Maritime traffic can reflect the diverse and complex relations between countries and regions, such as economic trade and geopolitics. Based on the AIS (Automatic Identification System) trajectory data of ships, this study constructs the Maritime Silk Road traffic network. In this study, we used a complex network theory along with social network analysis and network flow analysis to analyze the spatial distribution characteristics of maritime traffic flow of the Maritime Silk Road; further, we empirically demonstrate the traffic inequality in the route. On this basis, we explore the role of the country in the maritime traffic system and the resulting traffic relations. There are three main results of this study. (1) The inequality in the maritime traffic of the Maritime Silk Road has led to obvious regional differences. Europe, west Asia, northeast Asia, and southeast Asia are the dominant regions of the Maritime Silk Road. (2) Different countries play different maritime traffic roles. Italy, Singapore, and China are the core countries in the maritime traffic network of the Maritime Silk Road; Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Lebanon, and Israel have built a structure of maritime traffic flow in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, and Saudi Arabia serves as a bridge for maritime trade between Asia and Europe. (3) The maritime traffic relations show the characteristics of regionalization; countries in west Asia and the European Mediterranean region are clearly polarized, and competition–synergy relations have become the main form of maritime traffic relations among the countries in the dominant regions. Our results can provide a scientific reference for the coordinated development of regional shipping, improvement of maritime competition, cooperation strategies for countries, and adjustments in the organizational structure of ports along the Maritime Silk Road.
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