Posts tagged ‘Silk Road’


First train from China to Iran stimulates Silk Road revival – Xinhua |

First cargo train from China to Iran arrived in Tehran on Monday, indicating a milestone in reviving the “Silk Road,” which has opened a new chapter of win-win cooperation between China and Iran.

English: the Silk Road in Central Asia

English: the Silk Road in Central Asia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

silk road

The train, also referred to as Silk Road train, has passed through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to Iran, travelling a distance of 10,399 kilometers. It had left Yiwu city in east China’s Zhejiang Province on January 28.

This train was carrying dozens of cargo containers, according to the deputy of Iran’s Road and Urbanism Minister, Mohsen Pour-Aqaei, who made a welcome speech after the arrival of the cargo train at Tehran Train Station on Monday.

As known to all, ancient Silk Road trade route had served as an important bridge for East-West trade and brought a close link between the Chinese and Persian civilizations.

The “Belt and Road” initiative was raised by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, which refers to the New Silk Road Economic Belt, linking China with Europe through Central and Western Asia, and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, connecting China with Southeast Asian countries, Africa and Europe.

“To revive the Silk Road Economic Belt, the launch of the train is an important move, since about 700 kilometers of trip has been done per day,” said Pour-Aqaei, who was present at the welcome ceremony of the train in Tehran’s Railway Station.

“Compared to the sea voyage of the cargo ships from China’s Shanghai city to Iran’s Bandar Abbas port city, the travel time of the train was 30 days shorter,” he said.

Pour-Aqaei, also the Managing Director of Iran’s Railway Company, added that according to the plan, there would be one such a trip from China to Iran every month.

The travel of cargo train from China to Iran is part of a Chinese initiative to revive the ancient Silk Road used by the traders to commute between Europe and East Asia.

Tehran will not be the final destination of these kinds of trains from China, the Iranian deputy minister said, adding that in the future, the train will reach Europe.

This will benefit Iran as the transit course for the cargo trains from the east Asia to Europe, he said.

Chinese ambassador to Iran Pang Sen told Xinhua that as one of the cooperation projects after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Iran, the cargo train is playing a important role to promote construction of the “Belt and Road” initiative.

Meanwhile, the railway line from Yiwu to Tehran provides the two countries an express and efficient cargo trade transportation method, Pang said, adding that the countries along the railway line will furthur upgrade rail technology with the aim to make its transportation ability faster and better.

Source: First train from China to Iran stimulates Silk Road revival – Xinhua |


Banyan: Where all Silk Roads lead | The Economist

NOT content with both purifying the Chinese Communist Party which he heads and with reforming his country, China’s president, Xi Jinping, also wants to reshape the economic and political order in Asia. With the flair that Chinese leaders share for pithy but rather bewildering encapsulations, his vision for the continent is summed up in official jargon as “One Belt, One Road”. As Mr Xi describes it, most recently last month at the Boao Forum, China’s tropical-beach imitation of Davos’s ski slopes, the belt-road concept will “answer the call of our time for regional and global co-operation”. Not everybody is convinced. Some see it as no more than an empty slogan; others as a thinly disguised Chinese plot to supplant America as Asia’s predominant power. Both criticisms seem misplaced. Mr Xi is serious about the idea. And it is less a “plot” than a public manifesto.

Mr Xi first floated the idea in 2013, in Kazakhstan. He mooted a “a Silk Road economic belt” of improved infrastructure along the main strands of what, centuries ago, was the network of overland routes used by silk traders and others to carry merchandise to and from China through Central Asia and Russia to northern Europe and Venice on the Adriatic. In Indonesia, Mr Xi proposed “a 21st-century maritime Silk Road”, reaching Europe by sea from cities on China’s south-eastern seaboard via Vietnam, Indonesia itself, India, Sri Lanka, east Africa and the Suez Canal. At the time, the proposals sounded rather fluffy—the sort of thing travelling leaders often trot out, harking back to a distant past of supposedly harmonious exchanges.

