During the Han dynasty in China (207 BCE-229 CE), a historically unique trade route called Silk Road connecting the East with the West was built.
The Silk Road soon became the centre to the economic, cultural, political and religious interactions between these regions. But the discovery of a sea route from Europe to Asia in the late 15th century dealt a damaging blow to the Silk Road trade. The speed of sea transportation, the possibility to carry more goods, relative cheapness of transportation eventually resulted in the decline of the Silk Road.
More than five centuries have passed by since then. As the great history and pride of this ancient road started to fade away, Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 took an ambitious project named “One Belt One Road”, with the initial aim to connect more than 60 countries spread across the continents of Asia, Africa and Europe.
The project involves building a big network of roadways, railways, maritime ports, power grids, oil and gas pipelines, and associated infrastructure projects.
The project, currently known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), covers two parts. The first one is called the Silk Road Economic Belt. This is primarily land-based and is expected to connect China with Central Asia, Eastern Europe and Western Europe.
The second part is called 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which is sea-based and is expected to connect China’s southern coast to the Mediterranean, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia.
It may sound a little confusing, but in the BRI project, the “belt” is a network of roads, while the “road” is actually sea route.
Since getting announced in 2013, the BRI project kept expanding, adding new territories and development initiatives.
Now the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road span across the territories of 72 countries, which covered 66.09 percent of the world population and 33.65 percent of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), as of 2018.
According to today’s presentation of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, by the end of July 2019, 136 countries and 30 international organisations signed 194 cooperation documents with China to build a “Belt and Road” cooperation document.
A number of measures have been rolled out to materialise the ideas embedded in the BRI.
During the visit of the Chinese president to Bangladesh in October 2016, an understanding was reached regarding the implementation of various government-to-government (G2G) and business-to-business (B2B) projects.
In total, China promised about $40 billion investment in Bangladesh.