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The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road: Security implications and ways forward for the European Union

Publisher: SIPRI
September, 2018

The policy report The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road: Security Implications and Ways Forward for the European Union presents an analysis of the sea-based component of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Road. The report complements the February 2017 SIPRI–Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung publication on the land-based component of the BRI, the Belt. The previous report examined security implications in two of the strategic terrestrial regions that the Belt traverses: Central Asia and South Asia. In turn, this report examines security implications in the two strategic maritime spaces that it crosses: the South China Sea (SCS) and the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Special consideration is given to how the Road might affect the interests of European Union (EU) and how the EU could consider responding. The findings are also highly relevant to the Road’s non-EU stakeholders.


1. The Maritime Silk Road 

1.1. Scope and strategic evolution

1.2. Exploring China’s aspirations

2. The Maritime Silk Road: Security implications

2.1. Security implications for the South China Sea

2.2. Security Implications for the Indian Ocean Region

3. The Maritime Silk Road: Prospects for European Union security cooperation

3.1. Compatibility with European Union maritime security interests

3.2. Ways forward for the European Union

Annex I. Abbreviations 


Dr Lora Saalman is an Associate Senior Fellow within SIPRI’s Armament and Disarmament and Conflict and Peace research areas and a Senior Fellow in the Global Cooperation in Cyberspace Program at the EastWest Institute​​​​​​​.
Fei Su is a Researcher within the China and Asia Security Programme.
Richard Ghiasy is an Associate Researcher in the SIPRI China and Global Security Programme.