A chess Tournament called “Belt and Road 2017” is about to conclude. It is a nine round Swiss tournament taking place from 17 to 26 December 2017 in Hainan Island, China. 62 players from Australia, Hongkong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mongolia, New Zealand, Ukraine, Vietnam and host China are vying for a total prize of about 57,000 US dollars1. Department of Culture, Radio, Television, Publication and Sports of Hainan Province is the organiser 2. Similarly the “Belt and Road” Haikou Youth Football Tournament with eight teams from Croatia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and China was played during November in Hainan3. Hainan is the southernmost island province of China having strategic significance in the South China Sea.
My search engine also threw up a chess tournament called the First Chongqing The Belt and Road International School Team Championship which was a team event played in the month of September 2017 with participants from Australia, Canada, China, France, Hungary, India, Iran, Poland, Qatar, Russia, Singapore and USA4. While I cannot vouch for the authenticity – a post on the chesstalk forum by a Canadian gentleman informs that a private Canadian sponsor will pay the full flight tickets, while the Chinese chess association will provide free accommodation to Canadian chess players 5. Possibly similar courtesy was extended to the youngsters from our Chess federation as well.
Instead of seeing any conspiracy behind China sponsoring sporting tournaments in the name of its Belt and Road initiative, one must appreciate that it is normal for tournaments to be named after the sponsor / organiser or the nation (for example Tata Steel Chess (formerly Corus) and US Open Tennis). Corporate and private sponsorship of deserving players is likewise a well accepted and welcome practice, particularly for less glamorous sports like Chess. If young intellectually gifted children benefit and mutual trust and friendship is concurrently fostered it is a win-win outcome.
In conclusion, China is simply putting money where its mouth is and extending its Belt and Road initiative to sports and cultural realms. A firm resolve to execute President Xi Jinping’s ideology is clearly evident and it is backed by a well thought out plan. From an Information Warfare perspective we can see a contrast wherein China is attempting to enhance its soft power while the US is tightening its visa regime and generally headed the contrary way in global affairs.
In a lighter vein one may urge our Chinese friends to start respecting us more in matters of tactics and strategy – the Indian team won the school level tournament and the lone Indian player Sandipan Chanda is giving tough competition to many excellent young Chinese players in the ongoing Belt and Road tournament 6, 7. India on the other hand hopefully gets out of election mode and seriously contemplates organising a Sagarmala International Chess tournament, inviting the best young minds from our neighborhood, and offering them a taste of Indian hospitality!