You may be familiar with the term “Silk Road” from your early history and geography lessons. In case you need refreshing, what we’re talking about is the merchant road that started in Venice, Italy and went all the way to Chang’an (today Xi’an) China. And although the road has also seen Marco Polo travel on it, it is nowhere near being outdated.
In recent times, many countries have found that the road is more convenient to trade on, giving it international attention. One of the most interested is China, which is currently working on a project that aims to map out a new silk road that will revolutionize the way China trades with its partners. With big numbers being introduced in the plan, the numbers that will come from it are even bigger, spurring the use of the road even more.
The New Silk Road
One of the most recent events concerning the Silk Road is the train from the tiny town of Mortara, Italy to the Chinese metropolis of Chengdu of 14 million residents. The train trip – 10,800 kilometers long – took 18 days, and passed through six countries; Italy, Austria, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Kazakhstan.
Even though you may think 18 days is quite the voyage, it is much less than the 48 days it normally takes by boat. With 30 days to spare, the train left with 34 wagons filled with tiles, machines, furnisher, and other goods; products that are (and were) common on the road. The new train is connected to a larger railways system that was opened in 2012 in Duisburg, Germany.
New Project: One Belt, One Road
Along with the added route, the stops are part of what is known as the new Silk Road. Thanks to this transcontinental route, Chinese President Xi Jinping has frequently stated his interest in improving the road as part of his foreign policy. Furthermore, it is thanks to China that the project is developing quickly: in 2013, China introduced the “One Belt, One Road” project which involves 65 countries, and a total combined population of 4.4 billion people.
The project aims at bettering and expanding the existing network of airports, railways, roads, ports, and other infrastructures between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
In regard to the project, last May the Chinese government announced that it would be investing $124 billion extra funds, with a completion date foreseen for 2049.
The main objective of the project is to create at least 2 maritime corridors, and 6 land ones to increase the trading possibilities between Europe and Asia; including Russia. Already today, the European Commission estimates that the trading results in $600 billion in trade, which is likely to grow and reach the amount of $1 trillion by 2020.
With such a positive outlook for the new Silk Road, who would’ve known back then we would still be using it today!