New Silk Road Economic Belt, Maritime Silk Road
HAN FENG - National Institute of International Strategy (NIIS) Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS)The Silk Road as a concept was put forward in the 19th century after commercial routes were explored and used for trade between China and Europe via Central and Western Asia in ancient China. Now, it is increasingly being mentioned by China again. President Xi Jinping suggested the building of the New Silk Road Economic Belt in September 2013 during a visit to Central Asia. It was announced in Xi’s speech in Astana officially and publicly.
Meanwhile President Xi made a five-point proposal for a joint implementation efforts through the strengthening of relations between China, Central Asia and Europe: 1) Policy coordination in order to help “switch on a green light” for joint regional economic cooperation; 2) Transportation connectivity with the idea of establishing a great transport corridor from the Pacific to the Baltic Sea, then gradually building a regional network of transportation between Eastern, Western and Southern Asia; 3) Trade facilitation by eliminating trade barriers and reducing regional trade and investment costs to make better use of the market, which has a population of 3 billion; 4) Currency cooperation on the base of the successful cooperation to decrease transaction costs and lessen financial risk while increasing economic competitiveness; 5) People-to-people linkages to deepen the cooperation with more support and understanding from the public.
Almost simultaneously, President Xi put forward to the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road in a speech in the Indonesian parliament in early October 2013 when he visited Southeast Asia. He put the emphasis on stronger economic cooperation in the region, including financial coordination both in direct current exchange and investment facilitation, closer cooperation on joint infrastructure projects, enhancement of security cooperation by strengthening the maritime economy and environment technical and scientific cooperation from Asia to the European area via Southeast, South and Central Asia.
Apart from the similarities with the New Silk Road Economic Belt, the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road proposal paid more attention to maritime development and cooperation, including maritime connectivity, Sino-ASEAN neighborhood friendship and cooperation, security exchange and cooperation, the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and cultural exchange.
Soon after the two speeches, the New Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road were passed as a national strategy during the third plenary of the 18th Congress of the Communist Party of China at the end of 2013. And recently, a $40 billion Silk Road Foundation has been set up by the Chinese government.