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Monday, February 08, 2016
China's trillion-dollar Silk Road plan is steeped in historical precedent going back to the Han dynasty two millennia ago. The way forward for this massive global infrastructure loop is anything but smooth. But while pundits and policymakers hem, haw and predict, some of the world's leading logistics firms are getting busy.
Nearly one year ago, in advance of the October 2015 release of China's 13th five-year plan, the People's Republic released its "One Belt, One Road" (OBOR) vision document, adding further dimension to a global transport infrastructure plan originally announced in October 2013 by President Xi Jinping — and steadily promoted ever since. It's backed in part by the Chinese government's $40-billion Silk Road Fund, as well as $50 billion from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
"The initiative to jointly build the Belt and Road, embracing the trend towards a multipolar world, economic globalization, cultural diversity and greater IT application, is designed to uphold the global free trade regime and the open world economy in the spirit of open regional cooperation," says the vision.
Analysis and debunking have ensued from all the corners of the Earth that the new Silk Road wants to connect, as some wonder whether uniting the world is synonymous with dominating it, while others bemoan cost.
Some of the clearest insights come from Bert Hofman, the World Bank's Beijing-based country director for China, Mongolia and Korea in the East Asia and Pacific Region. In a December 2015 post, he explains that the Belt will be cinched over land while the Road's primary surface will be water:
"The 'Belt' is a network of overland road and rail routes, oil and natural gas pipelines, and other infrastructure projects that will stretch from Xi’an in central China through Central Asia and ultimately reach as far as Moscow, Rotterdam, and Venice," he writes. "Rather than one route, belt corridors are set to run along the major Eurasian Land Bridges, through China-Mongolia-Russia, China-Central and West Asia, China-Indochina Peninsula, China-Pakistan, Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar.
"The 'Road' is its maritime equivalent," he continues, "a network of planned ports and other coastal infrastructure projects that dot the map from South and Southeast Asia to East Africa and the northern Mediterranean Sea.
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