comeback in a 21st century world. Even if the Chinese regime intends to use BRI to set the stage for a future Sinocentric Eurasian order, it must persuade other countries of the legitimacy of China’s claim to leadership. The Silk Road values and norms that Beijing is crafting will have to demonstrate their appeal to potential followers. The supposed moral superiority of the Chinese model extolled by the country’s elites might not pass the test of other regional powers’ opposition to Chinese hegemony. Smaller countries might also find it increasingly difficult to accept China’s growing influence at their doorstep. 

Yet, at a time of growing opposition to the negative effects of globalization, it would be a mistake to dismiss China’s increasingly strident criticism of US-led liberalism, relayed through its propaganda machine. Appeals for fairer, more balanced globalization such as the ones Xi made during his Davos speech,63 may resonate not only in the developing world but also in advanced industrial countries whose societies are struggling with the aftereffects of excessive deregulation. Regardless of their practicality, China’s ambitions to change the norms and patterns of interaction in its broader neighborhood are real. The leadership has devoted considerable resources – intellectual, diplomatic, propaganda – to make them become a reality. Just because they have not yet been fully grasped in the West does not mean that they do not make sense, are unimportant, or are doomed to fail.

*This article draws on the research I have conducted for my book, China’s Eurasian Century: Political and Strategic Implications of the Belt and Road Initiative (ISBN (print): 978-1-939131-50-8; ISBN (electronic): 978-1-939131-51-5).

1. Xi Jinping, “Promote Friendship between Our People and Work Together to Build a Bright Future” (speech given at Nazarbayev University, Astana, September 7, 2013) and “President Xi Gives Speech to Indonesia’s Parliament,” China Daily, October 2, 2013.

2. In Chinese publications, the plan is called Yidai Yilu zhanlüe (One Belt One Road Strategy). In this article, I adopt the official English translation approved by the State Council, “Belt and Road Initiative,” see NDRC, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Commerce of the PRC, “Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road,” March 28, 2015,

3. “Comprehensive national power” comprises a mix of material (economic, military, technological) and nonmaterial (political, cultural, ideational) elements. For a detailed study of this concept, see Michael Pillsbury, China Debates the Future Security Environment (Washington, D.C.: National Defense University Press, 2000), pp. 203–58. 

4. David Shambaugh, “China’s Identity as a Major Power” (unpublished manuscript),

5. Gilbert Rozman, “China’s Quest for Great Power Identity,” Orbis 43, no. 3 (1999): 383–402.

6. Robert L. Suettinger, “The Rise and Descent of ‘Peaceful Rise,’” Hoover Institution, China Leadership Monitor, no. 12, Fall 2004,
; Hu Jintao, “Build towards a Harmonious World of Lasting Peace and Common Prosperity” (statement at the UN Summit, New York, September 15, 2005),  

7. Yang Jiechi, “The Evolving International Pattern and China’s Diplomacy,” China Institute of International Studies, August 22, 2011,

8. Lanpishu: Guoji xingshi he Zhongguo waijiao (Beijing: Shishi zhishi chubanshe, 2012).  

9. “China’s Neighbourhood Policy,” European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) and Asia Centre, China Analysis, February 2014,

10. Camilla T.N. Sørensen, “The Significance of Xi Jinping’s ‘Chinese Dream’ for Chinese Foreign Policy: From ‘Tao Guang Yang Hui’ to ‘Fen Fa You Wei,’” Journal of China and International Relations 3, no. 1 (2015): 53–73.  

11. “Xi Pledges ‘Great Renewal of Chinese Nation,’” Xinhua, November 29, 2012,

12. William A. Callahan, “China 2035: From the China Dream to the World Dream,” Global Affairs 2, no. 3 (2016): 247–58. 

13. Christopher A. Ford, China Looks at the West: Identity, Global Ambitions, and the Future of Sino-American Relations (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2015), 427.

14. “Jiang Zemin Delivers Report to the 16th CPC National Congress,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, November 8, 2002,

15. Ford, China Looks at the West, 427.

16. Fu Ying, “Is China’s Choice to Submit to the U.S. or Challenge It?,” Huffington Post, May 19, 2015,; and Fu Ying, “Putting the Order(s) Shift in Perspective” (speech at the 52nd Munich Security Conference, Munich, February 13, 2016),

17. Ford, China Looks at the West, 428.

18. This is part of Xi Jinping’s efforts to legitimize the Party thanks to what Joseph Fewsmith calls its “re-ideologization.” Watch the CSIS conference, “China Reality Check Event: On the Road to the 19th Party Congress: Elite Politics in China Under Xi Jinping,” May 17, 2017,

19. Valérie Niquet, “Confu-talk: the Use of Confucian Concepts in Contemporary Chinese Foreign Policy, in Anne-Marie Brady, ed., China’s Thought Management (New York: Routledge, 2011), 76, 80.

20. Nele Noesselt, “China and Socialist Countries: Role Change and Role Continuity,” GIGA, Working Paper, no. 250, August 2014,

21. Men Honghua, “Quanqiuhua yu Zhongguo guojia rentong,”, July 26, 2013, Men is the director of the Institute of International Strategic Studies at the Central Party School of the Communist Party of China.

22. “Xi: China to Promote Cultural Soft Power,” Xinhua, January 1, 2014,

23. Zhang Feng “The Rise of Chinese Exceptionalism in International Relations,” European Journal of International Relations 19, no. 2 (2011): 305–28.  

