China President Xi Jinping’s ambitious strategic initiative – an adaptation of the historical Silk Road – marks the beginning of a new geopolitical era.
The Belt and Road refers to the land-based "Silk Road Economic Belt" and the seagoing "21st Century Maritime Silk Road". The routes cover more than 60 countries and regions from Asia to Europe via Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, West Asia and the Middle East, currently accounting for some 30 per cent of global GDP and more than 35 per cent of the world's merchandise trade.
The Silk Road was a network of trade routes, formally established during the Han Dynasty. The road originated from Chang'an (now Xian) in the east and ended in the Mediterranean in the west, linking China with the Roman Empire.
As China’s silk was the major trade product, German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen coined it the Silk Road in 1877. It was not just one road but rather a series of major trade routes that helped build trade and cultural ties between China, India, Persia,Arabia, Greece, Rome and Mediterranean countries.
It reached its height during the Tang Dynasty, but declined in the Yuan dynasty, established by the Mongol Empire, as political powers along the route became more fragmented. The Silk Road ceased to be a shipping route for silk around 1453 with the rise of the Ottoman Empire, whose rulers opposed the West.
A road map to THE FUTURE
The Belt and Road initiative provides a visionary blueprint for global economic development in the new world order. Taking reference from the historic Silk Road, which transformed the nature of international trade links in ancient times, the Belt and Road Initiative offers a modern-day solution that fosters inclusive growth and development in the 21st century.
By 2050, the Belt and Road region aims to contribute 80 per cent of global GDP growth, and advance three billion more people into the middle class.
Director of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) He Lifeng stated that:
China has invested more than 50 billion U.S. dollars in countries along the Belt and Road since the nation proposed the initiative in 2013, a senior economic official said on Monday.
The Belt and Road Initiative has won support from over 100 countries and international organizations, with nearly 50 cooperation agreements signed between governments, said He Lifeng, head of the National Development and Reform Commission, at a press conference on the sidelines of the annual parliamentary session.
He said progress under the initiative was "better than expected."
The initiative was proposed by China in the hope of creating a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along ancient trade routes.
In the spirit of regional connectivity, China is working in aviation, power, rail, road and telecommunications projects with participating countries.