The 21st century has seen the rise of China as an economic power. The state has developed itself at a rapid rate and is now venturing into the outside world. By developing cordial ties with several countries, China has made stable economic relations with them. They include countries in Europe, Middle East, South Asia and even Latin America. It is dependent on foreign trade for the economic rise. In order to promote its image as a soft power, it has been investing in foreign countries. By aiding the development of infrastructure, the state has made cordial ties with Latin American countries, specifically Brazil. It has financed the development of Gwadar port in Pakistan, in order to develop an economic corridor to link itself with the rest of the world.
By owning sea-ports in almost every part of the world, the state is basically implementing the maritime Silk Road strategy. The ancient Silk Road stretched from Southeast Asia to Europe, connecting them for economic activities. So, buying ports and linking them with each other is the manifestation of this strategy. While the ports serve for the purpose of finding new markets for Chinese goods, they also serve militarily and strategically. Through these ports, China has a check on maritime activities of other states in the Indian Ocean. These maritime activities will also increase the naval significance of China. President Xi Jinping is specifically bent on increasing the naval supremacy of his state and transforming into a naval superpower. China’s military presence has increased in the commercial ports under its ownership.
CPEC is a useful example of China’s hold in the Indian Ocean. Through this economic corridor, China has found the shortest route to enter into foreign markets. It has linked Xinjiang province to the Baluchistan. The project, however, does not merely serve for the economic purposes. Through Gwadar port, China has a check on the naval activities of India and U.S. in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. So, generally, all these ports have a strategic significance for China. The One Belt One Road (OBOR) project began in 2013. It is designed to secure sea routes for the state. Through this project, the parts of China which were previously harder to access will be linked to the outside world. OBOR also works on the Silk Road strategy. Moreover, China follows the doctrine of String of pearls. This is a name given to its strategy of buying ports in the Indian Ocean for the Silk Road strategy. So, each port bought by China is another pearl added to the string. Through these ventures, the state is trying to link itself to Europe. It has been estimated that Chinese firms own almost 10% of the European ports.
The quest for foreign markets is because China is moving out of its own region. It is finding economic opportunities outside East Asia. It is partly because of the disputed South China Sea. The dispute between China, U.S, and other Southeast Asian states, has made it hard to invest in the region. The dispute poses a threat to the rise of China.
Oil is a backbone for the Chinese economy. Finding new markets also find new sources of extracting oil. The Gwadar port is for taking Chinese products and selling them into foreign markets. But at the same time, it provides a route to take oil back to China through Baluchistan. Oil is necessary for industrialized countries and there has been a lot of struggle among countries to acquire as much oil as possible. But China has an efficient way of acquiring oil, instead of engaging in any confrontation on it. It has invested in Middle Eastern ports and the development of infrastructure. Through these cooperative ties with oil-rich countries, it has found outlets for its economy. So, through these activities, it is promoting its image as a soft power in the world. It is advancing its economy through industrialization which is fueled by oil and other natural resources. It has developed financial ties with countries outside of East Asia and is promoting its soft image in front of the world. The peaceful use of its navy is also an idea that the country is trying to put forth.