From Cold War Aviation to Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative: Corridors and Mobility under Late Capitalism

Authors: Hasan Karrar*,
Topics: Asia, Economic Geography, Third World
Keywords: BRI; Corridors; Mobility;
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Maryland C, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is being steadily unrolled since 2013. Variously described as a new Silk Road, Beijing’s attempt to shed over-capacity, the reassertion of the Middle Kingdom’s rightful global economic leadership, and criticised for luring resource-poor countries into dependency on China, BRI envisions a hyper-connected world through land and sea corridors. The success of BRI shall rest on the extent to which these corridors efficiently enable connectivity. But the corridor as a mechanism enabling mobility did not originate with BRI. In this paper, I trace the corridors technocratic origins to Cold War aviation (1940s and 1950s) from where it entered the urban planning lexicon in the global north (1960s and 1970s) and finally, into blueprints for economic integration in Asia (1980s and 1990s). In tracing this technocratic derivation through seven decades of war and planning, my temporal and theoretical framing is the period since 1945 described by Jameson (1991) as late capitalism. For Jameson, late capitalism rested on the transnationalization of business and banking, the confluence of media and culture, and new levels of automation and production, all of which I argue were instrumental in how corridors were envisioned and implemented.

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