How new Silk Road will cement China major trading partner for Africa

25Aug 2018
By Financial Times Reporter
Financial Times
How new Silk Road will cement China major trading partner for Africa

In 138 BC, China took its first step towards global connectivity with the establishment of the historical Silk Road. Zhang Qian was sent by Emperor Wudi to Central Asia to establish trade relationships.

Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated his commitment to the project during the 10th BRICS Summit held in South Africa in late July 2018. File photo

His historic missions enabled China to make contact with the outposts of Hellenic civilisation established by Alexander the Great.

These efforts enabled Emperor’s Han dynasty to develop political and trade relationships with Central Asian countries. New ideas came to China, along with new plants like grapes and alfalfa and superior breeds of horses.

Centuries later, China is building a very different, very modern version of that route. The Belt and Road Initiative consists of two complementary, concurrent plans. One is an overland route connecting Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia to China. The second is the 21stCentury Maritime Silk Road, which aims to connect China, South East and South Asia with Africa.

The Belt and Road Initiative will connect at least 65 countries, most of them developing economies. The routes will cover 63 per cent of the world’s population and 29 per cent of global GDP.

Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated his commitment to the project during the 10thBRICS Summit held in South Africa in late July 2018. He said it would “create new opportunities of social and economic development for participating countries.”

On the face of it, the Belt and Road Initiative looks set to change a number of economic, social and strategic landscapes. But it’s essential that whatever the project produces is perceived as benefiting everyone involved – China as well as the country’s affected.

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