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Plan to rebuild Silk Road in making
By Ma Lie (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-10-26 22:51

The ancient Silk Road between China and Western Europe elevated exchanges along the areas it touched, now some hope to revive and modernize that ancient route.

A foreigner scrutinizes a map of the Silk Road at an exhibition at the Third International Silk Road Conference Tuesday in Xi'an, the capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province. [newsphoto]
A new route could further strengthen ties and economic development in China, Central Asia and Europe.

"We decided to help 're-weave' the Silk Road," said Wim Westerhuis, senior representative of the International Road Federation(IRF).

According to Westerhuis, IRF envisages modern road links connecting the heart of China and the industrial centres of Western Europe.

"It is not simply a highway, but a network of roads facilitating trade between two major economic powerhouses, enhancing the development of land-locked Central Asia and making its markets more accessible," Westerhuis said.

This ambitious plan has caught the attention of 12 countries including China, the Republic of Korea and some in Central Asia. Their ministers of communications started to discuss details of the plan during the Third International Silk Road Conference, being held from Tuesday to Thursday in Xi'an.

Xi'an was the starting point of the ancient Silk Road and is now the capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

Co-sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Communication, IRF and the government of Shaanxi Province, the conference aims to enhance regional communication co-operation and to build a new Silk Road transportation corridor which makes it easier and more convenient to cross borders, said Ju Chengzhi, director of International Co-operation department of the Chinese Ministry of Communications.

Chen Deming, managing deputy governor of Shaanxi Province, said the central government's strategic plan for western development is geared at economic growth in the area, and this vast inland region needs more ways to communicate with the outside world.

"Rebuilding the Silk Road from Xi'an to Rotterdam is a demand of both the East and West," Chen said.

The first International Silk Road Conference was held in 1998 in Turkmenistan and the second was held in Uzbekistan in 1999, discussing the rejuvenation of the Silk Road and construction of transport infrastructure.

"IRF has tenaciously promoted the Silk Road despite the five-year gap since last conference in Uzbekistan. Wars and political turmoil in various regions along the route of the Silk Road project, could only temporarily delay progress," said Westerhuis.

The International Road Federation, established in 1948, is a non-governmental and non-profit world organization with some 70 members from governments and private firms. It is involved in road construction and financing and participates extensively in road building and development.

"With the spectacular economic growth in China, with the European Union looking more outward, and with the continuing development in Central Asia, the need for a road network along the Silk Road is ever more apparent," Westerhuis said.

Some countries, such as China, have already made substantial progress in the construction and rehabilitation of the road links on their territory, while others lag behind, the IRF official said.

"Our purpose is to promote the development of the whole region," Westerhuis said.

The Xi'an Silk Road Conference also attracted financial organs, including the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and APEC and other international organizations.

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