The New Silk Route Initiative Brings Opportunities And Challenges For The European Transport System
This research study analyses the Initiative, its impacts and prospects, as well as the EU transport system’s readiness for the Initiative. It provides conclusions and recommendations to the European Parliament Committee on Transport and Tourism to address the Initiative’s challenges.
This research study analyses the opportunities and challenges for the European transport
system resulting from the Chinese “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) Initiative. “One Belt, One
Road” refers to the combination of the “Silk Road Economic Belt” (six major land corridors
across the Eurasian continent) and the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” (a network of
maritime trade routes connecting Asia with Africa and Europe). This study refers to the
Initiative as the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI), which is the name more recently used by
Chinese governmental sources.
The development of this research study was based on desk research, quantitative analysis
of trade and transport flows between Asia and Europe and interviews with business and
institutional stakeholders both in Europe and Asia.
Definition and geography of the Belt and Road Initiative
No official or generally accepted definition of the BRI exists. Its geographical scope includes
65 countries which jointly account for some 60% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
and 30% of the world’s population. The analysis of the BRI shows that it:
• involves a significant amount of communication and branding, with multiple
projects labelled as BRI projects apparently because they fall within its
• is not subject to a clearly-defined development plan, programme or budget, and
that there is no clear list of projects that it is intended to include; and
• has no clear geographical or economic boundaries – the BRI appears to have
evolved in response to individual countries’ engagement, with China rather than
in line with an overarching strategy.
Objectives of the Belt and Road Initiative
China’s stated objectives for the BRI refer to a broad intention to foster international
understanding and collaboration with the countries involved, which focus on five areas: (i)
policy coordination, (ii) capacity building, (iii) liberalisation and facilitation of trade and
investment, (iv) financial cooperation and (v) people-to-people exchange.
The review of academic discussion about China’s underlying objectives for the BRI
conducted for the purpose of this study suggests that they are likely to include the
• supporting Chinese exports of products and equipment, as well as its
engineering and construction capabilities and technologies;
• controlling logistics chains to support Chinese trade with Europe;
• encouraging economic convergence and more balanced development across
• providing a mechanism for increasing the use of the Renminbi (RMB), China’s
national currency, as a means of international payment; and
• creating alternative overland energy routes to supply oil and gas from Central
Asia, Southeast Asia, and Pakistan.
Policy Department for Structural and Cohesion Policies
Read The Report by the European Parliament ‘Think Tank’:
Research for TRAN Committee: The new Silk Route – opportunities and challenges for EU transport
Video: Silk Road https://youtu.be/RJCkpOkuph4
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