Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2017, Vol. 72 ›› Issue (12): 2265-2280.doi: 10.11821/dlxb201712011

• Transport Logistics • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The evolution of China's international maritime network based on the "21st Century Maritime Silk Road"

Liehui WANG1,2(), Yan ZHU1,2   

  1. 1. The Center for Modern Chinese City Studies, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
    2. School of Urban and Regional Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200241, China
  • Received:2016-10-31 Revised:2017-07-25 Online:2017-12-25 Published:2017-12-25
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41371140;National Social Science Foundation of China, No.16ZDA016


The fundamental goals of building the "21st Century Maritime Silk Road" are to construct a maritime transport channel and international maritime network and to enhance international relations and the interconnectedness of infrastructure. Using international shipping data from China's container ports for 1995, 2005 and 2015, this paper applies methodologies such as the graph theory model, the complex network method, and the Herfindahl-Hirschmann Index. First, this paper analyses the spatial pattern of the international maritime network between China and other countries located along the "21st Century Maritime Silk Road". Second, this paper identifies international maritime hub ports and discusses the status of domestic ports. The main conclusions are as follows. (1) The range of the maritime network between China and other countries on the "21st Century Maritime Silk Road" expanded between 1995 and 2015. However, some ports, such as Singapore, Klang, Colombo, and Suez, built closer relations with Chinese ports, and ports in East Africa established few shipping routes connected to Chinese ports. These developments were affected by the condition of the ports' locations and by international trade. (2) It is clear that the hierarchy of China's ports proceeds from two hubs (Hong Kong and Shanghai) to four hubs (Shanghai, Ningbo, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong). Ningbo port developed very quickly, while the status of Hong Kong port underwent a relative decline. The four hubs can be divided into two models of adjacent ports. The high degree of overlap of shipping routes resulted in fierce competition between the ports of Ningbo and Shanghai. The ports of Shenzhen and Hong Kong have different radiation scopes, and consequently, their development has been dislocated. (3) There are four port clusters in China connecting to ports on the "21st Century Maritime Silk Road". The ports in the southwest port cluster disappeared in the later period of this study, and the status of the Pearl River Delta port cluster underwent a relative decline, while the status of the port cluster in the Yangtze River Delta improved. The Bohai port cluster gradually established direct connections with the countries on the "21st Century Maritime Silk Road". (4) Overall, the maritime network has experienced three stages of growth: the development stage, the hierarchical stage and the networking stage. Globalization, changes in transportation technology, and the evolution of geopolitics and the economy are the most important mechanisms driving the maritime network.

Key words: "21st Century Maritime Silk Road", maritime network, spatial pattern, hubs, China