The Great Game of the twenty-first century: Can Europe compete?

Oscar Eggleton



With China’s Belt and Road Initiative in full swing, this paper identifies a new “Great Game” in the Eurasian heartland. However, rather than the geopolitical chess of the nineteenth century, the new game is wei qi. In a process of gradual encirclement and subtle coercion, China is outplaying the EU on the Eurasian continent while avoiding direct confrontation. Following the logic of wei qi, China has shown a tendency to occupy the spaces that the EU has neglected – namely the Balkans and the East Mediterranean. Yet the game has not been won yet. Recent crises have undermined China’s global image, and hitherto overeager Eastern European countries are now acting with more caution towards Chinese investors. The EU can be an equal player, but it must do more to “bring along” the struggling economies in its periphery, while counterbalancing China’s influence with alternative partnerships in the Middle East and Asia.


Belt and Road Initiative, EU-China relations, EU foreign policy, geopolitics

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