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Visualisation of Belt and Road routs. HTDK researchWould the Silk Roads come back change the way we trade and end the way commerce is used as an instrument of power projection?

There is no doubt that the United States is losing its status and influence as the world’s economic leader, and this is only good for the rest of the world.

The present financial crisis, which started in 2007 as a result of the United State’s uncontrolled and almost illegal hedge fund market, is still lingering on. At the same time the trigger-happy and overt use of economical warfare and snap sanctions by the United States and its allies have caused the world’s economy the loss of hundreds of billions of dollars. All this, together with the militarist – interventionist policies of the United States has constituted of a recipe for disaster.

Fortunately the rest of the world is not on pause and several developments are shifting the economical balance towards a multipolar and healthy future.

Last year, despite US resistance and protestations, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), succeeded in raising a working capital of $50 billion from 57 founding members. Among them were some of the closest allies of the United States such as UK, Germany, France, Israel and South Korea. The unchallenged dominance of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund has finally come to an end and this is a cause for celebration in the developing world.

AIIB is not the only project in this global economical revolution lead by China. Chinas development projects in Africa, to which the Peoples Republic has committed more than $75 billion in the last decade, have had fundamental effects in the continent forgotten by its European colonial masters.

The newest in the series of welcomed initiatives is the Belt and Road initiative, which aims to connect Asia, Europe and Africa along five routes. The Belt and Road will take advantage of international transport routes as well as core cities and key ports to further strengthen collaboration and build six international economic co-operation corridors to form a modern day maritime Silk Road.

The Basic idea of the initiative is to revive the ancient Silk Road concept to link China to Europe through Central Asia and Russia; to connect China with the Persian Gulf through Central Asia; and to bring together China and Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Indian Ocean.

The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, meanwhile, focuses on using Chinese coastal ports to link China with Europe through the South China Sea and Indian Ocean; and connect China with the South Pacific Ocean through the South China Sea.

These are not just physical roads or maritime routs, but the initiative aims to ease transport of goods and cargo by adopting a “one declaration, one inspection, one cargo release” principle.

The new Eurasia Land Bridge economical corridor is a transnational railway running all the way form Lianyungang in China’s Jiangsu province to Rotterdam in Holland. After exiting China the railway passes through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland.

The China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor has an established history, which will be revived by renovations to the routs, strengthening of rail and highway connectivity and construction, and advance customs clearance and transport facilitation.

The China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor runs from Xinjiang in China and exits the country via Alashankou to join the railway networks of Central Asia and West Asia before reaching the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean coast and the Arabian Peninsula. The corridor mainly covers five countries in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan) as well as Iran and Turkey in West Asia.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has been initiated already in 2013 with the objective of building highways, railways, oil and natural gas pipelines and optic fiber networks stretching from Kashgar in the north of China to Gwadar Port in the south of Pakistan.

The Belt and Road initiative, which is funded through a US$ 40 billion Silk Road Fund, will certainly affect the economy of all the countries involved in a positive manner. Is it in the self-interest of China? Yes definitely. But does it weaken the other countries involved to reach that purpose? Not at all.

This principle of win-win which has been clear in China’s international financial dealings and initiatives is a welcomed change from the policies of the United States, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which at times have pushed countries to the brink of disaster with their selfish and unethical practices.

The Belt and Road initiative, together with the AIIB are important not only for the regional and international development they produce, but also for the change they bring to the already discredited and misused global financial dominance of the United States. 


Alexis Kouros

Helsinki Times