In the past few months, however, the idea has been given a real push. China has gone further toward putting its money where Mr Xi’s mouth is. It has promised $50 billion to its new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which despite American opposition has sparked a race in which 47 countries have applied to join as founding shareholders. China has earmarked a further $40 billion for a “Silk Road fund”, to invest in infrastructure along the land belt and the maritime road. One motive for this splurge is self-interest. Chinese firms hope to win many of the engineering projects—roads, railways, ports and pipelines—that the new “connectivity” will demand. Improved transport links will benefit Chinese exporters. And helping its neighbours’ development will create new markets. That China seems to have realised this has led to comparisons with the Marshall Plan, America’s aid to help western Europe rebuild after the second world war.

China does not like that analogy, since it sees the Marshall Plan as part of America’s containment of the Soviet Union. It insists that its initiatives are for the benefit of all of humanity and are—favourite catchphrase—“win-win”. But it certainly hopes money and investment can win friends. Yan Xuetong, a prominent Chinese international-relations expert, has argued that the country needs to “purchase” friendly relationships with its neighbours.

In Central Asia, battered by low oil prices and plummeting remittances from migrant workers in Russia, the prospect of greater Chinese involvement is welcomed. Russia itself, though wary of China’s steady erosion of its influence in the former Soviet states of the region, is now too dependent on Chinese goodwill to do other than cheer. On the maritime route, however, suspicion of Chinese intentions is rife. Its arrogant behaviour in the South China Sea, where it is engaged in a construction spree to turn disputed rocks into disputed islands, has given the impression that it feels it can simply bully its smaller neighbours.

So the initial reaction in South-East Asia to the belt and road has been sceptical. In Malaysia, where the government’s usual response to a proposal from China is to applaud first and ask questions later, the defence minister, Hishamuddin Hussein, has said the maritime Silk Road has “raised questions” and that it must come across as a joint (that is, regional) initiative, rather than as a solely Chinese one. Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, who says he wants to turn his country into a “global maritime fulcrum”, was doubtful at first. But he now seems inclined to help—unsurprisingly since his own plan involves massive investment in ports and other infrastructure to which, he hopes, China will contribute. A visit to China last month yielded a joint statement promising a “maritime partnership” and describing his and Mr Xi’s visions as “complementary”. But Mr Joko had also made clear before arriving in Beijing that Indonesia did not accept China’s territorial claims in South-East Asian waters.

In India, another new leader, Narendra Modi, the prime minister, has his own approach to these issues. He visited Sri Lanka, Mauritius and the Seychelles last month, three Indian Ocean countries to which he promised greater co-operation and spelled out India’s own interests as a maritime power. This was not presented as a riposte to China’s plans. But in January Mr Modi and Barack Obama produced a joint “strategic vision”. Implicitly, India’s response to China’s maritime ambitions has been to reinvigorate ties with small neighbours and to cleave closer to America.

via Banyan: Where all Silk Roads lead | The Economist.


China maps out vision of future prosperity along a New Silk Road | The Times

About half an hour west of Kashgar, China’s westernmost city, a chic estate agent bristling with pamphlets presents a vision of the future. Buy a place here — a short hop from the Uzbek border — and soon the global economy will pivot around you.

Her pitch boasts an artist’s impression of the villa complex a buyer might expect: miniature European palaces nestled between crystal lakes, arcades of high-end boutiques and a pine forest.

It takes (to put it mildly) an imaginative leap to square this idyll with the blistering desert and sheer, barren mountain range just outside the showroom, not to mention stories of ethnic bloodshed in the villages near by.

Yet the large image on the wall is a show-stopper. Kashgar, normally shown on the far left-hand side of Chinese maps, is a red dot at the centre of the world. Around and through it, planned road and rail lines on an epic scale twine and lunge towards Calais and Rotterdam at one end and Guangzhou and Shanghai at the other. Spurs dart off to Karachi, Tashkent, Helsinki, Moscow and Tehran. Australia and Turkey are mentioned as eventual waypoints. This Kashgar villa project, the saleswoman says, will sit at nothing less than the heart of the New Silk Road, a project viewed by some as the most important piece of geo-economic engineering we will see in our lifetimes.

