China opened its Silk Road summit on Sunday to showcase its ambitious plans to revive ancient trade routes from Asia to Europe and Africa.

Beijing’s grand vision — unveiled by Xi in 2013 — includes the “Silk Road Economic Belt”, which extends from China to central Asia and Europe, linking northern Xi’an city with Dushanbe (Tajikistan), Moscow, Rotterdam and Venice.

The “21st-century Maritime Silk Road” is a transport route that plans to connect China’s east coast with Europe via the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.

The China Development Bank alone has earmarked $890 billion for some 900 projects.

Here are some of them:

Trains

The China-Europe Railway Express includes 51 rail links connecting 27 Chinese and 28 European cities, with freight trains that offer shorter transport time than sea routes.

A planned 418-kilometre rail line between China and Laos attempts to be the first overseas route that connects with the vast rail system in the former. Once finished, it will be the longest and fastest in Laos.

Another 873-kilometre high-speed railway project between China and Thailand will link the Chinese border to Thailand’s ports. It will transform southwestern Yunnan province into a trading hub that exports China’s goods to southeast Asian markets.

In Africa, Obor will include a 471-kilometre railway between Nairobi and Mombasa, on the Indian Ocean coast. Passenger trains will zoom at 120 kilometres per hour, while freights will run at 80 kilometres per hour and carry 25 million tonnes of cargo per year.

Sea ports

Three state-owned Chinese enterprises bought Turkey’s third largest port, Kumport, which is considered an important joint between the “belt” and the “road”.

Pakistan

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor was inaugurated in November to link Gwadar port with Kashgar, a city in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province.

The corridor has alarmed India because it cuts through Gilgit-Baltistan, a territory also claimed by New Delhi.

The port will provide China with a safe and more direct access to the oil-rich Middle East than the waterway trade route it currently uses through the narrow Malacca Straits.

A new international airport will also be built in Gwadar.

Central to the project in Pakistan is the renovation of the 487-kilometre Karakoram Highway, which is part of China’s only land passage to the Middle East.

Industrial parks

China and Malaysia are building an industrial park in Kuantan, Malaysia, for steel, aluminium and palm oil processing.

In eastern Europe, a China-Belarus industrial park for high-tech businesses broke ground in Minsk in July 2014, the largest one built by the Asian country overseas.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2017

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