While most heads were turned to the East-West transport arteries spearheaded by China’s Belt and Road investments, activity along the lesser known North-South corridors has been slowly gaining momentum. Like their East-West cousins, the North-South routes consist of a bundle of land and sea multimodal corridors and connect South Asia to Northern Europe via the Persian Gulf and the Caspian region. Unlike the China-sponsored Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects, however, the development of the North-South corridors follows a more multilateral and multi-stakeholder approach.
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A milestone agreement on trade and economic cooperation signed in May 2018 represents an important step forward for the relationship between the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Most countries along the BRI have urgent infrastructure development needs and many are considered too high-risk for traditional investors, the result being that their governments have been highly receptive to Beijing’s offers of financing, building, and operating infrastructure projects.
The volume of EU-China cargo traffic traveling the Eurasian Economic Union’s (EAEU) railways is growing rapidly, a trend that is likely to continue in the short term. However, according to a new report by the Eurasian Development Bank’s Centre for Integration Studies, the EAEU and its neighboring countries will need to further expand transport infrastructure and remove a number of barriers to keep the momentum going.
To better understand the opportunities and challenges posed along China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the members of The New Silk Road Project will travel 10,000 miles across China’s Economic Belt to explore the people, projects, countries, and landscapes involved. We expect to depart from London and Rotterdam, two western termini of the Belt and Road, in June 2018. Over 60 days, we will travel to Yiwu, a city in East China that houses the world’s largest wholesale market and aspires to send more of its goods along the BRI’s overland routes. We will focus on two key corridors: the New Eurasian Land Bridge and China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor, attempting to visit over two dozen ‘Silk Road’ hubs along this fast-evolving axis.