Cheerleaders of the New Silk Road story have plenty to back their optimism, not least the fact that the vision is the unambiguous focus of President Xi. Talk about the Silk Road will ride high on China’s domestic political agenda this year; the global trade implications will start to reverberate soon afterwards. In 2013, when Mr Xi first laid out his ambition of building a Silk Road economic belt and a maritime Silk Road to run in parallel, he did so with the glint of a nation that is getting better and better at turning expansive blueprints into reality.

Mr Xi’s rhetoric doesn’t feel empty. China has buckets of cash to invest and a rising sense that it is deploying those funds at an historically perfect juncture: Europe is light on leadership, Putin’s Russia is not a natural builder of partnership and American domestic politics are a long-term drag on Washington’s capacity to build cohesive global visions. All around it, Beijing sees countries that may be wary of China’s ambition but, at the very least, are underwhelmed by the alternatives.

Yesterday, China’s central bank officially opened its new Silk Road fund, a $40 billion wedge of cash that supposedly will be run like a private equity investor and will drive the construction of the rail and road infrastructure on which all of President Xi’s strategic vision depends.

The blossoming of the Silk Road vision marks an even greater inflection-point in China’s economic advance — the moment when its outward direct investments, as a percentage of global investment flow, outpace inflows. Its investments abroad rose from $45 billion to more than $600 billion between 2004 and 2013. Since 2010, its two largest state-owned development banks have annually lent more to developing countries than the World Bank and China is the predominant funder of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Brics Development Bank.

This all needs to be built into the way European leaders see the world, because at the moment, Mr Xi has a vision that could be internationalised or forever belong to China. While the initial stages of the Silk Road expansion will involve dreary-looking handshakes between China’s leaders and their various central Asian counterparts, the moment is fast arriving when the European economies have to work out the extent of their buy-in to Mr Xi’s dream.

via China maps out vision of future prosperity along a New Silk Road | The Times.


Sri Lanka’s President Loses an Election—and China Loses an Ally – Businessweek

China has spared no effort to make friends with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The island nation has more than $4 billion worth of Chinese-backed investments, including a $1.4 billion project now under construction of offices, hotels, apartment buildings, and shopping centers on reclaimed land in Colombo that is the largest foreign investment in the country’s history. The leading provider of loans to Sri Lanka, China is also financing a $1.3 coal power plant and $1 billion highway.

Supporters of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on January 8, 2015 in Colombo, Sri Lanka

For Chinese President Xi Jinping, who visited in September, cozying up to Rajapaksa has been a twofer. Building a Chinese presence in the country helps further Xi’s ambitions to build a “maritime Silk Road” expanding China’s reach in the Indian Ocean.

At the same time, China’s expansion in the Indian Ocean country has provided a useful way to irritate Sri Lanka’s big neighbor and China’s regional rival: India. China and India have a longstanding border dispute, and China has been eager to take down India a notch by focusing on Sri Lanka and other small countries that have traditionally been in India’s sphere of influence. India, for instance, was displeased last year when two Chinese submarines docked at a Chinese-funded port terminal in Colombo.

via Sri Lanka’s President Loses an Election—and China Loses an Ally – Businessweek.


China to establish $40 billion Silk Road infrastructure fund | Reuters

China will contribute $40 billion to set up a Silk Road infrastructure fund to boost connectivity across Asia, President Xi Jinping announced on Saturday, the latest Chinese project to spread the largesse of its own economic growth.

A map indicating trading routes used around th...

A map indicating trading routes used around the 1st century CE centred on the Silk Road. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

China has dangled financial and trade incentives before, mostly to Central Asia but also to countries in South Asia, backing efforts to resurrect the old Silk Road trading route that once carried treasures between China and the Mediterranean.

