Image: Tales from the new Silk Road
A modern trade route between Asia and Europe is under construction. The gigantic project is the brainchild of Chinese president Xi Jinping.
The New Silk Road is one of the most ambitious undertakings by far to be put forward by the Chinese president Xi Jinping. 10,000 kilometers of road, a railway line and a shipping route are to run from western China to Europe via Kazakhstan, the Urals and Moscow. Since the start of the 21st century China has become the most important export nation on the global stage.
But in light of increasing tensions in the South China Sea and the threat from North Korea, it’s becoming more and more important for China to open up alternative trade routes. As a result the country has turned its gaze westward, to central Asia with its many resources and to Europe, which is still its most important trading partner. The construction of the road with the parallel railway line has already begun in Chongqing, a megacity in the country’s interior that’s just one example of the economic boom of the past thirty years.
The products made here will, it’s hoped, reach European customers effortlessly in a few years’ time. But it’s not just China’s exporters who hope to benefit from this infrastructure project. Rural regions in the west of the country should also see a boost. There’s the province of Xinjiang for example, which has seen little of the economic growth of recent years. But China’s ambitions go beyond its national borders. The planned New Silk Road runs past rich oil fields as it goes through Kazakhstan. The extraction of oil is to be ramped up, thereby securing China’s growing need for energy.
By extending the route all the way to the edge of the Urals, Beijing can get all the way to Russia. But it’s not certain whether the former big brother will welcome the expansion of China’s sphere of influence all the way to central Asia and Europe.
In the form of a geopolitical road movie, this documentary looks at the far-reaching shifts in the Eurasian power balance. Sooner or later the Europeans will have to take a stance on China’s new ‘soft imperialism’.