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How is the Silk Road - the Intermodal and Rail Freight Route from China - Shaping Up?

NETHERLANDS – CHINA – There has been much talk in recent times of the initiative 'One Belt, One Road' and of the Silk Road itself but doubt remains in many importers and exporters minds over the concept of an intermodal and rail freight route between China and diverse destinations within Europe. Just how much more expensive is this than ocean carriage? How much quicker and how does it compare to airfreight? 

In Tilburg on September 27 events organisers Het Patronaat will host shippers, logistics providers, lawyers, operators and other experts from all over the world to discuss the current state of affairs on the railway connection between Europe and China. This is the second such event and the New Silk Road Congress offers a range of industry speakers and, for those who do not speak Dutch, translation will be available. 

International speakers include Olga Stepanova, representing RZD Logistics and Larisa Luznetsova, representing UTLC. These speakers, coming from the CIS region, will join a panel discussion with Roland Verbraak of GVT Intermodal. They will talk about recent route developments that reduce transit time and extend the list of destinations. There will also be coverage of cold chain solutions, documentation etc. within the programme. 

The Chinese perspective will be highlighted with the participation of two natives: Letty Zhu of the NHTV Breda Applied Science University and Jialu Zhang of the Chengdu International Railway Investment & Development Group (CIPI). These two women will explain how China is handling the growing volumes of cargo transported via the New Silk Road. 

Logistics providers offer the same service in the ‘Ask me Anything’ panel discussion, which concludes the conference. Representatives of New Silkway Logistics, Nunner Logistics, GVT Intermodal and Karl Gheysen will gather on stage for a 45-minutes Q and A session driven by the audience. 

A full programme of events (in English) can be seen here and registration to attend can be made here.

Le 9, un magazine pas comme les autres

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China’s New Silk Road

(Bloomberg) -- The Silk Road conjures images of caravans, desert steppes and adventurers like Marco Polo navigating the ancient trading routes connecting China with Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe. China’s modern-day adaptation, known as the Belt and Road Initiative, aims to revive and extend those routes via networks of upgraded or new railways, ports, pipelines, power grids and highways. President Xi Jinping champions his pet project as a means to spur development, goodwill and economic integration. Critics are wary of an increasingly assertive superpower’s push to spread its influence.

By David Tweed - Source BloombergQuint

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Why countries might want out of China’s Belt and Road

China has never spared any effort to portray its Belt and Road Initiative, a grand, trillion-dollar-plus global investment plan, as a positive vision for the world. Last year, China released cringeworthy videos featuring children who were, somewhat unrealistically, excited by the idea of infrastructure investment.

“The future’s coming now,” a group of children sang in one clip. “The Belt and Road is how.” 

But not everyone is convinced that Belt and Road is such a great plan — either for China or the countries in which it’s investing. And with Malaysia announcing Tuesday that it has shelved two major infrastructure projects being built by Chinese companies because of high costs, many more leaders around the world may be wondering whether Chinese investment is a good deal.

It may be simpler to start with a more basic question: What is the Belt and Road? Given the vague way that Beijing has described the program, it’s hard to find an answer. Many have found it easier to think of the initiative in terms of its scale and ambition: Beijing has called it the “project of the century,” while others have compared it to the Marshall Plan, Washington’s stimulus package for a war-ravaged Europe (though the Belt and Road is many times bigger).


Workers stand on a container as cranes operate at the One Galle Face project developed by China Harbour Engineering Co. in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (Atul Loke/Bloomberg News)

It’s not a single thing, but rather a catchall term for investments in more than 60 countries around the world. The purported aim of that network is to better connect China with its trading partners. In practice, it usually involves getting foreign countries to take out large loans from China to build vast infrastructure projects, which are then typically built by Chinese companies.

All of that is quite obviously in China’s interests. In the short term, it’s able to use some of its excess industrial capacity abroad as its own economy slows. In the longer term, it could help internationalize Chinese companies and give Beijing a critical role in how global trade operates.

