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The Maritime Silk Road and China–Maldives Relations

Part of the Palgrave Studies in Asia-Pacific Political Economy book series (PASTAPPE)

Abstract

Maldives occupies a crucial place in China’s 2013 Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI) given the country’s geostrategic location in the Indian Ocean. Chinese policymakers, academics, and media commentators have recently highlighted the need for China to participate actively in the Indian Ocean and develop a robust relationship with Maldives in order to protect its resource flows and position itself for power transition in the region. China has stepped up contacts with Maldives and is actively pursuing the MSRI plan of laying down dual-use infrastructure projects in the region. This chapter argues that Chinese relations with Maldives are expanding and that this is reflected in high-level visits, the provision of aid and loans, the construction of infrastructure projects like the strategic iHavan project, the expansion of tourism, and free-trade talks.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    “一带一路”大事记” (“‘Yidai Yilu’ Dashiji”) [Chronology of One Belt, One Road] 大陆桥视 [New Silk Road Horizon], No. 1 (2015), 23.

  2. 2.

    “Belt and Road Initiative facilitates more opening-up China,” Xinhua, April 22, 2015 http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-04/22/c_134174847.htm.

  3. 3.

    People’s Republic of China, “Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and Twenty-First-Century Maritime Silk Road,” March 28, 2015, http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/zxxx_662805/t1249618.shtml.

  4. 4.

    “Is community of common destiny a new world order?” Xinhua, May 5, 2015, http://www.china.org.cn/opinion/2015-05/05/content_35500803.htm. Jing Lin argues that China’s OBOR should not be seen as the Marshall Plan for the twenty-first century as the OBOR is meant to usher in mutual equality and mutual benefit while the USA-led Marshall Plan had political and security-based strategic aims. See “‘一带一路’: 中国的马歇尔计划?” (“‘Yidai Yilu’: Zhongguo de majihua?” [“‘One Belt, One Road:’ China’s Marshall Plan”], 国际问题研 [International Studies] (January 2015): 88–99.

  5. 5.

    Li Lei argues that given several advantages that Shanghai enjoys, viz., internationalization, overall competitiveness, and innovation, the city should be considered a bridgehead for the Silk Road initiative. See ““21 世纪海上丝绸之路”的上海机遇” (“‘21 shiji hanshang sichouzhilu’ de shanghaijiyu”) [Shanghai’s opportunity in the twenty-first-century Maritime Silk Road] 文汇报 [Wenhui Bao], November 26, 2014: 1–2. Huang Maoxing and Li Peng argue that, on the other hand, Fujian province has several advantages in developing the MSR. See “福建积极融入21世纪海上丝绸之路建设的现实基础与战略方向” (“Fujian jiji jinru 21shiji haishang sichouzhihlu jianshe de1 xianshi jichu yu zhanlue fangxiang”) [Fujian’s active integration into the twenty-first century: The strategic direction and real basis of constructing the Silk Road] 福建论坛·人文社会科学版 [Fujian Forum: Humanities and Social Sciences], no. 7 (2015): 160–166. For Yang Jiuyan et al., Guangdong province is a more appropriate location for facilitating the MSR. See “广东在海上丝绸之路形成和发展中地位与作用” (Guangdong zai Hanshangsichouzhilu xingcheng he fazhanzhong diwei yu zuoyong) [Role of Guangdong in developing the MSR] 广东造船 [Guangdong Shipbuilding] 3, no. 142 (2015): 25–28.

  6. 6.

    “China to invest $900b in Belt and Road Initiative,” China.org.cn, May 28, 2015, http://www.china.org.cn/business/2015-05/28/content_35683543.htm.

  7. 7.

    Yang Jiechi, “深化互信、加强对接,共建21世纪海上丝绸之路” (“Shenhua Huxin, Jiaqiang Duijie, Gongjian 21shiji haishangsichouzhilu”) [Jointly Build the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road By Deepening Mutual Trust and Enhancing Connectivity], China.org.cn, March 30, 2015, http://www.china.org.cn/chinese/2015-03/30/content_35193490.htm.

  8. 8.

    Long Kaifeng, ““一带一路,’ 互利共赢的大战略” (“‘Yidai Yilu,” Huli Gongying de Dazhuanlue”) [“‘One Belt, One Road,’ A win-win strategy”] 金融经济 [Financial Economics], no. 403 (January 2015): 14–15. Long outlines six problem areas for the OBOR, viz., the OBOR’s wide geographical area, and large population and economic capacity; the Central Asian “three evils”; the imbalanced economic situation in the region; India–China–Pakistan territorial disputes; the Russian sphere of influence in the Central Asian region; and the Middle East situation and the South China Sea dispute.

