You’ve probably heard of the Silk Road, the ancient trade route that once ran between China and the West during the days of the Roman Empire. It’s how oriental silk first made it to Europe. And now it’s being resurrected. Announced in 2013 by President Xi Jinping, a brand new double trade corridor is set to reopen channels between China and its neighbors in the west: most notably Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
The aim of the $900 billion scheme, as China explained recently, is to kindle a “new era of globalization”, a golden age of commerce that will benefit all. One strong incentive for the project is that Trans-Eurasian trade infrastructure could bolster poorer countries to the south of China, as well as boost global trade. Some Western diplomats have been wary in their response to the proposed trade corridor, seeing it as a land grab designed to promote China’s influence globally, but there’s little evidence to suggest the route will benefit China alone.
Sixty-two countries could see investments of up to US$500 billion over the next five years, according to Credit Suisse, with most of that channeled to India, Russia, Indonesia, Iran, Egypt, the Philippines, and Pakistan.Chinese companies are already behind several energy projects, including oil and gas pipelines between China and Russia, Kazakhstan, and Myanmar. Roads and infrastructure projects are also underway in Ethiopia, Kenya, Laos, and Thailand.
Pakistan is one of the New Silk Road’s foremost supporters. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the trade route marked the “dawn of a truly new era of synergetic intercontinental cooperation”. Unsurprising praise perhaps from a country that stands at one end of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, where it is poised to benefit from $46 billion in new roads, bridges, wind farms and other China-backed infrastructure projects.