The combined landmass of Eurasia, extending from the Pacific Ocean on the east to the Atlantic Ocean on the west, is big enough to house two-thirds of the world’s population. The Silk Road of old that traversed from Europe to Asia—primarily for the transportation of goods like silk, teas and porcelain—is now quickly entering its latest phase: an interwoven network of highways, railways and shipping routes. The result: a new infrastructural Silk Road that will transform Eurasia into an integrated supercontinent.
China is using infrastructure as a peaceful way of extending its influence around its periphery.
A primary reason for this, according to Parag Khanna, global strategist and author of Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization, is China’s Belt and Road initiative, a US$124 billion plan to broaden trade channels between Asia, Africa and Europe.
“China borders more countries than any country in the world,” Khanna tells Blueprint, presented by CBRE, “and it’s a big deal that China is using infrastructure as a peaceful way of extending its influence around its periphery.” So far, 68 countries are participating in the initiative, which, when completed, aims to make Eurasia a formidable economic and trading competitor to North America.
China’s increased investments in global shipping ports in the United Arab Emirates have revealed its aim to create a new Maritime Silk Road. In July, the Jiangsu Provincial Overseas Cooperation & Investment Company (JOCIC) signed a 50-year agreement with Abu Dhabi ports to lease 0.8 square miles at the Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi. Last year, COSCO Shipping Ports secured a 35-year concession to build and operate a new container terminal at Khalifa Port in the UAE. China’s collaboration and investment in Pakistan, the US$57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, includes a deep-water port in Gwadar.
“Maritime trade has been growing substantially and is set to continue surging ahead because the fastest growing regions of the world are around the Indian Ocean,” says Khanna.
According to Khanna, we should expect to see increased port developments in Eurasia territories, which will translate to greater trade efficiency.
“It’s only going to expand the trade that’s already been growing,” he says.
Silk Road Leads to China, Which Could Be Good (and Bad)
The connectivity that the new Silk Road will create isn’t necessarily a good thing, argues Khanna.
“China imports 40 percent of its food for 1.5 billion people on ships. That’s vulnerability,” says Khanna. Then again, connecting to so many countries throughout Eurasia helps build influence for China.
China imports 40 percent of its food for 1.5 billion people on ships. That’s vulnerability.
Europe’s trade with China is nearly as big as its trade with America, Khanna points out. A new Silk Road, he says, will create a new and growing economic bloc.
With this economic growth comes population growth, particularly in Africa and Asia. By 2100, both Africa and Asia will collectively account for 83 percent of the world’s population, according to the World Bank.
Investing in infrastructure like oil and gas pipelines, electricity grids and high speed rail will facilitate the movement of food and goods across this new Silk Road.
“By laying all these new pathways down, you’re getting a sense of how these billions of people will connect to each other physically in the next 20 to 25 years,” says Khanna.