  9. 9.

    Luo Yuze , “‘Belt and Road’ platform for cooperation, no challenge to global order,” People’s Daily, May 15, 2015, http://en.people.cn/n/2015/0515/c98649-8892876.html.

  10. 10.

    Liu Haiquan , “‘一带一路’战略的安全挑战与中国的选择” (“‘Yidai Yilu’ Zhanlue de Anquan Tiaozhan yu Zhongguo de Xuanze”) [Security challenges for the One Belt, One Road strategies and China’s choices], 平洋学报 [Pacific Journal], no. 2 (2015): 72–79.

  11. 11.

    Wang Xinlong, “印度海洋战略及对中印关系的影响” (“Yindu Haiyang Zhanlue jidui Zhongyin Guanxi de yingxiang”) [Indian Ocean Strategy and its Impact on Sino-Indian Relations] 南亚研究季刊 [South Asia Research], no. 1 (2004), 87–91 and Hu Juan, “印度的印度洋战略及其对中国的影响” (“Yindu de Yinduyang Zhanlue jiqi Zhongguo de Yingxiang”) [India in the Indian Ocean Strategy and its Impact on China], 东南亚南亚研究 [Southeast Asia Research], no. 2 (2012): 6–10. Hu argues that India’s efforts are intended to exclude China from the IOR.

  12. 12.

    Zhang Wei, “印度海洋战略析论” (“Yindu Haiyang Zhanlue Xilun”) [An analysis of the Indian Ocean Strategy] 当代社科视野 [Contemporary Social Science Perspective], no. 11 (2009): 41–45; Li Yanan, “India Dreaming to be a Military Super Power,” Liberation Army Daily (June 12, 1999); Jian Hua, “The United States, Japan Want To Rope In India Which Cherishes the Dream of Becoming a Major Country,” Ta Kung Pao (June 6, 2001); and Liang Guihua, “Yinduyang shang de ‘youling,’” Xiandai Bingqi [Modern Weaponry], no. 295 (July 2003): 12–15.

  13. 13.

    Zhou Zhonghai, “Maritime Security and the Common Interests of India and China,” Frontiers of Law in China, 1, no. 3 (2006): 363–371; and Ye Hailin, “Securing SLOCs by Cooperation: China’s Perspective of Maritime Security in the Indian Ocean,” Paper presented at International Maritime Conference, National Maritime Policy Research Center, Bahria University, Karachi , Pakistan, http://iaps.cass.cn/english/Articles/showcontent.asp?id=1233.

  14. 14.

    Xie Bo and Yu Rong, “地缘政治视角下的21 世纪海上丝绸之路通道安全” (“Diyu Zhengzhi Shijiaoxia de 21shiji Haishangsichouzhilu Tongdao Anquan”) [Security of the twenty-first-century MSR Corridor through geopolitical perspective] 东南亚纵横 [Around Southeast Asia] (May 2015): 5.

  15. 15.

    Cao Tianshu , “印度海洋战略对我国“海上丝绸之路”的影响” (“Yindu Haiyang Zhanlue dui Zhongguo ‘Haishangsichouzhilu’ de yingxiang”) [Influence of China’s MSR towards the Indian Ocean Strategy] 山西财经大学学报 [Journal of Shanxi University of Finance and Economics] (April 2015): 1, 12.

  16. 16.

    Shu Yuan, “论中国的环印度洋战略构想” (“Lun Zhongguo de huanyinduyang Zhanlue Gouxiang”) [On China’s Strategic Concept of Indian Ocean Rim] 中共云南省委党校学报 [Journal of Yunnan Provincial Committee School of the CPC], 15, no. 1 (January 2014): 175–177.

  17. 17.

    However, a former foreign minister of Maldives, Ahmed Naseem, argued that his country had never been part of the Silk Road before and that the MSR has other motives. See the interview with Rajiv Sharma, “Maldivian Conundrum: Will India Risk China’s Ire by Militarily Intervening in Malé?” March 16, 2015, http://www.firstpost.com/world/maldivian-conundrum-will-india-risk-chinas-ire-by-militarily-intervening-in-Malé-2155393.html. Another contrasting opinion is offered by former Vice Foreign Minister Ali Hameed who said, “Looking away from a purely economic standpoint, the Silk Road I hope will also be a platform to exchange cultural values as well as be an asset for academic and research orientated initiatives, whereby both countries can share expertise, … I believe strongly, that the time is ripe for the ancient Silk Route to be reborn again and to develop a bridge of connectivity, friendship and mutual development for China and the Maldives.” Quoted in “Maritime Silk Road to Bring Closer China-Maldives Ties: Former Maldives Senior Official,” Xinhua, June 9, 2014.

