After a day of fierce protest in cities like Hong Kong and Paris, China rolled out the Big Silk Road project for its most ambitious version to date: Silk Road 1.0, a rebranding of ancient maps and trade routes.
For these trade routes, the Communist Party is presenting a new image of China as a “global powerhouse,” encompassing 70 countries, 2.7 billion people and more than 6,000 miles of roads and rail lines. According to Xinhua, a state-owned news agency:
All countries along the Silk Road have already expressed a desire to join the initiative, and we hope that all participating countries will use the Silk Road to usher in a new era of development.
A new era of development, indeed. But is China’s version of the Silk Road really the most ambitious it’s ever been?
In fact, there are several kinds of Silk Roads.
There’s the Trans-Siberian, which starts with the Altai Mountains and ends on the great Russia-China frontier. Or the Silk Road to the Pacific, starting in China and ending in Indonesia. There’s the Middle Trans-Siberian, which runs from the Middle East up through the Alps and down to Holland. And now there’s the Big Silk Road, which was rebranded from the old Silk Road.
Under President Xi Jinping, China has expanded its use of artificial intelligence (AI) as a high-tech platform for its ancient Silk Road. Beijing is also focused on connecting dozens of cities, which would help create a more efficient and robust route to Latin America — an area that Chinese steel firms are keen to make a stronger presence in. In the meantime, however, some Western companies have already expressed doubts about the feasibility of the project. “Implementation of the [Big Silk Road] is unclear,” Dutch rail company NS noted on its website.