New Silk Road

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New Silk Road 10.04.2017 12:29

When I read the speech of Chairman Xi Jinping in Astana (in autumn 2013) outlining the initiative to create the Economic belt of the Silk Road, I confess that this beautiful idea seemed to me another geopolitical abstraction. Over the past decades, I've seen a lot of such - several Silk Roads were invented recently by Europeans and Americans. However, after a while, after reading articles in the Chinese media and scientific journals, I began to think about Beijing's initiative as something quite real: trains and cars are carried to the West by highways and railways, which are about to reach Moscow. But this too was a view far from reality.

During 2016, I was lucky enough to make five trips to China and drive all along the route of the Chinese section of the New Silk Road. Both in Russia and in the West it is increasingly called - "Economic belt of the Silk Road". Collected materials and impressions, I set out in the book "The New Silk Road: with my own eyes, with my own words." It will be published in May this year, shortly before the SCO summit in Astana, in Russian and Chinese, and, I hope, it will be useful to a growing number of people interested in China.

It's one thing to study China, so to speak, from a bird's eye view - sitting in an armchair, reading ancient folios and modern articles. Quite differently, the country is seen when you go along its roads and streets. People are different, even if you have had time to talk, exchange smiles and shake hands, or share a meal with only a few hundred of 1,400 million people. Having overcome a distance of 11,000 km for a year along the New Silk Road from the port of Lianyungang on the shore of the Yellow Sea to the land ports of Alashankou and Khorgos on the border with Kazakhstan, having visited Zhengzhou and Siani, Lanzhou and Yinchuan, Uwei and Zhangye, Dunhuang and Guazhou, Hami and Inina, I see a different picture more impressive and concrete.

The Chinese nation has set itself another super task, commensurate in scale with the construction of the Great Wall, the arrangement of the Great Silk Road, the creation of the Great Channel. This project will require enormous resources and efforts for several decades, but it will provide the country with new opportunities for development. He will change China's transport system and provide the country with new outlets to the outside world. It will balance the location of industry and create new growth points. Due to new agrarian technologies, the development of arid and desert lands will accelerate; the deficit of cultivated areas will decrease. New construction will create millions of jobs; attract educated and ambitious young people to the poorly populated areas of the Northwest.

I also realized that to achieve the first, but quite tangible success on the New Silk Road, the very setting of the long-term goal and the distribution of its initial stages in time and in the hotel regions was very important. In conversations with party and administrative officials, I learned how the coordination of local development plans is going with the national program. Before my eyes, the construction of new factories and medical centers, exhibition complexes and residential quarters was unprecedented.

Concentrating on four hieroglyphs, ("One belt and one way"), the short formula of a huge nationwide program entered the consciousness of every Chinese, and for tens of millions of residents of the north-western part of the country became a concrete life perspective.

The new Silk Road is not lined with silk. Even on the Chinese segment, much remains to be done. Until now, the construction of a single network of passenger high-speed railways has not been completed. From Beijing on a high-speed train until you reach Urumqi. Freight trunks also have to be reconstructed, to increase the speed of movement, to lay new lines in industrial centers. Emerged in recent years, "new cities" and "new areas", industrial sites in free trade zones will be filled by enterprises for more than one year.

Even more must be done to China's neighbors and distant neighbors who decided to take part in the initiative of the Economic belt of the Silk Road and its "double" called the Silk Road of the 21st century. An American philosopher of Japanese origin, Francis Fukuyama, predicted somehow "the end of history" called a double initiative, which received the common abbreviated name "One belt and one way", "the largest strategy of the 21st century".

In his article for the publishing conglomerate Project Syndicate, he wrote: "If the One-Way and One-Way project justifies the expectations of Chinese planners, the whole of Eurasia-from Indonesia to Poland-will change over the course of a generation. The Chinese model will thrive outside of China, raising the incomes of dozens of countries, and hence the demand for Chinese products in new markets that will replace stagnating markets in other parts of the world".

Indeed, by offering Eurasia's neighbors a sketch of the colossal plan for joint infrastructural and industrial projects, China proceeds from an understandable desire to increase sales of its products by creating new and expanding existing markets. It already has the most favorable conditions for the construction of railways, highways, tunnels and dams, industrial parks and free trade zones in Central Asia, Pakistan, Indonesia and Ceylon, Greece, Hungary, Serbia and Belarus.

At the same time, China does not want anyone to "make happy" by force. Interested parties may join. Those who are unwilling - will remain aloof and, most likely, will regret the missed opportunities. However, there are plenty of people who want it. As of mid-2016, more than 30 countries signed agreements on cooperation with China, 46 cooperation zones with 17 countries have been established. In the newly created one-time and one-way programs for the programs, the Asian Bank for Infrastructure Investments with a capital of $ 100billion entered 57 countries.

Still, Beijing announced its intention to invest $ 1.4 trillion. In the implementation of programs of land and sea Silk Roads! Another new financial instrument - the Silk Road Fund with a capital of $ 40 billion - is aimed primarily at Russia and the countries of Central Asia.

The funds are huge, but the need for investment is even greater. Neighboring countries with China, before increasing the "flesh" from industrial and commercial areas to the "skeleton" of railways and highways, will need a radical renovation of their infrastructure. Built in recent years, modern Chinese railways and highways immediately after crossing the border often change to obsolete routes, or even simply rest on the road.

Soon the countries of the Economic belt will have to make a choice - to patch up the old or weave a new canvas of the Silk Road.

The price of the issue can be enormous. The benefit can be indescribable.


Yuri Tavrovsky, Professor of the Russian University of Peoples' Friendship