Not everybody may be familiar with the Silk Road, or how long it’s been around. Dating back to Alexander the Great, let’s say that the road was a very long commute option for merchants. With its starting point in Venice, Italy and stretching through Istanbul, Damascus, Baghdad, Samarkand and Tashkent, the road used to bring its passengers all the way to Chang’an (today known as Xi’an) in China. Surprisingly enough, we are still very much adamant in using the passageway today. The new Silk Road investment plan started back in 2012, and just keeps growing.
One mention of the road’s continuous expansion is a recent train trip taken following the old, and new route combined. Last November a train left from a small town in Mortara, Italy and travelled all the way to the bustling metropolis of Chengdu, China. The train left with 34 wagons full of various goods, and was to compete with the boats that usually carry out the same business in 48 days. However, surprise surprise, after travelling for 10,800 kilometers, and crossing 6 countries (Italy, Austria, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Kazakhstan) the train arrived in Chengdu after only 18 days. Yes, only because it took a month less than their neighboring boat route. The route is now part of the overarching train system that follows the new Silk Road, inaugurated back in 2012 in Duisburg, Germany.
Overall, the 18-day result was very well received by merchants and traders. The difference between the two validate the investments made on the road, and give a hopeful image for the future. The route shows just how close Europe and Asia can get, and all the possibilities this closeness can bring. A main spokesman for the new Silk Road project has been Chinese president Xi Jinping, who has often spoken about investments and projects in his foreign policy plans.
In fact, China has been a very big player in the general new Silk Road project. In 2013 China announced the “One Belt, One Road” project. The plan aims at revisiting, and upgrading the infrastructure network – roads, railways, ports, airports – found along the road. The renovated network will go to improve trade between Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Last May, the Chinese government pledged an additional $124 billion investment, announcing that the project should be completed by 2049.
The project will focus on creating new transcontinental trading corridors between the countries. Two by sea and 6 by land, the corridors will strengthen the trading routes between Asia and Europe, and will go on to include Russia as well. With an incredible journey ahead, the extensive network that will come from it, the new Silk Road is looking better than ever.