China’s Belt and Road is commonly visualized as a train carrying commerce across Eurasia. But a train does not adequately capture BRI’s significance or scope. Instead, a Chinese flag is a better representation. Whether it is China’s intention or not, the increasing connectivity the BRI brings comes hand in hand with exposure to Chinese culture.
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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.
A special report by Nikkei Asian Review and The Banker which leverages data from the CSIS Reconnecting Asia Project has found that China’s Belt and Road initiative holds considerable promise for countries in need of infrastructure investment along its route, however, participation has been hampered by challenges ranging from a lack of participation by local workers and banks to unmanageable debt hangovers.
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.
Just 10 years ago, regular direct freight services from China to Europe did not exist. Today, they connect roughly 35 Chinese cities with 34 European cities. But despite their rapid advances, these lines must compete with maritime routes that have dominated commerce between Asia and Europe since the late fifteenth century. It remains to be seen how much trade they can capture.