For years, China has pursued a "string of pearls" strategy to create a network of infrastructure projects and staging posts stretching from its eastern coast to the Middle East along the great trade arteries in order to gain strategic clout and naval access. But more recently, China has worked to ease growing concerns in Asia and beyond over its geopolitical aims by rebranding "string of pearls" -- a term coined by U.S. consultancy firm Booz Allen Hamilton in a 2005 report for the Pentagon -- as the "21st Century Maritime Silk Road" initiative. But can a simple name change allay suspicions that China's true goal is regional domination?
Stripped of its rhetoric, the Maritime Silk Road initiative -- just like the "string of pearls" project -- is designed to make China the hub of a new order in Asia and the Indian Ocean region. And just as the "string of pearls" focused on the great trade arteries, the initiative targets key littoral states that sit astride major access routes or are located near choke points. It follows the same route from which, historically, these countries drew wealth and strength.