China's concept of the Maritime Silk Road (MSR) is attracting increasing attention, some apprehension, and more than a little confusion, especially as it concerns Africa. I ran across three recent analyses that shed useful light on the project.
The first is a working paper published by the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) at the National University of Singapore in October 2014 titled "New Maritime Silk Road: Converging Interests and Regional Responses" by Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy, a research associate at ISAS. The author concludes that the MSR is an effort in initiating a grand strategy with global implications. While the MSR could be helpful in reinforcing cooperation and raising it to a new level of maritime partnership, China has yet to cultivate political and strategic trust.
Beijing Review published in February 2015 a series of views titled "Visions of the Maritime Silk Road" by Mohamed Noman Galal, former Egyptian ambassador to China, Srikanth Kondapalli, Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, and Zamroni Salim, Indonesian Institute of Sciences. Galal welcomes the MSR. Kondapalli suggests the MSR is a reaction to the effort by the United States to rebalance its relations in the region. Salim wonders how the ASEAN countries will benefit from the MSR.
The blog East by Southeast published in November 2014 a piece titled "China's Maritime Silk Road Is All about Africa" by Brian Eyler, director of the IES Abroad Kunming Center at Yunnan University. It points out that the goal of the MSR is to connect 12 Strategic Maritime Distribution Centers from China to South America. Seven of the 12 proposed centers are in Africa.