24. Mareike Ohlberg, “Boosting the Party’s Voice,” Mercator Institute for China Studies, China Monitor, July 21, 2016,

25. “Chinese President Eyes Shared, Win-Win Development for Mankind’s Future,” Xinhua, January 19, 2017,

26. Yan Xuetong, Ancient Chinese Thought, Modern Chinese Power (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011).

27. Zhang Lihua, “China’s Traditional Cultural Values and National Identity,” Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, November 21, 2013,
; Wang Yiwei, “When the Chinese Dream Meets the European Dream,” Clingendael Asia Forum, July 16, 2013,

28. NDRC, “Vision and Actions.”

29. “China Voice: Confrontation, Exclusiveness, Betray Silk Road Spirit,” Xinhua, June 24, 2014,

30. Li Xing, “Sichouzhilu jingjidai: Zhicheng ‘Zhongguo meng’ de zhanlüe, haishi celüe?” Dongbeiya Luntan 2 (2015): 85–92. 

31. “Full Text of President Xi’s Speech at Opening of Belt and Road Forum,” Xinhua, May 14, 2017,

32. “China’s Xi Confident in the Future of New ‘Silk Road’ Effort,” Reuters, May 15, 2017,

33. Fu, “Is China’s Choice to Submit to the U.S. or Challenge It?”; and “Putting the Order(s) Shift in Perspective.”

34. Peng Guangqian, “‘Yidai Yilu’ zhanlüe gouxiang yu guoji zhixu zhonggou,” Renmin Ribao, January 9, 2015,

35. “Full Text of President Xi’s Speech.”

36. François Godement, “Expanded Ambitions, Shrieking Achievements: How China Sees the Global Order,” European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) Policy Brief, March 2017,

37.   Christopher R. Hughes, “When Big Powers Pivot, the Little States Roll: Southeast Asia between China and Japan,” The Asan Forum, 2, no. 6 (December 1, 2014),

38. Xi Jinping, “Working Together toward a Better Future for Asia and the World” (keynote speech at the Boao Forum for Asia, Boao, April 7, 2013),

39. Xi Jinping, “Let the Sense of Community of Common Destiny Take Deep Root in Neighbouring Countries” (conference remarks, Beijing, October 25, 2013).

40. “Xi Jinping waijiao xin zhanlüe: ‘Mingyun gongtongti’ zhutui guoji geju xin zhixu,” Renmin Ribao, July 23, 2014,

41. Xi Jinping, “New Asian Security Concept for New Progress in Security Cooperation” (remarks at the 4th Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, Shanghai, May 21, 2014),

42. The neighborhood’s geographic scope should be understood here in its broadest extension. Xi also used the term at a summit between China and the Community of Latin American and the Caribbean States in July 2014. See “Xi Jinping Attends China–Latin America and the Caribbean Summit and Delivers Keynote Speech,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs (PRC), July 18, 2014,

43. See Timothy R. Heath, “The ‘Holistic Security Concept’: The Securitization of Policy and Increasing Risk of Militarized Crisis,” RAND Corporation, RAND Blog, June 2015,

44. NDRC, “Vision and Actions,” March 2015.

45. The May 2017 BRI forum concluded with the promise that it will be held regularly in the future and that an advisory council and liaison office will be set up.

46. Shi Yinhong, “‘Yidai Yilu’: Qiyuan shenshen,” Shijie Jingji yu Zhengzhi, no. 7 (2015): 151–54. 

47. Ibid.

48. “President Xi’s Speech to Davos in Full,” World Economic Forum, January 17, 2017,

49. Jin Kai, “Can China Build a Community of Common Destiny?” The Diplomat, November 28, 2013.

50. Wang Xiangsui, “Fazhan yu anquan: Yidai Yilu de liangyi,” Caijing, April 6, 2015,

51. NDRC, “Vision and Actions,” 2015.

52. David Arase, “China’s Two Silk Roads: Implications for Southeast Asia,” Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) Perspective, no.2, January 22, 2015,

53. John King Fairbank, ed., The Chinese World Order: Traditional China’s Foreign Relations (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968).

54. Roland L. Higgins, “The Tributary System” in Mark Borthwick,eds.,  Pacific Century: The Emergence of a Modern Pacific Asia (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992), p. 30.

55. Lai-Ha Chan, Pak K. Lee, and Gerald Chan, “China’s Vision of Global Governance: A Resurrection of the ‘Central Kingdom’?” in Li Mingjiang, ed., China Joins the Global Governance: Cooperation and Contentions (Plymouth: Lexington Books, 2012), p. 16.

56. Qiao Liang, “‘Yidai Yilu’ yu daguo guanxi guanli,” Sina, web log, June 12, 2015,

57. Peter Chang, “The Civilizational Fissures beneath China’s OBOR,” Malaya Mail Online, January 25, 2017,

58. “Fiji Closes Taiwan Office, Holds Talks With Beijing,” Radio New Zealand, May 19, 2017,

59. “List of Deliverables of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation,” China Daily, May 16, 2017,

60. This is how the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an independent agency created by the US Congress in 2004 that provides aid to poor countries, defines its mission,

61. Andrew J. Nathan, “China’s Challenge,” Journal of Democracy 26, no. 1 (2015): 156–70; and Octavia Bryant and Mark Chou, “China’s New Silk Road: Autocracy Promotion in the New Asian Order?” Democracy Theory 3, no. 2 (2016): 114–24.

62. Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996), p. 237  

63. “President Xi’s Speech to Davos in Full,” World Economic Forum, January 17, 2017,