25.10.2015 Author: Sofia Pale

“Silk Road” Project: Implementation is Around the Corner

43534532A Special Conference on Silk Road program titled “New Vision for the Silk Road: New Action for Common Development” with the participation of the Asian political parties was held on October 14-16, 2015 in Beijing. Over 400 members of various parties, business communities and mass media from more than 30 countries participated in the Conference. The event was held under the auspices of the International Relations Department of the Central Committee of the Communist party of China.

Silk Road Economic Belt is a long-term strategic program developed by ChineseChina, which includes grandeur projects on the construction of communication lines connecting China with other Asian regions and Europe.

During the opening ceremony, Li Yuanchao, member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China, secretary of the Secretariat of the Communist Party of China Li Yuanchao delivered a speech. In his declamation titled “Creating Bright Future by Deepening Cooperation of Political Parties from the Silk Road Regions” Mr. Yuanchao stated that the Silk Road Economic Belt as well as the Maritime Silk Road program are of great importance not only for the Chinese or Asian economy, but for the humanity on the whole, because it connects remote regions and facilitates their peaceful coexistence. Li Yuanchao has also mentioned that the program is being implemented at the initiative of Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping with active support of the Chinese government and that it fully corresponds to the spirit of the current Chinese policy. China is looking to enhance cooperation with all the countries the Silk Road runs through and, according to Li Yuanchao, the Conference will certainly assist in the achievement of this goal.

With vividness typical of oriental orators, Li Yuanchao noticed that China is not a “soloist” striving to pursue its interests in isolation, but “a member of a big choir made up of countries- being participants of the program, working toward common good.”

The part of the New Silk Road program concerning the construction of railroads and, predominantly, in Central Asia, has received extensive coverage in mass media.

It should be mentioned that there is also a the Maritime Silk Road that runs from China to Southeast Asia. Back in October 2013, Xi Jinping, the leader of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping, speaking before the parliament of Indonesia, said that China should establish trade cooperation with the ASEAN countries (Brunei, Viet Nam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Philippines) and create a the “Maritime Silk Road of the 21st century”.

The Maritime Silk Road as well as the Silk Road emerged some two thousand years ago and connected China to Persia and the Arabian Peninsula. Ships carrying goods sailed along the shores of Viet Nam, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Pakistan and other countries. Chinese colonies, established along the sea route, were promptly populated by merchants and settlers from the Celestial Empire. Many of them still prosper.

As for the contemporary history, till recent times China had ordinary bilateral trade relations with all the mentioned countries, but an agreement was signed between the People’s Republic of China and the ASEAN countries in 2010 resulting in the establishment of a free trade area. Currently, the volume of trade between China and the ASEAN is estimated as hundreds of billions of dollars. The Chinese party is planning for this amount to increase to one trillion by 2020.

According to the program, the Maritime Silk Road of the 21st century is supposed to begin in the Chinese port town of the Quanzhou and run through big cities in the southern China, cross the Strait of Malacca and end in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. The further route will run through the Indian Ocean and to Calcutta (India) and then to Colombo (Sri Lanka) and Maldives. Then it will lead to Nairobi (Kenya) and then across the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea with via Athens (Greece). The two Silk Roads (by sea and by land) will then merge in Venice.

In fact, implementation of the maritime project was up in the air until recently. Many ASEAN member countries fearing China’s growing influence show affinity toward the US, whose presence in the region is also significant. The West exerts every effort to counteract expanding China’s influence as well as its Silk Road program.

These circumstances compelled China to concentrate on the land portion of the program, which means that Beijing will perceive participation of the Russian Federation in the program as crucial. And for the sake of this participation, potential reconstruction of BAM and the Transsib as well as extensive railroad construction in Russia in the framework of the program is being considered. Russian banks (VTB and VEB) have also received lucrative proposals. They were offered to participate in the Silk Road program and to collaborate with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Since Russia ranks third (after China and India) among the countries participating in the program (in terms of economic development), it will undoubtedly play one of the key roles in it.

In April 2015, the Russian Federation became a potential participant of the program. To mark this milestone, Russian President Vladimir Putin and President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping met in May. Later the countries signed a strategic partnership agreement. In addition, the leaders of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China signed a joint statement on cooperation in the coordination of the works related to the Eurasian Economic Union and the Silk Road Economic Belt.

Among the high guests who made speeches at the Special Conference on Silk Road with the participation of Asian political parties, there were Nikos Anastasiades, president of the Republic of Cyprus, Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia, Zandaakhüügiin Enkhbold, speaker of the Parliament of Mongolia and Chairman of Mongolian Democratic Party, David Usupashvili, speaker of the Parliamentary of Georgia and Jose de Venice, the co-Chairman of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties and others.

On October 15 (the day following the opening of the Special Conference), Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping spoke to the guests. He said that the Conference has a great practical significance because acceleration of implementation of the program implementation is expected to boost economies of the involved countries and to facilitate cultural exchange among them. He also noted that the volume of trade between China and the participant participating countries had exceeded $570 bln, while the volume of investments of Chinese companies in their economies had amounted to nearly $9 bln, which is 30% more than the year before. According to Xi Jinping, Chinese mega program had been recognized by the international community in the two recent years. Those sixty states, the Silk Road Economic Belt passes through, are already reaping the first fruits of their commitment.

All guests of the Conference contended that the Silk Road is a grandeur program promoting prosperity of the participating states. The guests have also supported the idea of further development of the program.

Sophia Pale, PhD, Research Fellow of the Center for South-East Asia, Australia and Oceania of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

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