There’s also a powerful political motive: A Pentagon report released last week said China was trying to “develop strong economic ties with other countries, shape their interests to align with China’s, and deter confrontation or criticism of China’s approach to sensitive issues.” 

Even so, many foreign partners were eager to sign up for the Belt and Road — largely because the loans tend to come with far fewer restrictions than those from Western countries.

But Malaysia’s decision shows how the plan can come apart.For one thing, Belt and Road projects have sometimes made no economic sense. In Sri Lanka, China poured money into an airport designed to handle 1 million passengers a year. Now it has been dubbed the world’s emptiest international airport. “Business is so slow that the airport has made more money from renting out the unused cargo terminals for rice storage than from flight-related activities,” wrote Bangkok-based writer Brook Larmer.

Another Belt and Road project in Sri Lanka, a deepwater port, is now in the hands of a state-owned Chinese company on a 99-year leaseafter it failed to attract enough business to make its loan payments. This could swell into a bigger problem: A study released by the Center for Global Development in March suggested that Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Maldives, Mongolia, Montenegro, Pakistan and Tajikistan would also struggle to repay Chinese Belt and Road loans.

To critics, this is a feature of China’s plan, not a bug. China, they say, is planning to bully smaller countries with “debt diplomacy” — and some even go further, suggesting that perhaps the plan is for China’s military to make use of all these belts and roads one day in the future. (It should be noted, however, that debt-fueled projects that make no commercial sense can be carried out within China, as well.)

 

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Chinese paintings on Maritime Silk Road exhibited in Fuzhou

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Pentagon Report to Congress on Chinese Military Development

 

WHAT IS CHINA’S STRATEGY?

Since 2002, Chinese leaders – including President Xi Jinping – have characterized the 21st century’s initial two decades as a “period of strategic opportunity.” They assess that international conditions during this time will facilitate domestic development and the expansion of China’s “comprehensive national power.” The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has distilled these objectives into President Xi’s “China Dream of national rejuvenation” to establish a powerful and prosperous China.

 

GROWING REGIONAL AND GLOBAL PRESENCE

China’s leaders increasingly seek to leverage China’s growing economic, diplomatic, and military clout to establish regional preeminence and expand the country’s international influence. “One Belt, One Road,” now renamed the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI), is intended to develop strong economic ties with other countries, shape their interests to align with China’s, and deter confrontation or criticism of China’s approach to sensitive issues. Countries participating in BRI could develop economic dependence on Chinese capital, which China could leverage to achieve its interests. For example, in July 2017, Sri Lanka and a Chinese state-owned enterprise (SOE) signed a 99-year lease for Hambantota Port, following similar deals in Piraeus, Greece, and Darwin, Australia.

 

A COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH TO MANAGING REGIONAL DISPUTES

China seeks to secure its objectives without jeopardizing the regional stability that remains critical to the economic development that has helped the CCP maintain its monopoly on power. However, China is also willing to employ coercive measures – both military and non-military – to advance its interests and mitigate opposition from other countries. For example, in 2017, China used economic and diplomatic pressure, unsuccessfully, in an attempt to urge South Korea to reconsider the deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. In its regional territorial and maritime disputes, China continued construction of outposts in the Spratly Islands, but also continued outreach to South China Sea claimants to further its goal of effectively controlling disputed areas. China also maintained a consistent coast guard presence in the Senkakus. In June 2017, India halted China’s efforts to extend a road in territory disputed with Bhutan near the India border, resulting in a protracted standoff lasting

more than 70 days. In August, India and China agreed to withdraw their military forces from the vicinity of the standoff; however, both countries maintain a heightened military presence in the surrounding region.

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Tracing the Overlooked Legacy of the Silk Road’s Fruits and Nuts

A new archaeobotanical study is helping shift the historical record.

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Bravo Fan Zhang !

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