From Asia Times
The pieces in Beijing's massive puzzle are starting to come together
Relentless reports that the New Silk Roads, or the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), are a perfidious neo-imperial debt trap set up by Yellow Peril 2.0 are vastly exaggerated.
With less than one week to go before the next BRI forum in Beijing, a quick overview of what's been happening in Europe and Southwest Asia may be quite enlightening.
Immediately after a successful 21st China-EU summit in Brussels, the 8th China-16+1 meeting in Dubrovnik focused on Central and Eastern Europe nations, ending up like a 17+1 Greece is their newest member. So now we have 12 EU member states plus five Balkan nations committed to the BRI and wider business deals with Beijing.
The joint commitments of 17+1 are a "win-win" prodigy in itself. The Europeans exhort China to implement a real "level playing field," and everyone enthusiastically supports the EU-China Comprehensive Investment Agreement, which Brussels and Beijing had already pledged to sign before the end of 2020.
The key takeaway is that 17+1 from now on will work in close cooperation with Brussels in all connectivity fronts including trade and customs, easing paranoid fears that Beijing is only interested in promoting Divide and Rule inside the EU.
Apart from forcefully investing in a de'tente with Brussels, Beijing, of course, keeps its own priorities. They focus especially on Greece and Croatia, while the courting of Italy after the signing of the BRI memorandum will also proceed unabated.
From the Baltics to the Mediterranean specifically from Estonia to Greece China seems to be configuring a new booming trade Intermarium, a mirror image of the combative anti-Russia Intermarium from the Baltics to the Black Sea that obsesses NATO.
A quick look at the map reveals the Chinese strategy. The China-Europe Land Sea Express Line stretches from Athens with Pireus port under the control of Cosco all the way to Hamburg via Skopje, Belgrade and Budapest.
Budapest is the key crossroads of no less than seven major highways reaching all corners of Europe.
And then there's the Pan-European corridor connecting Bari in Italy across the Mediterranean to Bar in Montenegro and onwards to Belgrade and Timisoara in Romania.
Pireus in Greece may be, for now, BRI's top Mediterranean logistics hub. But its future importance depends on the completion of first-class railway connectivity to the Balkans, further linked to northern Europe infrastructure. The Chinese Plan B is to invest in the Italian ports of Trieste and Genoa.
As it straddles the Intermarium between the Baltics and the Black Sea Central and Eastern Europe cannot but represent a strategic priority for China, facilitating the distribution of Chinese imports to northern Europe.