Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2021, Vol. 76 ›› Issue (4): 955-972.doi: 10.11821/dlxb202104012

• Geographical Relationship and Regional Development • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Spatio-temporal patterns of geo-economics of the countries in the Indian Ocean Region: Based on merchandise trade volume data from 1992 to 2017

YUAN Lihua1,2,3(), CHEN Xiaoqiang1,2,3, SONG Changqing1,2,3(), CHENG Changxiu1,2,3, SHEN Shi1,2,3   

  1. 1. State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
    2. Faculty of Geographical Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
    3. Center for Geodata and Analysis, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
  • Received:2020-09-27 Revised:2020-12-28 Online:2021-04-25 Published:2021-06-25
  • Contact: SONG Changqing;
  • Supported by:
    The Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research Program(2019QZKK0608)


The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) has become a crucial area for China, because it not only notably affects the country's international trade and energy security (especially oil), but also encompasses many countries under the Belt and Road Initiative. With advances of the Belt and Road regional cooperation, an important aspect is to strengthen trade and investment with a number of countries in the IOR. To facilitate China's development of better trade relations with the countries in the IOR, quantitatively investigating the trade links between the IOR and the globe and subsequently providing a better understanding of the trade competition patterns of the five major powers (i.e., the United States, Japan, China, India, and Australia) in this region are crucial. This study aimed to investigate the evolutions of the IOR's position in the global economy, spatial structures of its regional trade, and geo-economic competition patterns of the five major powers in this region from 1992 to 2017. To better identify the characteristics of these evolutions in the IOR, a sequential clustering method was employed to divide the period of 1992-2017 into four phases with the proportion data of merchandise trade volume of each country in the IOR as the basis. The results are summarized as follows. (1) The IOR's position in the global economy generally exhibited an increasing trend from 1992 to 2017, as indicated by the upward trends in the IOR's global shares of its regional trade volume, its regional eigenvector centrality, and its regional GDP. Furthermore, the spatial structures of the IOR's countries varied from "dual-core" (comprising Singapore and Malaysia) to "multi-core" (including India, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, and Thailand). This was indicated by the clustering patterns of the countries based on each country's trade volume and eigenvector centrality. (2) The extent of the intra-regional trade integration of the IOR remained at a relatively low level despite that it generally showed a rising trend from 1992 to 2017. (3) The geo-economic influence of both the United States and Japan in the IOR declined from 1992 to 2017, as indicated by the downward trends in the trade dependence of the 47 countries (excluding India and Australia) in the IOR on the two countries. However, China's geo-economic influence in this region gradually increased and exceeded those of the United States and Japan in the third phase. India's geo-economic influence also showed an upward trend, but it was inferior to those of China, the United States, and Japan. Further, Australia's geo-economic influence remained the weakest in the entire period. This study quantitatively reveals the variations in the geo-economic patterns of the IOR from three aspects, i.e., its global trade position, extent of its intra-regional trade integration, and geo-economic competition patterns of the five major powers in the IOR. Moreover, the research framework and methods used in this study can also be used to investigate the geo-economic patterns of other regions (e.g., the Belt and Road region and the free trade zone of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership).

Key words: geo-economics, merchandise trade volume, social network analysis, centrality, sequential clustering, Indian Ocean Region