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For years, China has sought to encircle South Asia with a "string of pearls": A network of ports connecting its eastern coast to the Middle East that would boost its strategic clout and maritime access.Now, however, China is attempting to disguise its strategy, claiming that it wants to create a 21st-century maritime Silk Road to improve trade and cultural exchange. But friendly rhetoric can scarcely allay the concern in Asia and beyond that China's strategic goal is to dominate the region.Indeed, the Silk Road is integral to President Xi Jinping's "China dream" ambitions, which entail restoring China's past glory and status.This is important, because the new Asian order will be determined less by developments in East Asia, where Japan is determined to block the rise of China, than by events in the Indian Ocean, where China is chipping away at the longstanding dominance of India.India is certainly suspicious of China's behavior. Seen in this light, it is not surprising that China has invited India to join the maritime Silk Road initiative.
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