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UPDATED: November 5, 2013 NO. 45 NOVEMBER 7, 2013
Silk Road Resurrection
New economic belt brings a wealth of opportunity for China, Central Asia and Europe
By Lan Xinzhen

In addition, Central Asia abounds in energy and mineral products, while China has been increasingly dependent on energy imports. According to the National Energy Administration, China's imports of crude oil may hit 320 million tons this year, accounting for 60 percent of the country's total oil consumption. On this front, the new Silk Road will substantially improve China's energy safety and deepen the strategic cooperation on energy resources between China and Central Asia.

Traffic corridor

Given that many of the regions and areas on the economic belt are challenged geographically by disadvantageous natural conditions, and politically by instability, realizing the new Silk Road vision will not be an easy task.

As President Xi has proposed, efforts should be made in coordinating policies, integrating road networks, promoting trade and currency circulation, and strengthening friendships.

Currently the hardware infrastructure of the traffic corridor, including railways, highways and air routes, has been put in place.

"Now, the integration of road networks has been basically completed, and it will give a push to the eventual establishment of the economic belt," said Sun.

A train from Lianyungang now heads west along Lianyungang-Lanzhou Railway and Lanzhou-Xinjiang Railway, arriving at Yili in northernmost Xinjiang, the junction to the hinterland of Central Asia. The main arteries connecting China and Central Asia have been included in the Asian Highway Network, and the state highway, starting from Lianyungang to Khorgas, a Chinese town near the border with Kazakhstan, joins with the European Road E40, traversing Central Asia.

In terms of air transportation, China has opened direct routes to Alma-Ata, the largest city of Kazakhstan, Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, and Duschanbe, capital of Tajikistan.

Moreover, Xinjiang, which borders Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, has opened 12 category-1 ports to Central Asian countries.

More importantly, China has signed a range of transportation agreements with some Central Asian countries, providing legal protection for the new Silk Road.

"Only when roads are available, can deals be reached. The traffic corridor has laid a cornerstone for the economic belt," said Sun.

Winning argument

When President Xi first came up with the economic belt concept, concerns emerged in the international community. Critics said it was China's attempt to plunder resources in Central Asian countries.

Sun argued that such regional economic cooperation was only aimed at obtaining common development. The economic belt would boost China's investment in Central Asia, improve the efficiency of production factors, and push China's industrial restructuring and upgrading, yielding a mutually beneficial result.

For China, the economic belt will help its western regions open wider to the outside world. In the past, the focus was on coastal cities. But now, the new leadership is stressing greater development of frontier and inland regions. The economic belt concept has provided a solution for the unbalanced economic development of China's eastern, central and western areas.

Challenged by the current gloomy economic climate, countries in Central Asia see the new economic belt concept as a means to more practical commercial and trade cooperation, and an upgrading of China-Central Asian ties. With this outlook, both sides could expect a period of rapid growth, and the legendary Silk Road could once again create history.

Email us at: lanxinzhen@bjreview.com

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