China’s leaders have a penchant for describing future ambitions by using metaphors from the past. One case in point: Xi Jinping’s recent exhortations to build a “maritime silk road,” a phrase he first deployed in October on a state visit to Indonesia, while speaking of the “shared destiny” of China and Southeast Asia.
Xi aims to boost both trade and maritime cooperation, as well as shore up support for China’s controversial territorial claims in the South China Sea. Trade between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region increased more than 10 percent last year, to $444 billion. Earlier this week, Xi visited two island nations in the Indian Ocean—Sri Lanka and the Maldives—before arriving in India on Wednesday.