  18. 18.

    “China and Maldives,” http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/4388.html.

  19. 19.

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Policy Planning, China’s Foreign Affairs 2005 (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2005), 223.

  20. 20.

    The joint communiqué on this occasion mentioned that Taiwan is an inalienable part of the PRC. See “Joint Communiqué on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Maldives,” October 14, 1972, http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/5011.html.

  21. 21.

    For this chronology, “China and Maldives,” http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/4388.html.

  22. 22.

    “China, Maldives Sign Visa Agreement,” Xinhua, May 4, 1997.

  23. 23.

    “Maldives President Meets Vice Trade Minister Liu Shanzai,” Xinhua Domestic Service, April 25, 1998.

  24. 24.

    “The Visiting Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs of China Calls on the President,” February 12, 2001, http://www.themaldives.com/scripts/externallink.asp?main=http://www.presidencymaldives.gov.mv. On this occasion, the Maldivian president suggested that the Kyoto Protocol should be ratified.

  25. 25.

    “Chief of the General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army of calls on the President,” April 17, 2001, http://www.themaldives.com/scripts/externallink.asp?main=http://www.presidencymaldives.gov.mv.

  26. 26.

    “The President felicitates the Chinese President on the Occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between the Maldives and China,” The Maldives, October 14, 2002, http://www.themaldives.com/scripts/externallink.asp?main=http://www.presidencymaldives.gov.mv.

  27. 27.

    “President Gayoom and Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji Inaugurate the Fourth Phase of the Malé Housing Project,” The Maldives, May 17, 2001, http://www.themaldives.com/scripts/externallink.asp?main=http://www.presidencymaldives.gov.mv.

  28. 28.

    “The Maldives and China hold official talks,” The Maldives, May 17, 2001, http://www.themaldives.com/scripts/externallink.asp?main=http://www.presidencymaldives.gov.mv.

  29. 29.

    “Premier Zhu Rongji Held Talks with Maldivian President,” May 17, 2001, http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/10364.html.

  30. 30.

    “China backs Maldives battle over rising sea level,” Haveeru, May 17, 2001, http://www.haveeru.com.mv/English.

  31. 31.

    Han Jie, “Chi Haotian Meets with Maldives Guests,” Xinhua Hong Kong Service November 12, 2001.

  32. 32.

    “Chinese Defense Minister Meets Maldivian Delegation,” Xinhua, November 12, 2001.

  33. 33.

    A.B. Mahapatra, “China Acquires a Base in Maldives against India with Some Help from Pakistan,” July 27, 2001, http://www.indiareacts.com.

  34. 34.

    “The President Identifies China’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol ,” September 4, 2002, http://www.themaldives.com/scripts/externallink.asp?main=http://www.presidencymaldives.gov.mv.

  35. 35.

    “The President Meets the Vice Premier of the Chinese State Council,” March 29, 2004, http://www.themaldives.com/scripts/externallink.asp?main=http://www.presidencymaldives.gov.mv.

  36. 36.

    “The Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China, Calls on the President,” June 13, 2004, http://www.themaldives.com/scripts/externallink.asp?main=http://www.presidencymaldives.gov.mv.

  37. 37.

    On this occasion, Li met with the Chinese staff of the Shanghai Construction Group who were involved in the construction of Ministry of Foreign Affairs building. See “Li Zhaoxing Holds Talks with Maldivian Foreign Minister,” April 2, 2005, http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/zxxx/t190336.htm.

  38. 38.

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Policy Planning, China’s Foreign Affairs 2006 (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2006), 231. When the Wenchuan earthquake hit Sichuan Province in 2008, Maldives made a donation of $50,000. See Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Policy Planning, China’s Foreign Affairs 2009 (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2009), 227.

  39. 39.

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Policy Planning, China’s Foreign Affairs 2007 (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2007), 270.

  40. 40.

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Policy Planning, China’s Foreign Affairs 2008 (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2008), 200 and China’s Foreign Affairs 2012 (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2012), 205.

  41. 41.

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Policy Planning, China’s Foreign Affairs 2010 (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2010), 212.

