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China unveils details of ambitious Silk Road plans

China has unveiled details about its proposed Silk Road initiatives, which would impact 4.4 billion people and, within a decade, could generate trade above 2.5 trillion dollars.

A vision document jointly prepared by a composite team from the ministries of commerce, foreign affairs and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC)—a top organisation that steers the Chinese economy—has with precision revealed the geographic parameters of China’s “One belt One Road” initiative.

The “belt and road” have two components—the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) that would be established along the Eurasian land corridor from the Pacific coast to the Baltic Sea, and the 21st century Maritime Silk Road (MSR).

Analysts say that the “belt and road” initiative, backed by an extensive China-led funding infrastructure, could shift the center of geo-economic power towards Eurasia, and undermine the “Asia Pivot” of the United States and its allies, widely perceived in Beijing as the central plank of a China-containment policy. Chinese President Xi Jinping is hopeful that the mega-trade volumes among the Silk Road economies would touch $ 2.5 trillion over the next 10 years.

The “belt and road” run through the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa, connecting the vibrant East Asia economic circle at one end and developed European economic circle at the other, says the government report. Specifically, the SREB focuses on bringing together China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe (the Baltic); linking China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea through Central Asia and West Asia; and connecting China with Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Indian Ocean. The 21st-Century MSR, in turn is designed to go from China's coast to Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean in one route, and from China's coast through the South China Sea to the South Pacific in the other.

On land, the initiative will focus on jointly building a new Eurasian Land Bridge and developing China-Mongolia-Russia, China-Central Asia-West Asia and China-Indochina Peninsula economic corridors.

The document identifies specific gateways that will connect China with other Silk Road economies. Xinjiang province in the west will be the connecting hub for Central, South and West Asian countries. It would be one of the terminals of the Pakistan China economic corridor.

Similarly, China’s province of Heilongjiang will become the gateway for Mongolia and Russia’s Far East. The area would be central for the development of the Eurasian high-speed transport corridor linking Beijing with Moscow.

China wishes to leverage Tibet’s geographic location for extending a Silk Road node to Nepal.

Two areas in southwest China -- Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and the Yunnan province will establish links with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Yunnan, which borders Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar is ideal for connecting with the Greater Mekong Sub-region, and serve as a pivot to link China with South and Southeast Asia. Yunnan’s provincial capital, Kunming, is the end- point of the proposed Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor, which starts in Kolkata.

China has plans to integrate and globalise its inland economies around specific strategically located hubs, which will be located along the cross-border international Silk Road transportation network. Thus Chongqing would be developed as “an important pivot” for opening up the hinterland in the country’s western region.

A similar role is assigned to cities such as Chengdu and Wuhan, to open up and enmesh other inland areas with the belt and road economies.

The “belt and road” would be serviced by a network of roads, high-speed railways, fiber-optical lines, transcontinental submarine optical cable projects, and satellite information passageways.

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Printable version | Oct 31, 2020 8:12:18 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/china-unveils-details-of-ambitious-silk-road-plans/article7048921.ece

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