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Pakistan-China Institute

Realizing the Future Collectively

The 'new' Silk Road

Date : 22-08-2015   By : Maryam Muhammad  

The 'new' Silk Road
Trucks carry goods across the Karakoram Highway, which is currently the only road link between China and Pakistan

The Silk Road has been a major force in defining trade in the Asian region, since its inception two thousand years ago by the Chinese Han dynasty. Directing traders towards potential markets, the Silk Road has continued to create opportunities for luxury Asian goods in far off regions. In recent years, limited trade prospects elsewhere have reignited interest in the age-old Silk Road – attracting investment and attention of economic superpowers like China and the USA. The concept of the ‘new’ Silk Road involves joint investment projects and flexible trade agreements with the aim of bringing stability to member countries; a sustainable plan, in line with global aspirations and challenges.

This map shows the route that will be taken by the ‘new’ Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road

The ‘new’ Silk Road project is an ideal opportunity for Pakistan and China to improve bilateral ties and for both countries to benefit from each other economically. Pakistan can give China access to the Arabian Sea (in the form of Gwadar Port), providing Chinese goods with a cost effective, alternate route for trading purposes. Pakistan, on the other hand, can benefit immensely from China; in the absence of Foreign Direct Investment (due to security concerns), China’s willingness to invest in Pakistan as part of the ‘new’ Silk Road will prove to be yet another benefit for Pakistan. Therefore, the project can, in all likelihood, be a potential success in terms of mutual benefit for Pakistan and China, as well as all other participating countries. It will help cement ties between China and countries that have previously had only tacit relations with it.

Apart from linking and connecting countries within Asia, the ‘new’ Silk Road will also act a bridge between the ‘eastern’ and ‘western’ parts of the world. These constructs are part of outdated ideas strewn with remains of Orientalism – the Silk Road project can help remove these perceived differences by encouraging cultural dissemination, removing any misconceptions that either side has about the other party. The underlying principle of the new Silk Road is that the concerned groups do not have to be similar to be able to trade; instead, participants can be very different but they may still find common ground that may prove to be the first step in a long-lasting partnership. In addition, the Silk Road will also be highly beneficial for participating countries with relevance to tourism. The road network built to facilitate the movement of goods can also be used by people to experience a truly global culture, where borders no longer inhibit people from traveling. Plans can be made to group the greater Asian region into an alliance similar to Europe, with a common currency and passport. This would not only enable smooth trade, but also promote tourism and encourage the exchange of knowledge and technology, something that is crucial for every state in this day and age. Although this ancillary plan comes with its own set of problems (with the universal challenge of terrorism and fragile, precarious economies and the looming question of who benefits more from the project), it is important to realize that the new Silk Road project will revolutionize trade in this region of the world and help give these countries the push they require to develop.