Home / China / View

Silk Road initiatives not simply about trade

By Fu Jing | China Daily Europe | Updated: 2015-01-11 15:08

The EU could establish green partnerships with China along modern economic routes

Is it feasible to link Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou with Moscow, Warsaw, Berlin, Brussels, Paris, even London, by high-speed railways? Is it imaginable to light these railways with solar or wind power? Is China willing to turn the new Silk Road Fund, in which it contributed initially $40 billion, into a low-carbon finance engine to generate more green jobs in Asia, Europe and Africa?

More than one year after President Xi Jinping announced China's plan to better connect the Asia-Pacific region, Europe and Africa by land and sea, the world has become increasingly familiar with the concepts of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives.

This year, it is time for the world to plan ambitiously but act locally to help carry out these ideas that China has offered to sustain regional economic prosperity.

To enrich these proposals, there should be no boundaries to the level of thinking at the discussion table. Planners should at least go beyond the dimensions of the traditional Silk Road, which extended from China to western and central Asia, part of the Mediterranean region and the coastal regions of East Africa.

These days, the traditional Silk Road is merely symbolic in meaning and every infrastructure project that can create better connections, better trade flows and cultural exchanges between Asia, Europe and Africa should be considered. If feasible, the modern Silk Road, for instance, can be extended to link Beijing with London or with Cape Town, South Africa. The modern Silk Road could be much longer than the historic one explored by ancient Chinese merchants more than 2,000 years ago.

But being a longer route is not enough. The concepts of being greener and low-carbon should also be carefully considered when extending the modern Silk Road.

This year, Chinese leaders are expected to meet twice with their European counterparts at two summits, one in Brussels in the near future and one in Beijing later this year. In Europe, World Expo 2015 will kick off in Milan, Italy, while the G20 summit will be hosted by Turkey later this year. There is no doubt that the ideas for better connections, the construction of infrastructure and the overall Silk Road proposal will be discussed intensively at the bilateral or multilateral occasions.

At the summits of China and the European Union, it is high time for new European leaders to properly respond to Beijing's Silk Road initiative. Brussels could be more ambitious since it agreed to discuss the proposals during President Xi Jinping's historic visit to European Union headquarters last March.

For example, the establishment of cooperation and infrastructure funds by China to expand cooperation with central and eastern European countries could give rise to the creation of financing tools between China and European Union. With the EU trying every possible means to attract 315 billion euros during 2015-17 to its European Investment Plan, the two sides should consider the possibilities of attracting surplus capital and technologies to Europe by extending Silk Road initiatives.

Of course, low-carbon and energy efficiency will again be buzzwords in Paris during the UN climate summit at the end of this year. Chinese leaders are expected to join other global leaders to map out a global agreement to curb the world's greenhouse gas emissions from 2020 to 2030.

Ideally, these talks will not only be about targets for carbon emissions among different group of countries. More integrated approaches should be considered if world leaders consider tackling climate change and a global economic recovery simultaneously. They should not pass on opportunities this year to discuss integrated strategies at important meetings.

China's capital and manufacturing capacities, technologies from West European powers, and the markets of China, Central Asia, central and eastern Europe and Africa could help create miraculous business opportunities to build economic growth.

So how do the world's leaders prioritize green investments? Investments in cement, steel, solar panels, glass and others can be of great help in implementing Silk Road infrastructure projects while the infrastructure expansion can be helpful in forming industrial corridors.

European leaders know well that climate talks should go beyond politics. But if the politicians cannot initiate these economically helpful green projects, the Silk Road proposals could be of great help.

Official figures have shown that more than 50 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa have already agreed to add their efforts to the Silk Road initiatives. If out-of-the-box thinking can connect the three continents by land and sea, more and more countries will realize the benefits of such an ambitious plan for economic growth, trade facilitation and cultural exchanges.

If such mechanisms bear fruit, big and bold green ideas, such as connecting Beijing and London, can be discussed in a more realistic way.

The author is China Daily chief correspondent in Brussels. Contact the writer at

Editor's picks
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349