  42. 42.

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Policy Planning, China’s Foreign Affairs 2011 (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2011), 233–234.

  43. 43.

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Policy Planning, China’s Foreign Affairs 2012 (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2012), 205.

  44. 44.

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Policy Planning, China’s Foreign Affairs 2013 (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2013), 216.

  45. 45.

    This section is based on my article at “Maritime Silk Road: Increasing Chinese Inroads into the Maldives,” IPCS, November 13, 2014, http://www.ipcs.org/article/china/maritime-silk-road-increasing-chinese-inroads-into-the-maldives-4735.html. See also Yang Yi, “Chinese President’s Visit to Enhance Ties with Maldives, Sri Lanka: Foreign Ministry,” Xinhua September 9, 2014.

  46. 46.

    Yang Yi, “China, Maldives Eye Stronger Partnership with All-Round Cooperation,” Xinhua, September 16, 2014.

  47. 47.

    The MSRI, according to Wang, means “more trade, more investment, more development, more opportunities and more friendship” for both countries. See Wang Fukang, “China and Maldives: Partners in Building Twenty-First-Century Maritime Silk Road Together,” Miadhu, January 15, 2015, http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/wjb_663304/zwjg_665342/zwbd_665378/t1228935.shtml.

  48. 48.

    Abdullah Jameel, “China-Maldives Sign MOU for Free Trade Pact,” Haveeru, September 9, 2015, http://www.haveeru.com.mv/business/62166.

  49. 49.

    A six-lane bridge connecting Malé to the airport island Hulhulé, the “China-Maldives Friendship Bridge” estimated at $100–150 million. “China-Maldives Friendship to Bridge Opportunity Gaps,” http://www.the-businessreport.com/article/china-maldives-friendship-to-bridge-opportunity-gaps.

  50. 50.

    “China, Maldives Agree to Establish Future-Oriented, All-Round Partnership,” Xinhua, September 15, 2014; “Xi’s South Asia Trip as Smooth as Silk,” Xinhua, September 16, 2014; Zhao Minghao, “China Understands South Asia’s Needs Better,” The Global Times, September 16, 2014.

  51. 51.

    “Maldives Gov’t Targets Special Economic Zones, Eyes Trade with China,” Xinhua, June 5, 2014.

  52. 52.

    “Li Yuanchao to Attend 3rd China-South Asia Expo and 23rd China Kunming Import and Export Fair,” June 9, 2015, http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/wjdt_665385/wsrc_665395/t1271758.shtml.

  53. 53.

    “Negotiations Launched for China-Maldives Free Trade Agreement,” September 9, 2015, http://maldivesindependent.com/business/negotiations-launched-for-china-maldives-free-trade-agreement-117176.

  54. 54.

    Teddy Ng, “Maldives Supports China’s Plan for ‘Maritime Silk Road,’” South China Morning Post, September 16, 2014.

  55. 55.

    “China among Four Countries Interested in Maldives Youth City Project,” Xinhua, July 22, 2014.

  56. 56.

    “Chinese Envoy Sees Expanded China-Maldives Economic Cooperation,” Xinhua, October 28, 2014.

  57. 57.

    “Chinese Envoy Sees Expanded China-Maldives Economic Cooperation,” Xinhua, July 21, 2014; and Bi Mingxin, “Maldives Supports China’s Plan for ‘Maritime Silk Road,’” Xinhua, September 13, 2014.

  58. 58.

    Faisal’s interview by Yin Yeping, “Maldives Ambassador Talks Cultural Exchange,” Global Times, February 8, 2015, http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/906611.shtml.

  59. 59.

    Seema Guha, “China Widens Maldives Reach as India Falls Behind,” The Quint, August 8, 2015, http://www.thequint.com/world/2015/08/08/china-widens-maldvies-reach-as-india-falls-behind-2. On the limitations in the democratic experiment in Maldives, see Azra Naseem, “Keeping Up with the Authoritarians,” Dhivehi Sitee, September 2, 2015, http://www.dhivehisitee.com/executive/keeping-up-with-the-authoritarians.

  60. 60.

    The anti-Indian rhetoric of some parties in Maldives and China’s new role in the island nation is said to be the basis for Prime Minister Modi’s Indian Ocean diplomacy recently, when he skipped Malé but went to Sri Lanka, Seychelles , and Mauritius . See Darshana M. Baruah, “Modi’s Trip and China’s Islands: The Battle for the Indian Ocean,” The Diplomat, March 11, 2015, http://thediplomat.com/2015/03/modis-trip-and-chinas-islands-the-battle-for-the-indian-ocean. It is also said that under Indian influence the Addu Summit of the SAARC had insisted on “institutionalization” of the SAARC instead of expanding it with new members (like China).

