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Pres. Trump has proposed a multi-billion dollar infrastructure plan…..but it is pale in comparison to the plan from China.
A huge Chinese project to enhance trade……
China’s president calls it the “project of the century:” a sweeping new version of the ancient Silk Road designed, according to China, to promote global development. Leaders from 30 nations issued a joint endorsement Monday as part of a 2-day meeting that counted Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan among attendees but saw no major Western leaders present, the AP reports. (The US delegation was led by the National Security Council’s Asia director.) Reutersreports Xi Jinping on Sunday pledged another $124 billion for the “Belt and Road” initiative, which was first announced in 2013. China’s line is that it’s a purely commercial effort. Some foreign diplomats and political analysts aren’t so sure. What you need to know:
- What it is: As Sky News puts it, the initiative’s goal is to “recreate the trading routes of old overland and sea through central Asia, to Europe and beyond.” The recreating part means investing massive sums in everything from high-speed railways and ports to airports and telecom projects in more than 60 countries, in what would be China’s most ambitious foreign project ever.
- The numbers: “The scope is always changing,” reports the Washington Post, so the estimates run the gamut from $900 billion and up—way up. NBC News puts the estimated price tag at $1.4 trillion, and notes that’s 11 times the cost (converted into today’s dollars) spent rebuilding post-WWII under the Marshall Plan.
- Specific plans: One vision is to lay so much high-speed rail track that you could go from Beijing to London in two days, notes NBC. It also flags a port effort in Pakistan that would facilitate new trade routes to China’s western Xinjiang region, and a China-Myanmar pipeline that will give Beijing a new way to access Middle East crude.
- From Xi’s mouth: He hopes the plan “will unleash new forces for global economic growth” free of a political agenda. That claim has raised eyebrows among Western diplomats who wonder if China is making a move to boost its exports at the expense of US influence in Asia.
- The skepticism: Al Jazeera’sAdrian Brown’s take: It’ll cost a “phenomenal sum of money, so many people are asking where is this money going to come from and [saying] that China is acting out of self-interest [as it] needs to get its own economy moving again and helping the economy of countries that depend on China.”
- Africa-specific skepticism: A post at Quartz likens the new Silk Road to colonial Britain’s trade routes, and says a major goal is to open up new markets for China. Except “African countries are already flooded with Chinese products.” There’s already an imbalance, with not even 20% of sub-Saharan African countries having a trade surplus with China based on 2015 data.
- Another concern: What Reutersterms the “lending program of unprecedented breadth” that’s facilitating all this construction. It reports that two Chinese policy banks have already doled out hundreds of billions in loans to, in some cases, “heavily indebted, poor countries” at generous terms. The banks say they’ve made moves to limit risk, but Reuters warns of the potential for a “hangover.”
- The foils: As far as the world stage goes, there’s a bit of a clash between President Trump’s “America First” stance and China’s desire to come off as a global player. The Post observes that “at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this year, Xi, the authoritarian leader of a one-party state, positioned himself as a champion of free trade.”
- Semantics: Sky notes the initiative is “slightly awkwardly titled,” and the Post notes that, rather inscrutably, “road” refers to a sea route and “belt” references land.
Marco……… Polo…….the name rings trade.
You see Polo went on an adventure to the East and opened up trade between Europe and Asia…….China wants to re-open the Silk Road…..and there is my opening for a history lesson……(come on…you knew this would happen)…..
The Silk Road was originally opened up by Zhang Qian and it gradually formed in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD).
In the Han Dynasty, the ancient road originated from the historical capital of Chang’an (now Xian). This China trade route ran through Gansu Province via Tianshui, Lanzhou, Wuwei, Zhangye, Jiuquan, Jiayuguan (an important military garrison and barrier of the Great Wall) and Dunhuang along the Hexi Corridor. Dunhuang is famous for its Mogao Caves and other cultural relics. It was also a key point of the route, where the trade road divided into three main branches: the southern, the central and the northern.
The three main routes spread all over the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
The Southern Route wandered west along the northern foot of the Kunlun Mountains, passing Ruoqiang (Charkhlik), Qiemo (Cherchen), Hetian, Yecheng (Karghalik), Shache (Yarkand) and reached Kashgar (the last point of the Silk Road in China). Then this route crossed the snow-covered Pamirs, reached Pakistan and India via Kashmir; it could also reach Europe through Islamabad, Kabul, Mashhad, Baghdad and Damascus.
The Central Route ran west along the southern foot of Tianshan Mountains, passing Loulan (now Ruoqiang), Turpan , Korla, Kuche (Kuqa), Aksu and Kashgar, afterwards went over the freezing Pamirs, wound to Mashhad via the Fergana Basin, Samarkand, Bukhara and finally joined the Southern Route.
The Northern Route went west along the northern foot of Tianshan Mountains, taking merchants westwards to Hami (Kumul), Urumqi and Yining, and then reached the areas near the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.
According to some experts, the total length of the historically important trade route is about 10,000 kilometers (6,214 miles), among which approximately 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) of the route are inside China’s territory. Nowadays, the immemorial Silk Road spreads over the five provinces in the Northwest Territories including Shaanxi Province, Gansu Province, Qinghai Province, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The road made a great contribution to the political, economic and cultural exchange between China and Central Asia, West Asia, India, Roman and Europe.
When this project is complete will there be a trade war brewing between the US and China?
Just a little something to consider…that’s all……will it degrade into a trade war? How many wars in history began over trade disputes?
I do hope that the president has someone watching this situation….we do not need to be caught with our drawers down, right?
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