The fund will be for investing in infrastructure, resources and industrial and financial cooperation, among other projects, Xi said, according to Xinhua.

via China to establish $40 billion Silk Road infrastructure fund | Reuters.


Project Mausam, India’s answer to China’s maritime might: Explained – News Oneindia

In a significant move, the Narendra Modi Government will soon launch ‘Project Mausam’ for countering Beijing’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean region. This transnational program is aimed at restoring India’s ancient maritime routes and cultural links with republics in the region.

'Mausam' to check China’s maritime might

Project Mausam: India’s answer to China’s ‘Maritime Silk Road

It is Narendra Modi Government’s most significant foreign policy initiative to counter-balance the maritime silk route of China.

The project emphasises on the natural wind phenomenon, mainly the monsoon winds used by Indian sailors in ancient times for maritime trade.

This initiative will enable India re-connect and re-establish communications with its ancient friends in the Indian Ocean region.

It would lead to an enhanced understanding of cultural values and concerns.

The project purposes to determine the Indian Ocean “world” – expanding from East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, the Indian subcontinent and Sri Lanka to the Southeast Asian archipelago.

What is China’s maritime silk route?

It an initiative to develop regions along an ancient route connecting Western China with South and Central Asia.

The aim of this initiative is to strengthen China’s economic ties with various nations, including those within Asia and Europe.

It proposes China to work with partners to develop maritime infrastructure, especially ports.

Originally, the “maritime silk road” was proposed to foster cooperation and goodwill between China and the ASEAN countries.

The “maritime silk road” is parallel to the land-based “new silk road,” which runs westward from China through the Central Asian states.

The route is likely to see China further intensify its naval activities in the region.

It extends from its naval base in Hainan Island (South China Sea) to Bagamayo in Tanzania, Africa, with several of the ports encircling mainland India.

Hambantota (Sri Lanka), Gwadar (Pakistan), Chittagong (Bangladesh) and Marao Atoll (Maldives) are the ports being built by China as per the initiative.

What is Silk Route?

It is a series of trade and cultural transmission routes.

It connected the West and East by linking traders, merchants and other persons from China to the Mediterranean Sea.

It derives its name from lucrative Chinese silk trade, a major reason for the connection of trade routes into an extensive transcontinental network.

via Project Mausam, India’s answer to China’s maritime might: Explained – News Oneindia.


China’s ‘New Silk Road’ Vision Revealed | The Diplomat

On Thursday, China’s state-owned Xinhua News Agency unveiled an ongoing feature entitled “New Silk Road, New Dreams.” The series promises to “dig up the historical and cultural meaning of the Silk Road, and spread awareness of China’s friendly policies towards neighboring countries.” The first article [Chinese] was titled  “How Can the World Be Win-Win? China Is Answering the Question.”

Xinhua Silk Road Map

The Xinhua series promises the clearest look so far at China’s vision for its Silk Road Economic Belt as well as the Maritime Silk Road. One of the most intriguing pieces released Thursday was a map showing China’s ambitious visions for the “New Silk Road” and “New Maritime Silk Road.” It’s the clearest vision to date of the scope of China’s Silk Road plan.

According to the map, the land-based “New Silk Road” will begin in Xi’an in central China before stretching west through Lanzhou (Gansu province), Urumqi (Xinjiang), and Khorgas (Xinjiang), which is near the border with Kazakhstan. The Silk Road then runs southwest from Central Asia to northern Iran before swinging west through Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. From Istanbul, the Silk Road crosses the Bosporus Strait and heads northwest through Europe, including Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Germany. Reaching Duisburg in Germany, it swings north to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. From Rotterdam, the path runs south to Venice, Italy — where it meets up with the equally ambitious Maritime Silk Road.

The Maritime Silk Road will begin in Quanzhou in Fujian province, and also hit Guangzhou (Guangdong pronvince), Beihai (Guangxi), and Haikou (Hainan) before heading south to the Malacca Strait. From Kuala Lumpur, the Maritime Silk Road heads to Kolkata, India then crosses the rest of the Indian Ocean to Nairobi, Kenya (the Xinhua map does not include a stop in Sri Lanka, despite indications in February that the island country would be a part of the Maritime Silk Road). From Nairobi, the Maritime Silk Road goes north around the Horn of Africa and moves through the Red Sea into the Mediterranean, with a stop in Athens before meeting the land-based Silk Road in Venice.

