For 2,000 years, the network of routes known as the Silk Road linked Europe and Asia. Along caravan trails totaling more than 6,400 kilometers, merchants, scholars, and soldiers transported silk, wool and gold, as well as religions, cultures, and inventions, from Xi’an in China to the Mediterranean Sea. Today only ruins and a few paved highways between Pakistan and Xinjiang still testify to the course of these trade routes. The Silk Road lost its economic significance a long time ago – but five years ago the legend was revived.
In October 2013 the President of China, Xi Jinping, unveiled an initiative called “One Belt, One Road” during his state visit to Kazakhstan. He was referring to the construction of a land corridor running from China through Central Asia to Europe (the Economic Belt) and a sea route (the Maritime Road) connecting the up-and-coming economies of Southeast Asia. Since then, China’s central government and almost all of the country’s provinces, as well as the mainly state-owned Engineering, Procurement, and Construction companies (EPCs), which specialize in major projects, have been developing strategies for implementing the initiative. Nine Chinese sovereign wealth funds are among the sources financing the megaproject.