Significance of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative

By Madan Kumar Dahal
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, January 23, 2015
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China's spectacular economic growth in modern era is a tangible reality more enthusiastically acclaimed by international financial institutions and the members of global communities at large. This is entirely attributed to successful implementation of reform programs under the aegis of pragmatic, farsighted and philosopher leaders in China. China's long march from Silk Road to the second largest economy in the world is an exceptional translation of vision into reality attributing to vast knowledge and wisdom of Chinese leaders in the past and today. If this trend of miraculous economic development will continue in future, China would overtake the US economy by 2018 (The Economic Times, December 31, 2011). The report published by IMF recently made a sensational disclosure of China's GDP estimated to be US$ 17.6 trillion (PPP) that surpassed the level of US-GDP projected to be US$17.4 trillion in 2014. The rise of China's economy as largest economy in the world market is not an abrupt phenomenon but craftily designed galloping economy especially after the rise of Deng Xiaoping, a great economic reformer in modern China. If all moves smoothly, China will be able to break out of the "middle income trap" ensuring a "high-income" economy in the next 20-30 years.

China is, therefore, a great opportunity for all developing as well as emerging market economies in South Asia, South-east and Central Asia, Middle-east, Africa and Europe. The impact of China's economy would be remarkable on global economy with the discovery of 21st Century Maritime Silk Road especially through mobilizing cooperation in the area of trade and investment, agriculture, industry, tourism and technology with growing connectivity of people, culture and civilization. It is in this perspective there is need to analyze the significance of 21st century Maritime Silk Road and examine the prospects for economic development in burgeoning countries.

Significance of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road

The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is a prudent strategic initiative launched by China to promote and increase investments and foster collaboration across the historic Silk Road. The Maritime Silk Road initiative was first propagated by President Xi Jinping of PR China in October, 2013 (www. Wikipedia, 2014). China's proposal to increase trade and infrastructure development is a derivative of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the plan for an integrated trading network would stretch from Western China to Central Asia, South Asia, South-east Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. The SAARC member countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Maldives and Sri Lanka have already expressed interest in joining either the Silk Road Economic Belt or its oceanic equivalent, the Maritime Silk Road. In addition, "Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka joined China's Asian Investment Infrastructure Bank, which is expected to act as a major source of funding for Silk Road infrastructure projects" (Tiezzi, Shannon, "China Makes Inroads into India's Backyard', The Diplomat, November 27, 2014).

According to Dr. Jonathan Choi Koon-Shum, President of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce the construction of Maritime Silk road would generate huge business opportunities for the ASEAN region at large, improve the livelihoods of the people within the region and serve as the driving force for China and ASEAN nations to achieve greater economic miracles. Sri Lanka is now benefiting from the Chinese-financed $1.4 billion "Colombo Port City" project, which is its largest foreign-funded investment on record. China has invited Maldives to actively participate in the Maritime Silk Road (MSR) project, an initiative to string together partnerships with countries in the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean, including India. The prime focus of the Maritime Silk Road is to facilitate trade between Asia and Europe and support booming trade between Asia and Africa ( Dec 16, 2014). This is not to say that the modern Silk Road would benefit only China. On the contrary, its overland and maritime routes could attract considerable investment to participating countries. The Silk Road is an important feature of China's current foreign policy. China's proposal to build a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is aimed at exploring the unique values and concepts of the ancient road, enriching it with new meaning for the present era and actively developing economic partnerships with countries situated along the route.

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