The maps of the two Silk Roads drive home the enormous scale of the project: the Silk Road and Maritime Silk Road combined will create a massive loop linking three continents. If any single image conveys China’s ambitions to reclaim its place as the “Middle Kingdom,” linked to the world by trade and cultural exchanges, the Xinhua map is it. Even the name of the project, the Silk Road, is inextricably linked to China’s past as a source of goods and information for the rest of the world.

China’s economic vision is no less expansive than the geographic vision. According to the Xinhua article, the Silk Road will bring “new opportunities and a new future to China and every country along the road that is seeking to develop.” The article envisions an “economic cooperation area” that stretches from the Western Pacific to the Baltic Sea.

Despite this expansive goal, it’s not quite clear yet exactly what will tie together the disparate countries along the New Silk Road (both on land and at sea). China has discussed building up infrastructure (especially railways and ports) along the route, yet the Xinhua article specifically says the vision includes more than simply speedy transportation. China envisions a trade network where “goods are more abundant and trade is more high-end.” Beijing expects the economic contact along the Silk Roads to boost productivity in each country. As part of this vision, China has repeatedly stressed its economic compatibility with many of the countries along the planned route, and offered technological assistance to countries in key industries.

China also envisions the Silk Road as a region of “more capital convergence and currency integration” — in other words, a region where currency exchanges are fluid and easy. Xinhua notes that China’s currency, the renminbi, is becoming more widely used in Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Thailand. Yet the article does not call for the renminbi to become the Silk Road’s primary currency, but rather hopes that local currencies will be the dominant means of economic deals.

From economic exchanges, China hopes to gain closer cultural and political ties with each of the countries along the Silk Road — resulting in a new model of “mutual respect and mutual trust.” The Silk Road creates not just an economic trade route, but a community with “common interests, fate, and responsibilities.” The Silk Road represents China’s visions for an interdependent economic and political community stretching from East Asia to western Europe, and it’s clear that China believes its principles will be the guiding force in this new community. “China’s wisdom for building an open world economy and open international relations is being drawn on more and more each day,” Xinhua wrote.

But for all the ambitious talk, details remain scarce on how this vision will be implemented. Will the land- and sea-based Silk Roads be limited to a string of bilateral agreements between China and individual countries, or between China and regional groups like the European Union and ASEAN? Is there a grander vision, such as a regional free trade zone incorporating all the Silk Road countries?  Or will China be the tie that binds it all together, with no special agreements directly linking, say, Kazakhstan and Germany?

via China’s ‘New Silk Road’ Vision Revealed | The Diplomat.

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China-Europe railway relaunches – China –

A freight train on Wednesday began a journey from central China’s key city of Wuhan to Poland’s Lodz, restarting the Wuhan-Xijiang-Europe rail route after it was suspended for technical reasons.

Its 15-day journey will pass along the Silk Road economic belt through major cities in central and northwest China, Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus before arriving in the destination.

The rail trip is about one month quicker than the maritime alternative, and costs a fifth as much as air freight, according to the Wuhan Transport Committee.

“It will greatly improve the competitiveness of exports made in Wuhan and nearby regions,” said Yu Shiping, director of the committee.

He predicted that it will contribute to the realization of the Silk Road economic belt, the regional trade infrastructure proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The train is loaded with 41 40-foot containers holding goods valued at more than 12 million U.S. dollars.

Most of them are products made by Hon Hai/Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics contract manufacturer, which assembles products for Apple, Sony and Nokia in its plant in Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province.

Although railway transport is costly compared to maritime transport, it is a superior option bearing in mind how wildly electronic products prices fluctuate. They are more sensitive to the time-cost in transportation, according to the Foxconn plant in Wuhan.

