A Fork in the Road? Korea and China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative

In 2013, two countries in East Asia launched their respective visions for an East-meets-West integrated region: China pronounced one of the most ambitious foreign economic strategies in modern times by any country, “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR), and South Korea launched the “Eurasia Initiative” (EAI). This paper examines the rationale, contours, implications, and possibilities for success of Korea’s EAI within the context of China’s OBOR, because a study of the former is incomplete without a clear understanding of the strategic political and economic motivations of the latter. This paper also draws conclusions about how EAI reflects South Korea’s national and regional aspirations, as well as the security implications for the relationship and interaction between the two countries’ alternate visions for a Eurasian continent. While Korean and Chinese visions superficially share a broad and similar goal of connecting two separate regions, ultimately their visions diverge fundamentally on conflicting understandings about national and regional security, and the political and economic roles that each country plays in achieving their ambitions.

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