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BETTER


ROADS LEAD TO BETTER LIVES


The noise around Brexit and Trump and its themes of fragmentation, protectionism, and self-interested politics; suggests a global paradigm that is disguising the world’s most ambitious and cooperative economic project yet.


Standing in stark contrast, the New Silk Road and China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ is set to become the largest programme of trade cooperation and diplomacy since the Marshall Project and collaborative rebuilding after the Second World War. Stretching from Beijing and Eastern China, the initiative covers over 70 countries, which are home to 4 billion of the world’s population and links Asia, the Middle East, and Europe building upon the ancient merchant route characterised by the passage of Chinese silks to the Roman Empire.


Just like the original Silk Road, the naming of the Belt and Road Initiative is misleading, given that its journey from east to west traverses across a number of different land and sea routes including both road and rail hubs.


One of these hubs, Khorgos, is said to be one of the world’s fastest growing ports and a critical Eurasian link between east and west. In 2010, this area was a barren expanse of landlocked desert on the Chinese / Kazakh border, positioned at the furthest point on earth from any ocean. It is described by developers as the ‘New Dubai’ due to its expansive city plans around the new age port built to handle containers shipped by land and not sea. The 600 hectare site at the hub of the New Silk Road directly connects 27 Chinese cities to 11 cities in Europe switching containers from China’s narrow gauge railways to the standard gauge lines of the old Soviet world and Europe.


Launched in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative is the signature foreign policy of Chinese President Xi Jinping. The initiative targets investments in infrastructure and trade cooperation with over 70 countries indiscriminate of politics, cultures, democracies, dictatorships or religion. The simple diplomatic cohesion is all about trade and deeply needed infrastructure across a largely untouched and forgotten stretch of the world. China with it excess capacity in its steel and construction industry is looking to expand its economic footprint abroad at a crucial time of slowing domestic economic growth. Xi Jinping’s long term goal is to strengthen economic trade throughout Eurasia which in turn will secure the needed resources for its own long term future.


Whilst the Silk Road has been part of Chinese empires of old, the New Silk Road signifies the ambitious scale and potential reach of the current regime. For some, China’s Belt and Road Initiative is as much political as it is an economic objective allowing Beijing to exert its soft power and influence over western Asia. Some sceptics see China’s evolution and mission creep filling the gaps left void since the collapse of the Soviet Empire and so, despite the promise of investment, remain politically cautious to its implementation that will see an increasing security and beholding influence.


Taking its name from the ‘belt’ of overland corridors and a maritime ‘road’ of shipping routes that also include key infrastructure pipelines; China’s long term project is said to be a $1 trillion investment drawing together the markets of Europe and Asia. The scheme opens up new customers for China’s exports of consumer goods but also seeks to build upon the bilateral trade that smooths access to the vital resources and commodities China needs to continue its development. China’s western frontiers are home to vast reserves of oil and gas, whilst the former Soviet Empire lands of Kazakhstan and Eastern Russia lie rich with fertile soils prime for investment, new technology, and agricultural revolution.


LAUNCHED IN 2013 , THE BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE IS THE SIGNATURE FOREIGN POLICY OF CHINESE PRESIDENT XI JINPING.


8 | ADMISI - The Ghost In The Machine | September/October 2018


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