Silk Route Current Affairs

A new freight train connects Russia with China

A freight train connecting Russia with China arrived in Ganzhou an inland city in Jiangxi province, carrying goods from Moscow. The freight train travelled more than 7,000 km, before reaching Ganzhou in eastern China.

Significance for China

Jiangxi province is the former revolutionary heartland of the Communist Party. This freight train connecting Russia and China is expected to bring resources from Europe and boost local development. Ganzhou is an inland area with a complex landscape and was a hot bed of revolutionary activities owing to its remote mountain ranges. However, its complex landscape has become a stumbling block in development. Even though, the Chinese government tried to push regional development in the past few decades, Ganzhou could not fetch any major projects due to its geography, making many people to live in poverty.

Rail freight is cheap and costs only half that of air freight and half the time of sea freight. In order to boost its export revenues, China is already operating train services to several cities in Europe. In January 2017, it inaugurated a new train service to London traversing over 12,000 kilometres across 18 days. China is set to gain heavily from opening the ancient trade routes and strengthen connectivity with Europe. It would also enhance regional cooperation in countries that lie along the Silk Road.

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First Silk Road train arrives in Tehran from China

The first long distance cargo train connecting Iran and China has arrived in the Iranian capital city Tehran after starting its journey from China.

The train had started its journey from China’s eastern Zhejiang province and it took 14 days to reach final destination. It had covered around 9,500-kilometre distance and passed through two Central Asian countries Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

Henceforth such trains will run between both countries once in every month and the frequency will be increased if necessary. These trains will be run by private companies using existing routes.

Significance

  • It marks the revival the ancient Silk Road and gives impetus to China’s ambitious One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative part of revived Silk Road diplomacy.
  • This train’s journey was 30 days shorter compared to time taken by sea voyage from Shanghai to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.
  • It also will boost to bilateral trade between both countries after they had agreed to build economic ties worth up to 600 billion dollars within the next 10 years.
  • Currently, China is Iran’s biggest trading partner and accounts for its one third of foreign trade. China is also top customer for oil exports from Iran.

Comment

Iran is strategically located in the Middle East (West Asia) and shares land borders with 8 nations and sea channels on its northern and south-western coasts. China seeks to leverage Iran’s strategic location by making it part of its New Silk Road initiative in order to get access to extensive delivery routes connecting to the Eurasia and Middle East.

Background

The Silk Road was an ancient network of commercial land and sea routes that was named for the lucrative Chinese silk trade. This trade route was central to business across the Asian continent connecting China with the Mediterranean Sea. The revived Silk Road is envisioned as a rail and sea route as part of China’s ambitious OBOR economic development strategy.

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