The 21st Century Silk Road is under construction from China to Europe. Unlike the ancient silk road made of caravans of camels, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an ambitious effort to improve regional cooperation and connectivity on a trans-continental scale.
The Belt and Road Initiative
The BRI is set to link China and 65 other countries, together accounting for 30% of global GDP, 62% of global population and 75% of known energy ressources.
The modern day silk road will primarily be consisting of the:
- The Silk Road Economic Belt, linking China to Central and South Asia towards Europe
- The New Maritime Silk Road, linking China to the nations of South East Asia, the Gulf Countries, North Africa and onwards to Europe
This ambitious project was launched in 2013 by President Xi, and is expected to cost almost a trillion dollars. Plans include pipelines and a port in Pakistan, bridges in Bangladesh and railways to Russia.
Reducing transit times across the globe
Although still in it’s early stages, the BRI is set to significantly improve the flow of goods from Asia. For this reason, China is pouring large amounts of money and workers into projects nationally and internationally.
Corridors in progress
The new Eurasia Land Bridge Economic Corridor
An international railway line running from Lianyungang in China’s Jiangsu province through Alashankou in Xinjiang to Rotterdam in Holland. After exiting China, the railway will pass through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland, reaching a number of coastal ports in Europe.
Facilitating the route, China has opened:
- an international freight rail route linking Chongqing to Duisburg (Germany)
- a direct freight train running between Wuhan and Mělník and Pardubice (Czech Republic)
- a freight rail route from Chengdu to Lodz (Poland)
- a freight rail route from Zhengzhou to Hamburg (Germany)
All these new rail routes offer rail-to-rail freight transport, as well as the convenience of “one declaration, one inspection, one cargo release” for any cargo transported.
The China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor
While still in negotiations, the three countries have officially adopted the Mid-term Roadmap for Development of Trilateral Co-operation between China, Russia and Mongolia.
The China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor
This corridor runs from Xinjiang in China and exits the country via Alashankou to join the railway networks of Central Asia and West Asia before reaching the Mediterranean coast and the Arabian Peninsula.
The corridor mainly covers seven countries in Central and West Asia:
The China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor
The suggestions for this corridor are:
- planning and building an extensive transportation network
- creating a new mode of co-operation for fundraising
- promoting sustainable and co-ordinated socio-economic development
Countries along the Greater Mekong River are currently building 9 cross-national highways, connecting east and west and linking north to south.
Guangxi has finished work on an expressway leading to the Friendship Gate and the port of Dongxing at the China-Vietnam border. The province has also opened an international rail line, running from Nanning to Hanoi, as well as introducing air routes to several major Southeast Asian cities.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor
The objective is to build an economic corridor running from Kashgar, Xinjiang, in the north, to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port in the south including:
- new highways
- new railways
- oil and natural gas pipelines
- optic fibre networks
Phase II will be:
- an upgrade and renovation of the Karakoram Highway
- an expressway at the east bay of Gwadar Port
- a new international airport
- an expressway from Karachi to Lahore (the Multan-Sukkur section)
- the Lahore rail transport orange line
- the Haier-Ruba economic zone
- the China-Pakistan cross-national optic fibre network.
Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor
Censensus has been reached on co-operation in transportation infrastructure, investment and commercial circulation, and people-to-people connectivity.
(Sources: World Bank, China Trade Research, The State Council of the People’s Republic of China)