In a month, the export value of one consignment of electronic products might devalue by about two percent, about several tens of thousands of dollars.

via China-Europe railway relaunches – China –

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Internal trade: It’s a continent, actually | The Economist

China’s external imbalances are as nothing compared with its internal ones

Feb 8th 2014 | HONG KONG AND YINCHUAN | From the print edition

NINGXIA, an autonomous region in China’s north-west, is home to 6.3m people. About a third of them are Muslims, descendants of travellers along the Silk Road. The region is keen to revive the kind of trade networks that created its unique ethnic mix, so that it can diversify an economy which relies too much on coal, metals and chemicals.

In that regard Ningxia is hoping to sell nutritious goji berries to people worried about their bodies, certified halal foods to Muslims worried about their souls, and fine red wines to people relaxed about both. If these schemes succeed, they will help Ningxia to close its big trade gap with the rest of the world—and the rest of the country.

China trades more goods across its international borders than any other country. Its provinces also trade a lot with each other, but this trade is far from balanced. If each of China’s provinces were treated as an independent economy, they would record enormous trade deficits and surpluses with the rest of the country and the world (see chart).

The biggest deficit, in absolute terms, in 2012 was recorded by the central province of Henan, out of which China’s civilisation sprang and into which flowed goods and services worth a net 580 billion yuan ($96 billion). In relative terms, however, the widest deficits appear in China’s western provinces. Ningxia’s deficit amounted to almost 40% of its GDP, bigger than the current-account deficit of any actual country. Even wider trade gaps were recorded in Qinghai, Yunnan and Tibet.

These deficits reflect the government’s “Go West” campaign, an effort to invest in the infrastructure of the west. Net “imports” from the rest of China and beyond allow poor provinces to spend more on consumption and investment than they earn. Ningxia’s investment rate was 89% of GDP in 2012. In Tibet, the “roof of the world”, the investment rate was through the ceiling at 101% of GDP.

Signs of investment are everywhere in Ningxia’s capital, Yinchuan. Foreign firms are helping to build a posh hotel and mall, shaped like a flying dragon, which will attract international brands. But not everything is imported. The coal, piled around the dormitories where the labourers live and cook, is local.

via Internal trade: It’s a continent, actually | The Economist.

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In China’s Xinjiang, poverty, exclusion are greater threat than Islam | Reuters

If the analysis in this report is correct, then it is good news for China and Xinjiang. Alleviating poverty is difficult, but far easier than eliminating religious extremism.

“In the dirty backstreets of the Uighur old quarter of Xinjiang\’s capital Urumqi in China\’s far west, Abuduwahapu frowns when asked what he thinks is the root cause of the region\’s festering problem with violence and unrest.

A police officer stops a car to check for identifications at a checkpoint near Lukqun town, in Xinjiang province in this October 30, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/Files

\”The Han Chinese don\’t have faith, and the Uighurs do. So they don\’t really understand each other,\” he said, referring to the Muslim religion the Turkic-speaking Uighur people follow, in contrast to the official atheism of the ruling Communist Party.

But for the teenage bread delivery boy, it\’s not Islam that\’s driving people to commit acts of violence, such as last week\’s deadly car crash in Beijing\’s Tiananmen Square – blamed by the government on Uighur Islamist extremists who want independence.

\”Some people there support independence and some do not. Mostly, those who support it are unsatisfied because they are poor,\” said Abuduwahapu, who came to Urumqi two years ago from the heavily Uighur old Silk Road city of Kashgar in Xinjiang\’s southwest, near the Pakistani and Afghan border.

\”The Han are afraid of Uighers. They are afraid if we had guns, we would kill them,\” he said, standing next to piles of smoldering garbage on plots of land where buildings have been demolished.

China\’s claims that it is fighting an Islamist insurgency in energy-rich Xinjiang – a vast area of deserts, mountains and forests geographically located in central Asia – are not new.”

via In China’s Xinjiang, poverty, exclusion are greater threat than Islam | Reuters.

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