  61. 61.

    Anand Kumar, “Chinese Engagement with the Maldives: Impact on Security Environment in the Indian Ocean Region,” Strategic Analysis, 36, no. 2 (2012).

  62. 62.

    “GMR-Maldives spat: China behind Scrapped GMR Deal to Extend Footprint in Maldives?” The Economic Times (December 15, 2012), http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/transportation/airlines-/-aviation/gmr-maldives-spat-china-behind-scrapped-gmr-deal-to-extend-footprint-in-maldives/articleshow/17622309.cms.

  63. 63.

    “Maldives to Face $800 million Claim,” Global Times, December 13, 2012, http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/750092.shtml.

  64. 64.

    “Maldives Constitutional Amendment Opens Door for Chinese Military Base,” July 25, 2015, http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?id=20150725000082&cid=1101.

  65. 65.

    Shubhajit Roy, “New Land Law in Maldives Gives India China Chills,” Indian Express, July 23, 2015, http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/new-land-law-in-maldives-gives-india-china-chills.

  66. 66.

    Eva Abdullah, one of the 14 parliament members who opposed the amendment, was cited as saying that this measure would lead to Maldives becoming a colony of China. Zachary Keck, “Get Ready: China Could Build New Artificial Islands Near India,” National Interest, July 29, 2015, http://www.nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/get-ready-china-could-build-new-artificial-islands-near-13446.

  67. 67.

    Li Xiaokun, “Land Sale Isn’t for Military Purpose, Says Maldives,” China Daily, July 25, 2015, http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2015-07/25/content_21404565.htm.

  68. 68.

    “China says not planning military bases in the Maldives,” Reuters July 28, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/28/us-china-maldives-idUSKCN0Q20IU20150728.

  69. 69.

    Quoted by Azra Naseem, “From Maldives, With Love,” Dhivehi Sitee, April 26, 2012, http://www.dhivehisitee.com/executive//maldives-%E2%99%A5-china.

  70. 70.

    “Threat of a Coup with the Assistance of Mercenaries Is Still Imminent—Vice President,” Miadhu, January, 13, 2013.

  71. 71.

    See Azra Naseem, “Like Water for Politics: Lessons from Malé Water Crisis,” Dhivehi Sitee, December 9, 2014, http://www.dhivehisitee.com/executive/Malé-water-crisis.

  72. 72.

    Hong cited at “Spokesman: China to Continue to Aid Maldives,” Global Times, December 10, 2014, http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/896022.shtml.

  73. 73.

    “China and Maldives.”

  74. 74.

    In 2000, over 5000 Chinese tourists visited Maldives and in 2001 it increased to 6707. See “Maldives Embarks on Advertising Tourism in China,” January 1, 2002, http://www.haveeru.com.mv/English.

  75. 75.

    People’s Republic of China, Development Resource Council, “An Analysis on the Contribution of China’s Economic Growth to Global Economic Growth,” 2015, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/m/drc/2015-07/28/content_21432074.htm.

  76. 76.

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Policy Planning, China’s Foreign Affairs 2011 (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2011), 234.

  77. 77.

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Policy Planning, China’s Foreign Affairs 2012 (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2012), 205.

  78. 78.

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Policy Planning, China’s Foreign Affairs 2013 (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2013), 216.

  79. 79.

    “Chinese Dominated Tourism Sector Evolves to Offer More Choice,” http://www.the-businessreport.com/article/chinese-dominated-tourism-sector-evolves-to-offer-more-choice; and Yin Yeping, “Maldives Ambassador talks cultural exchange,” Global Times, February 8, 2015, http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/906611.shtml.

  80. 80.

    “Maldives Courts Chinese,” Global Times, March 15, 2013, http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/768302.shtml.

  81. 81.

    Yang Feiyue, “Maldives Reaches Out for Chinese Investment,” China Daily, October 21, 2015, http://africa.chinadaily.com.cn/travel/2015-10/21/content_22239499.htm.

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Kondapalli, S. (2018). The Maritime Silk Road and China–Maldives Relations. In: Blanchard, JM. (eds) China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative and South Asia. Palgrave Studies in Asia-Pacific Political Economy. Palgrave, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-5239-2_7

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