ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The New Silk Road

China’s Belt and Road Initiative is a geopolitical and economic master stroke.

Having attained the position of the world’s second largest economy, China seems bent upon reaching the top spot in record time. It is doing this by spending its way to prosperity as part of a grand strategy that seeks to attain both geopolitical and economic competitive advantage. Twenty-eight heads of state/government and representatives from 100 countries and a large number of international organisations gathered in Beijing on 14–15 May as part of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. They launched the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road project, also called the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) or One Belt, One Road. The BRI is a massive international development project that envisages, at the least, a number of roads, railway lines and ports that will connect major economic centres in China, via various routes, with Europe. Japan and India, Asia’s second and third largest economies, however, chose to boycott the forum. New Delhi was concerned about “sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping, of course, invoked historical memory of the Silk Road or the Silk Route, the network of trade routes from 150 BCE to the 1450s CE that connected the Asian continent from east to west, from Japan and the Korean peninsula to the Mediterranean Sea. The name derives from the lucrative trade in silk but a by-product of the international commerce was cultural and technological diffusion. While romanticising the historical Silk Route, Xi emphasised the advantages of “mutual learning and benefit,” “openness and inclusiveness,” and called the new Silk Road—the BRI—the “project of the century.” But marketing of the project aside, one must try to grasp its underlying geopolitics and political economy.

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Updated On : 27th Aug, 2017

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