From ‘Silk Road’ to ‘One Belt, One Road’

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By 2017-07-18

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By Sunali Fernando

Silk Road is a web of ancient international trade routes that combined Europe and Asia. The Silk Road routes stretched from China through India, Asia Minor, up throughout Mesopotamia, to Egypt, the African continent, Greece, Rome and Britain. The road influenced the development of the entire region for hundreds of years. As China silk was the main trade product along this ancient road, it was named the 'Silk Road'.

These ancient routes not only helped in trading but also acted as a cultural bridge where rich cultures such as those of China, India, Persia, Arabia, Greece and Rome met, exchanged and interlinked. Art, religion, philosophy, technology, language, science, architecture, etc were exchanged through the Silk Road. Being a significant part of culture, religion played a major role in spreading cultures in different countries. Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Manicheism, Nestorianism and Islam were cultural treasures of the ancient west, which came to China during the ancient times.

Inspired by the Silk Road, in 2013, the Chinese government decided on creating a similar project, 'One Belt, One Road'(OBOR), to join the East and the West trading hubs. This project would include six major routes with several railway lines, roads, ports and other infrastructure. It would link China and Central Asia, West Asia, and parts of South Asia. China believes that this trade route will build an economic corridor between the countries.

There are two parts to this, 'One Belt, One Road', the belt and the road. The belt is the physical road, which goes from China all the way through Kazakhstan, Iran, Turkey, Russia, to Germany and Italy. That is the physical road. 'One Road' is actually the maritime Silk Road, the shipping routes from China to Venice. Spanning across more than 60 countries from Asia, the Middle East, Europe to Africa, the project covers about 65 per cent of the world's population, about one-third of the world's GDP, and about a quarter of all the trade that takes place in the world. OBOR is believed to re-create the shipping routes that made China one of the world's most powerful nations many years ago.

With the country being one of the upcoming economic giants of the modern world, China is providing evidence to its capability in initiating such a massive project (estimated at five trillion dollars). China has stated that it would provide funds for about one third of the $100 billion dollar project. According to the Chinese Government, about 50 Chinese State-owned companies have invested in nearly 1,700 OBOR projects since 2013.

Holding witness to technological giants such as Sinotruk Group, Linuo Group, Kerui Group Holding, Wanda Group, Dongying Port Economic Development Zone, Yantai High-tech Zone and Jereh Group in the Shangdong Province, I was able to observe the development that had taken place in China. These high tech companies are not only in the forefront of the latest and most innovative technologies, but also cover all the major areas in the economic sphere from creating solar plants, manufacturing oil extracting equipment and trucks to manufacturing medicine, accessories, makeup, glassware and providing many investment services.

Amidst such a fast rate of development, China has not forgotten about its responsibility towards the rest of the world and the future generation. The current development of China is towards eco-friendly and sustainable development. Having shifted from one of the leading polluters of the environment to an emerging environmental leader, China (specially Shandong province) provides evidence to its green development through vast areas of greenery amidst gigantic buildings and policies towards environmental conservation.

China being in the forefront as a leading global economic powerhouse proves its capabilities in initiating this economic passageway and believes that 'One Belt, One Road' initiative will not only provide a platform for economical development but also play a major role in enhancing and enriching the cultural ties between countries.

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