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Creating a New Silk Road: China’s Billion Dollar Investment to Expand its Transportation Network

With an incredible journey ahead, the extensive network that will come from it, the new Silk Road is looking better than ever.

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. The difference between the two validate the investments made on the road, and give a hopeful image for the future.

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.

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The Silk Road on the sides of Indus river, Wikimedia Commons

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.

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A visitor walks past the statues of the characters from the Chinese novel ‘Journey to the West’ Thursday March 15, 2007 in Lanzhou, China. Lanzhou was an important town along with the ancient Silk Road connecting China and Europe. VOA

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.

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Research Finds US Power and Influence as a Greater Threat than Russia and China

The list of countries most likely to view the U.S. as a threat is topped by two key allies in the Asia-Pacific: South Korea and Japan.

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US, Donald Trump
"The President is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said. VOA

More people around the world worry about the threat posed by the United States’ use of power and influence than they do about similar threats from Russia or China.

The finding, part of Pew Research Center’s Spring 2018 Global Attitudes Survey, found a median of 45 percent of more than 27,000 respondents in 26 countries view U.S. power and influence as a threat, compared to 37 percent for Russia and 35 percent for China.

The list of countries most likely to view the U.S. as a threat is topped by two key allies in the Asia-Pacific: South Korea and Japan.

Donald Trump, North Korea
FILE – A man reads a newspaper reporting on the summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at a newspaper stand in Seoul, South Korea, June 12, 2018. VOA

In South Korea, 67 percent of respondents listed the U.S. as a threat. In Japan, it was 66 percent.

Mexico was third, with 64 percent of respondents calling U.S. power and influence a major threat. Previous Pew surveys found views of the U.S. in Mexico nose-dived following the election of U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016.

Data published by Pew in October 2018 found 6 percent of Mexicans expressed confidence in Trump’s leadership, due in part to strong opposition to his plans to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

In another four countries — Tunisia, Argentina, Brazil and Indonesia — more than half of the respondents viewed U.S. power and influence as a threat.

And 49 percent of respondents in France and Germany saw the U.S. as a threat.

Pew researchers call the increased wariness of the U.S. the biggest change in sentiment of all the threats tracked by the survey.

In 2013, about 25 percent of survey respondents from 22 countries saw U.S. power and influence as a threat. But by 2017, following Trump’s election, that had risen to 38 percent.

U.S. security policy under Trump has emphasized what officials have described as a new era of great power competition, labeling Russia and China top threats to the U.S. and the world.

Donald Trump, South Korea
In South Korea, 67 percent of respondents listed the U.S. as a threat. Pixabay

During his first day on the job, acting U.S. Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan said his top concern was, “China, China, China.”

But based on the results of the survey, many people around the world are not convinced.

Poland was the only country where more than half of the respondents saw Russian influence and power a major threat.

Respondents seem to be more worried about China, though only in four countries did more than half of the respondents see China as a danger.

A median of 82 percent of South Koreans surveyed viewed Chinese influence and power as a major threat, followed by 69 percent in Japan, 56 percent in the Philippines, and 51 percent in Australia.

In the U.S., 50 percent of the respondents viewed Russian influence and power as a threat, compared to 48 percent who felt the same about China.

Late last month, the U.S. intelligence community’s annual Worldwide Threat Assessment report warned of waning U.S. influence across the globe, even among allies, with Russia and China seeking to fill the void.

Many U.S. allies, the report said, are “seeking greater independence from Washington in response to their perceptions of changing U.S. policies on security and trade.”

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The Pew survey of 27,612 people in 26 countries was conducted between May 14 and Aug. 12, 2018.

It listed the top perceived threats as climate change, the Islamic State terror group, cyberattacks and North Korea’s nuclear program. (VOA)