초록 close

Since 2013, China has increasingly expanded its ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative (BRI) to a broad range of countries and regions. Nowadays, the BRI has geographically covered a variety of countries in Southeast Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa. In contrast, Northeast Asia remains to be excluded by the BRI in past years. Entering into 2018, part of the BRI projects suffered a lot of setbacks due to the underestimate of local political risks. This study points out that, ever since 2018, the Chinese government has begun to re-assess the achievements and challenges of the BRI projects within the past five years, and is currently adjusting its BRI policies and strategies. Against this backdrop, this research finds out that, notwithstanding the Chinese government not officially incorporating Northeast Asia into part of the BRI map, increasing China’s scholars and policy makers have been cautiously watching at the possibility of doing so. This study explores a recent Chinese policy prospective that has started to see Northeast Asia as a new potential area for the future development of the BRI. This study mainly comprises of four parts. First, this article reviews recent progress of BRI in Northeast Asia, including China’s proposal of ‘China-Russia-Mongolia Economic Corridor’ and the Sino-Japanese ‘third-market cooperation’ mechanism. Second, this article also argues that, in the long term, China has been closely watching the possibility of connecting its Trans-China Railway with a prospective Trans-Korean Peninsula Railway. China’s ambitious vision can be explained by its domestic needs of economic development (in the local Northeast Asian provinces) and recent improvement of geopolitical tension in the Korean peninsula. Third, this study also illustrates a number of major challenges and obstacles in future development of the BRI in Northeast Asia. At present, Northeast Asia is mixed with underdeveloped economies (Russia, Mongolia) and advanced economies (Japan and Korea), leading to the necessity of a dual-track BRI strategy for China. In particular, Japan and Korea have proposed the ‘Indo-pacific Strategy’ and the ‘New Economic Map for the Korean Peninsula’ respectively. At present, many of existing BRI concepts in Northeast Asia remain in a preliminary and vague stage. To what extend can China coordinate its own BRI with diplomatic strategies of other regional stakeholders remains questionable. Finally, this article also aims to provide a number of policy recommendations to the Chinese government.