In­fra­struc­ture big­gest chal­lenge for Silk Road

China must re­as­sure na­tions along an­cient route, Rus­sian ex­pert says

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By CUI JIA in Urumqi cui­jia@chi­

The Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt pro­posed by Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping is a plat­form that will be open to all coun­tries wish­ing to con­trib­ute and ben­e­fit from re­build­ing the an­cient trade routes con­nect­ing China, Cen­tral Asia and Europe, an of­fi­cial from the Min­istry of Com­merce said on Thurs­day.

“The eco­nomic belt doesn’t need a new mech­a­nism. In­stead, it will make full use of the ex­ist­ing mul­ti­lat­eral eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion agree­ments among dif­fer­ent coun­tries, but in­ject new con­tent into them,” said Zhong Shan, deputy in­ter­na­tional trade rep­re­sen­ta­tive for China.

Zhong made his re­marks at the open­ing cer­e­mony of the two-day In­ter­na­tional Sem­i­nar on the Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt in Urumqi, cap­i­tal of the Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

He added that the eco­nomic belt could only be built and thrive when all coun­tries and their people can ben­e­fit from it. The idea of build­ing an eco­nomic belt along the Silk Road, first pro­posed by Xi in Kaza­khstan when he made a speech on China’s Cen­tral Asia strat­egy in Septem­ber, faces many dif­fi­cul­ties.

The big­gest chal­lenge to re­viv­ing the an­cient Silk Road, which dates back 2,000 years, is poor trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture, said Li Pu­min, sec­re­tary­gen­eral of the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment and Re­form Com­mis­sion, the top eco­nomic plan­ner.

Many key roads con­nect­ing China and Cen­tral Asia des­per­ately need up­grades or re­con­struc­tion, Li said, adding that such con­struc­tion work will re­quire mas­sive fi­nan­cial sup­port from gov­ern­ments due to com­plex ge­o­graph­i­cal con­di­tions.

“Coun­tries along the belt must jointly push for­ward the in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion by plan­ning to­gether,” Li said.

Ad­di­tion­ally, many na­tions are cau­tious about China’s new pro­posal out of fear that China’s grow­ing pres­ence in their coun­tries might be a threat, so China must let them know that the eco­nomic belt is about shar­ing and pros­per­ing to­gether to win their sup­port, said Alexan­der Lukin, vi­cepres­i­dent of the Diplo­matic Academy of the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs of Rus­sia.

In­sta­bil­ity caused by fac­tors such as ter­ror­ism and sep­a­ratism will also slow the progress of the con­struc­tion of the eco­nomic belt, Lukin said.

“No eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment could be achieved with­out a sta­ble so­cial en­vi­ron­ment,” he said.

The an­cient Silk Road was aban­doned for al­most a century be­cause of wars in the re­gion. “At the same time, eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment could help to shake off poverty, which may have con­trib­uted to breed ter­ror­ism,” Lukin added.

Plans are shap­ing up for Xin­jiang to de­velop into the main trans­porta­tion and trade hub along the eco­nomic belt.

“Three main cor­ri­dors pass­ing through south­ern, cen­tral and north­ern Xin­jiang will be built as part of the plan to con­nect China with Cen­tral Asia, which has great mar­ket­ing po­ten­tial,” Zhang Chunx­ian, Party chief of the re­gion, said at the open­ing cer­e­mony.

The re­gion will also de­velop a man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try so that the prod­ucts made there could be ex­ported via the eco­nomic belt, Zhang said.

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