Spacializing the BRI in the History of Asian Imperial Imaginations

This subproject situates the contemporary mapping of the BRI within the history of the spacial imagination of Asia, using the notion of “empire” as a conceptual tool to interrogate how the connecting and separation of places through networks and infrastructures of trade and religion have been associated with different imaginations, juxtapositions and boundaries of territorial, cosmological and sacred sovereignty at different historical periods. The investigation seeks to assess to what extent the BRI revives and triggers historical imaginations and cosmologies of empire, reinforces or undermines the sacrality of nation-states as the lynchpin of the modern international order, or ushers in new forms of interpenetrating spacial imaginations and sovereignties.

 

Post-colonial Empires in the Era of the Belt and Road

David A. Palmer

 

ABSTRACT

To what extent can the Belt and Road Initiative be seen as a form of Chinese empire building? This talk will situate the BRI within the long history of shifting forms of empire in Eurasia, from ancient polities to European colonization, to forms of hegemony in the Cold War and post-Cold War eras. I will argue that conventional notions of empire, based on the exclusive territorial sovereignty of a single multinational state on the image of the multicoloured World Map of Westphalian European colonial powers, obfuscate the entangled, overlapping and networked sovereignties that have characterised imperial formations before, during and after the era of European colonization in Asia and Africa. I will outline different modalities and dynamics of empire and propose the notion of the “post-colonial empire” as an imperial formation whose legitimacy is based on respecting the sovereignty of independent nation-states. Using this framework, I will consider the role of the BRI in the asymmetrical dynamics between China and the post-colonial American Empire.

BRI Mapbox: An Online Map Generating Database

The BRI Mapbox illustrates the spatial configuration between infrastructures and religious factors in the BRI region. This work maps out and correlates routes, borders, railroads, pipelines, ports and free trade zones with demographic, economic and geo-political data in both contemporary and retrospective timeframes. These spatial features form a...

Buddhism At The Borders Of Trade: Colonial And Post-Colonial Discourses On Trans-Himalayan Economic Networks And Connectivity

The expansion of international trade exerted and continues to exert considerable influence on the negotiation of nation-state borders and on the formation of cultural, social, and religious identities. While the relationship between religion and trade is undeniably complex and multifaceted, it has been suggested that commercial connectivity has...

Mapping the online discourse on the BRI in social media: general context and religious factors

This data mining project investigates the changing and contested narratives of the BRI in social media, focusing on sentimental and networking characteristics in online communication platforms. In an interim outcome, this work has firstly framed a systematic approach to analyse the discourse on the BRI in social networking platforms; with further...

Alternative Healing Methods And China’s Health Silk Road: Chinese Muslim Medical Enterprises And Practitioners In Dubai

China has gained more prominence in terms of its global health leadership during the coronavirus pandemic. The state dispatched medical teams and supplies to many Belt and Road countries in the last six months. Sinopharm, a large state-owned Chinese pharmaceutical company, established its first overseas COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial program in...

Modern China And The Question Of Muslim Sectarianism In The Context Of Inter-Asian Religious Circulations

Sinophone Islam, as found in the Xibei (Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai and Ningxia), is characterized by sectarian (jiaopai) divisions among four groupings: the Qadim, the Sufi orders (menhuan), the Ikhwan, and the Salafis. With the exception of the latter, all of these sects adhere to a common doctrinal and legalistic tradition, shared by their...

Between A Rock And A Hard Place: Sinophobia And Religious Nationalist Sentiments In Vietnam

President Xi Jinping’s launch of the One Bell One Road Initiative (OBOR or BRI) was met with a negative reaction in the Vietnamese public sphere, although the speedy development of infrastructure connecting Vietnam and China would stimulate a number of trade sectors. The discussion focused on whether part of Vietnamese sovereignty should be given...

State-Building In Religious Society: A Comparative Study Of Religious Control In Belt And Road Countries

This research aims to study state policies of the religious control in Belt and Road countries in Central Asia, including China (Xinjiang province), Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan. Through a comparative study of the religious policies in these countries, this study seeks to reveal how the socialist or post-socialist...

Paving Portions Of The ‘One Road’ Across The Indian Ocean: China’s Highway And Bridge Projects In The Republic Of The Maldives

Our work examines the work of constructing domestic overland roads and bridges within the Republic of the Maldives. This archipelago of atolls stretches across 90,000 square kilometres, but of that vast territory only less than 300 square kilometres is comprised of dry land. The country includes within its territorial waters two major deep-water...

Global/Local Perspectives on Chinese Muslim Origin Narratives and Guangzhou’s Islamic Heritage Sites

Alongstanding tradition among Hui Muslims attributes the arrival of Islam in China to a mission led by Saʿd ibn abī Waqqāṣ (ca. 595-ca.574), a relative of the Prophet Muhammad (570-632). Although the historicity of this story has been questioned to the point of incredulity, Saʿd ibn abī Waqqāṣ is associated with two important sites in Guangzhou –...

Alternative Networks In Southeast Asia: One Sea One Temple, And The City Of A Thousand Temples

In response to the slogan One Belt One Road a small temple in Sibu, Sarawak came up with an alternative slogan – One Sea One Temple. They then built a network of over 100 Dabogong (Tudigong) temples in ports along the South China Sea and into the Indian Ocean. This covers much of the same territory as the BRI’s “Maritime Silk Road.” But rather...