China plans ‘modern-age Silk Road’

The country has announced its intention to build new infrastructure to enhance trading links.

After a first week of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced his intention to deploy a $40 billion Silk Road Fund to build the transportation infrastructure component of an Asian economic belt which would stretch to Western Europe and the Middle East.

The aim of the Silk Road Fund is to “break the connectivity bottleneck” in Asia, state-owned journal Xinhua quoted Xi saying at a meeting in Beijing that included the leaders of Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan and Tajikistan.

According to the President’s speech, published by the Chinese daily, the fund will invest in infrastructure, resources and industrial and financial cooperation, “among other projects”, and will work alongside the newly created Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

No details have yet been given as to where it is to be based, how it will operate nor when it will start operations.

At the conference, Xi was also reported to have talked of providing neighboring countries with 20,000 training places for “connectivity professionals” over the next five years.

The APEC summit, which saw visits from US President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, came ahead of G20 meetings in Australia, where the idea of a global infrastructure facility materialised last month.