The New Silk Road and Turkey
Chinese President Xi Jinping first mentioned the concept of a new Silk Road in 2013, one that would reach the West from China both from land and sea.
There are two legs of the “New Silk Road.” The first is inspired by the traditional Silk Road dating way back to the Egyptians before Christ, a territorial one called “Silk Road Economic Belt.”
The second leg is the one through the sea: The “21st Century Maritime Silk Road.” I had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Victor Fung of the Fung Group while he visited Istanbul. In a booklet prepared by the think-tank named “Fung Business Intelligence Centre” founded by Dr. Fung, the vision of the Silk Road is summed up.
He said, “While the traditional Silk Road was primarily a route for trading goods and cultural and technological exchange, the New Silk Road refers to linkages in policies, infrastructure, trade, finance and people.”
This new reality of the world is the starting point of the new vision covering 60 countries and 4 billion people.
This reality is that the size of a middle class that was 1.8 billion people in 2009 will be 3.2 billion people in 2020. In 2030, it will reach 4.9 billion. Almost 85 percent of this growth, as you can imagine, will originate from Asia.
According to the booklet, the consumer spending of the middle class, which was $21 trillion in 2009, will climb to $56 trillion in 2030. When we arrive at 2030, Asia will represent 59 percent of the global middle class consumer spending.
China is the protectorate of the new Silk Road for these reasons. The first priority of China is the laying out of the road’s infrastructure. It initiated the founding of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to finance the infrastructure. The bank was functional last October and Turkey is among its founding members. Some Western countries such as the U.K., Germany, France and Italy have joined the founding members while the United States is strictly against it because AIBB is an institution that is against the World Bank and the IMF.
The U.S. is putting pressure on Japan to not support the new bank, but we will see.
In Turkey, the Marmara Group Strategic and Social Research Foundation is closely monitoring the Silk Road initiative. The Marmara Group debated the New Silk Road initiative of China at the 18th Eurasia Economy Summit organized in Istanbul last month, with 44 countries participating.
The head of the Marmara Group Dr. Akkan Suver, keenly interested in the Chinese bid, delivered a speech in the international seminar titled “21st-Century Maritime Silk Road” last February in China’s city of Quanzhou.
Suver is promoting the New Silk Road initiative in various platforms, emphasizing that this initiative is one of the biggest opportunities of our era.