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UPDATED: June 19, 2014 NO. 23 JUNE 5, 2014
A Treasure Map
Forum held in Fuzhou discusses the revival of the ancient maritime Silk Road
By Yu Lintao

Being adjacent to both the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta, the most dynamic economic regions in China, Fuzhou also possesses unique geographical advantages. As a port city, it has a sea area of 11,000 square km and 1,137 km of coastline, which contribute to a strong ocean economy. The Fuzhou Port is one of the 25 pivotal international ports of China.

Yang said his city is building an interconnected traffic system with ASEAN countries, making Fuzhou a transferring hub for trade between Chinese inland regions and ASEAN countries.

A strong industrial base also provides Fuzhou with advantages in foreign trade and cooperation. It has established trade relations with about 217 countries and regions around the world thus far. Data from the Fuzhou Statistical Bureau show that, driven by the export rise of its electronic devices, machinery, energy and apparel, its foreign trade volume totaled $31.43 billion in 2013.

Fuzhou is also planning to expand cooperation in building industrial parks and marine cultivation bases in ASEAN countries.

Another advantage Fuzhou enjoys, according to the mayor, is the large number of Fuzhou natives living in Taiwan as well as overseas. For hundreds of years, many people from the area have moved overseas to make a living. At present, many of their descendants have become successful businessmen or entrepreneurs around the world, especially in Southeast Asia. These people offer important resources. "They can play a role as a bridge linking Fuzhou and foreign countries," Yang said.

Wei of the CIEEC said that as coastal provinces, although Guangdong and Zhejiang have their own respective advantages, Fujian enjoys more distinctive favorable conditions in terms of uniting efforts across the Taiwan Straits in implementing the maritime Silk Road strategy. It is one of the best opportunities for China's mainland and Taiwan Province to achieve win-win cooperation, said Wei.

Better connectivity

For cities and countries along the maritime Silk Road, China's ambitious plan promises not only comprehensive connectivity among regional players but also big opportunities for regional growth.

Thai King Tiong, Mayor of Sibu, a port city of Malaysia near the Strait of Malacca, showed great interest in China's proposal.

"Malaysia has a very favorable geographical advantage as it lies at a pivotal point of the maritime Silk Road. If we can make full use of it, our two countries can push a common development in trade, economy and civilization," Tiong told Beijing Review.

Tiong hopes the two countries can offer each other more preferential policies, including tax preference, to promote bilateral investments. He noted the fleets of Fuzhou can play a larger role in promoting trade and economic cooperation between the two cities.

Mohammad Ibrahim Khalili, Mayor of Hashtgerd of Iran, said the modern maritime Silk Road can further enhance connections between regional countries, adding that such a network is a base for the development of human civilization and the core of coexistence among different countries.

As a coastal city in Iran, Hashtgerd is an important link between Iran and Europe. Its port served as an important transfer station to export silk to European countries in ancient times.

Khalili hopes his city can regain its vitality in the process of building the modern Silk Road. "Through this much-needed interconnection, we can reinvigorate civilization," said Khalili.

The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road covers an estimated population of 3.6 billion people in China, Southeast Asia and South Asia.

By 2020, the bilateral trade volume of China and Southeast Asian countries is expected to reach $ 1 trillion.

Email us at: yulintao@bjreview.com

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