Spacializing the BRI in the History of Asian Imperial Imaginations

Post Author(s)

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.

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 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...

Inter-Asian Learning And Teaching Across The Belt And Road: In-Between Pakistani Madrasah And Chinese School

Driven by the steady increase of the Muslim population, ethnic Muslims in Hong Kong have been desperately seeking physical space for daily prayer and reciting Qur’an. Out of the strong religious aspiration, many small-scale madrasah (‘housques’) have been flourishing in many parts of Hong Kong in recent years. Based on my ongoing ethnographic...

Sacralizing The Works, Engaging Inter-Cultural Relations: Stories Of Indonesian Female Muslim Workers In Hong Kong

Alhamdulillah (thanks to God), I made my hijrah (literally migration, from sinful to righteously pious -better- Muslim). I had intended to do so for years, but finally made it since last year. It's been a year now," said a niqab-ed Indonesian female Muslim worker in her monthly religious gathering at victoria Park of Hong Kong, in October 28th,...

Muslim Humanitarian Networks and Chinese Infrastructures in Northern Pakistan

This project investigates the intersection of Muslim humanitarian networks and Chinese-built infrastructures in Gilgit-Baltistan in northern Pakistan. The central aim of the project is to examine how at this meeting point of material and social entities that are often seen as disjointed new meanings emerge which alter the use and poetics of...

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...

Building Inter-Asia New Age Networks: Balancing Heterodoxy And Patriotism In Chinese Spiritual Tourism To India

The recent military clashes between India and China in the Galwan Valley resulted in the Sino-Indian border heating up to levels unseen in recent years. Meanwhile, India continues to downplay China’s Belt and Road Initiative and refuses to sign a BRI Memorandum of Understanding. In June 2020, parallel to the reports on these tensions, Chinese...

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...

Parallels And Paradoxes: New Religious Formations In Response To The BRI In Sri Lanka

Since the end of the civil war in 2009, Sri Lanka has attracted significant volumes of foreign investment. The vast majority of this investment has come from Chinese companies, which have committed loans amounting to over US$ 7 billion so far. Much of this investment has been used to finance large-scale infrastructure projects, including the...

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 –...