China’s Belt and Road Initiative: A New Silk Road Empire?

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Under Xi Jinping, China is pursuing a dream to restore its historical position as the dominant state in Asia. By funding and building roads, railways, ports, and power lines – a New Silk Road across Eurasia and through the South China Sea and Indian Ocean – China aims to draw its neighbors ever tighter into its embrace. How much progress has China made in building “One Belt, One Road,” what are the challenges ahead, and how does the initiative fit into China’s ambitions to replace the U.S. as the leading power in Asia? A keen observer of Chinese geo-economics, Tom Miller joined Stimson’s experts on East, Southeast, and South Asia to discuss the implementation of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the implications for the recipient countries, the region, and the U.S.-China relations.

WHAT: A panel discussion with Tom Miller, author of China’s Asian Dream, and Stimson experts on the implementation and implications of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.


Tom Miller is a Senior Analyst at Gavekal Research and the author of China’s Asian Dream: Empire Building Along the New Silk Road. He is also the managing editor of the China Economic Quarterly, published by its sister service Gavekal Dragonomics. A former journalist, he has reported from a dozen countries in Asia and given talks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Chatham House, and the World Bank. He has been quoted by the Financial Times, Economist, New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, and Bloomberg, and appeared on the BBC, CNN, and CNBC. From time to time, he reviews books for The Spectator. Miller was educated at Oxford and the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and spent two years studying Chinese in Beijing. He is the author of the acclaimed book China’s Urban Billion: The Story Behind the Biggest Migration in Human History. After 14 years living and working in China, Miller is based in the U.K. but spends much of his time in Asia.

Brian Eyler is the Director of Stimson’s Southeast Asia program. Eyler is an expert on transboundary issues in the Mekong region and specializes in China’s economic cooperation with Southeast Asia. He has spent more than 15 years in living and working in China and over the last ten years has conducted extensive research with stakeholders in the Mekong region, leading numerous study tours through China and mainland Southeast Asia. Before coming to the Stimson Center, he served as the Director of the IES Kunming Center at Yunnan University and as a consultant to the UNDP Lancang-Mekong Economic Cooperation program in Kunming, Yunnan province. He holds a M.A. from the University of California, San Diego and a B.A. from Bucknell University. Brian is the co-founder of the influential website His first book, The Last Days of the Mighty Mekong, will be published by Zed Books in 2017.

Sameer Lalwani is a Senior Associate and Deputy Director for Stimson’s South Asia program. From 2014-15, Lalwani was a Stanton Nuclear Security Postdoctoral Fellow at the RAND Corporation. He completed his Ph.D. in political science at MIT and remains a Research Affiliate at MIT’s Center for International Studies. His research interests include grand strategy, counterinsurgency, civil-military relations, ethnic conflict, nuclear security, and the national security politics of South Asia and the Middle East. Sameer has conducted field research in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, and the British archives. His work has been published through RAND, Oxford University Press, the Journal of Strategic Studies, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The National Interest, CTC Sentinel, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and a number of other outlets. Previously he was a fellow at George Washington University’s Institute for Security and Conflict Studies, a member of the CNAS Next Gen National Security Leaders Program, a participant in the CSIS Nuclear Scholars Initiative, and a policy analyst with the New America Foundation. He holds a B.A. in political science from University of California, Berkeley.

Yun Sun (moderator) is a Senior Associate with the East Asia program at the Stimson Center. Her expertise is in Chinese foreign policy, U.S.-China relations, and China’s relations with neighboring countries and authoritarian regimes. From 2011 to early 2014, she was a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, jointly appointed by the Foreign Policy Program and the Global Development Program, where she focused on Chinese national security decision-making processes and China-Africa relations. From 2008 to 2011, Yun was the China Analyst for the International Crisis Group based in Beijing, specializing on China’s foreign policy towards conflict countries and the developing world. Prior to ICG, she worked on U.S.-Asia relations in Washington, DC for five years. Yun earned her Master’s degree in international policy and practice from George Washington University, as well as a M.A. in Asia Pacific studies and a B.A. in international relations from the Foreign Affairs College in Beijing.

Image “Anfa bridge” by Siyang Xue (CC BY-SA 2.0). 


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