New Silk Road

China is assembling new trade routes, binding other regions closer to it.

A network of trade routes dating back thousands of years, the Silk Road (or Silk Route) was a significant factor in the development of China, connecting it with greater Asia and Europe and allowing nations from all corners to trade in a wide variety of goods.

Today, Chinese President Xi Jinping is looking to build on China’s historical glory by establishing another defining trade route, with the “One Belt, One Road” initiative unveiled in 2013. The concept lays out a cross-border economic corridor connecting the global superpower to more than 40 countries across Europe, Africa and Asia. One Belt, One Road (also known as The Belt and Road) is made up of two development frameworks: the landbased Silk Road Economic Belt and the oceangoing 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Rather than a physical mechanism, One Belt, One Road refers to trade ideas and initiatives based on bilateral and multilateral trade relations China has with its international trading partners.

There are four major building blocks of One Belt, One Road: 1) cross border cooperation through trade policies; 2) interconnected infrastructure, particularly in transport; 3) sustainable energy supplies; and 4) expanded communication networks, including via submarine and satellite channels.

Given the rise of China as a global economic powerhouse, its trade partners, including Cambodia, have been eager to position themselves to best take advantage of Beijing’s plan to re-establish the legacy of the Silk Road in the 21st Century.

In October 2016, President Xi visited Cambodia in a landmark trip that affirmed Cambodia’s role as a partner to China and its One Belt, One Road ambitions. Beijing pledged more than $230 million in soft loans and President Xi committed to urging Chinese investment in Cambodia’s high-speed train, the Siem Reap International Airport, a new capital beltway, a number of roads, and power plants in Sihanoukville, which is set to become an industrial hub and strategic point on the One Belt, One Road.

Before the visit, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that trade with China would rise to $5 billion in 2017, from $4 billion in 2015. Following the visit, Cambodian power brokers have been working on draft action plans for One Belt, One Road Cooperation, prioritising infrastructure, special economic zone development, financing, environmental protection, agriculture, culture and tourism, and capacity building.

With its reputation as a solid manufacturing base and its increasing quality of infrastructure and connectivity, Cambodia is no doubt positioning itself to be a pivotal player as China looks to continue the legacy of the Silk Road in the 21st Century.