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China’s new Silk Road

by Floro Mercene

Announced by President Xi Jinping in 2013, a brand new $900-billion double trade corridor is set to rebuild the ancient Silk Road between China and its neighbors in the west, Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

According to the “Belt and Road” Action Plan released in 2015, the initiative will encompass land route (The Silk Road Economic Belt) and ocean-going maritime routes (the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road) with the goal of improving trade relationships in the region primarily through infrastructure investment. The two schemes are inseparable, and the aim is their parallel implementation.

Dubbed as “the number one project under heaven”, in the past three years, the foci were mainly on infrastructure investment, construction materials, railway and high way, automobile, real estate, power grid, and iron and steel. Beijing says it will ultimately lend as much as $8 trillion for infrastructure in 68 countries. That covers more than 65% of the global population and a third of global GDP as of 2017.

The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) will begin from China, moving on to the South China Sea and then Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, Africa, and Europe. The southern extension of the route offers access to the South Pacific.

The aim of this mega project is to revolutionize deep-sea trade from Southeast Asia through Africa to Europe, and to put the participating countries on the track of economic development with the help of the infrastructural developments along the coastline. Although the significance of high-speed railways and motorways is unquestionable, maritime transport still plays a primary role regarding the volumes of transport. Therefore, in a global sense, the Maritime Silk Road has an even greater significance than the land route “economic belt” encompassing continents.