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Poland Hosting Silk Road Rail Summit in March

Dec. 18, 2017 -The {Rail Freight} journal reports that Poland is hosting the first Rail Freight Summit next year, in the city of Wroclaw. Recent developments, {Rail Freight} writes, have pushed the New Silk Road — also known as One Belt, One Road — to the forefront of the Europe-Asia logistics corridors, what they mean for Poland and the other countries along the growing number of routes, not least China. As part of this development, Poland has become an increasingly vital hub for rail freight services, often as an interchange for container train services coming via Russia and Belarus, run by dozens of operators. The summit will review developments so far and look to the future to see the benefits that can be realized for all stakeholders, including rail operators, logistics firms, and all those involved in the supply chain.

The summit is taking place from March 20-21, and day one will start with a technical visit, enabling visitors to meet some of the people behind the logistical chains in Poland. The second part of the day will features keynote speeches on the meaning of the Silk Road & Poland, and the implications of the One Belt, One Road project for Eastern Europe. Day two begins with a focus on the ambitions of China, followed by sessions on how to connect the Silk Road routes and stops, and the business case for Poland and beyond. The summit is being jointly hosted by {Rail Freight} and Nieuwsblad Transport, and sponsored by Nunner Logistics.

Syria will Join the Silk Road

That sums up the report on a dialogue workshop held by the Wathiqat Wattan Foundation in Damascus called “Heading East … China,” given by SANA news agency on Dec. 16. The dialogue was opened by Presidential Political and Media Advisor Bouthaina Shaaban, who is also the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of Wathiqat Wattan Foundation, and addressed by the Chinese Ambassador to Syria, with participants reported to be from both Syria and Lebanon.

Dr. Shaaban situated the discussion at the highest level. “There is a new world that is being formed not on the basis of hegemony and wars, but on the basis of scientific and technical cooperation between countries. Our role is carrying and disseminating Eastern culture and motivating societies in this direction,” she told participants. “The Arab region is witnessing a series of transitions, the most important of which is the rise of China as a global, economic, political, and cultural power, especially since China proposed several projects,” including the Belt and Road Initiative, she said, adding that workshops such as this are needed to discuss China’s role in the region and develop their own visions in order to benefit from China’s experience.

In June of 2016, Dr. Shaaban addressed the Schiller Institute’s international conference in Berlin, Germany via video hookup, and was scheduled to personally address its most recent conference in November, but was unable to attend because she had to travel to China at the last minute. According to SANA, China’s Ambassador to Syria Qi Qianjin agreed on the importance of such dialogue, and spoke of China’s interest in going towards the Middle East, where 60% of its oil and gas imports comes from, stating that China will not leave countries facing turmoil behind, including Syria. Other participants reportedly “recommended establishing universities and institutes to teach the Chinese language and promote student exchange programs to contribute to the Sino-Arab cultural intellectual rapprochement, as well as opening Chinese trade centers in Syria.”

Today {Asia Times} reported seperately that more than 30 Chinese firms have visited Syria this year, including China Energy Engineering Corporation and China Construction Fifth Engineering Division, and the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs has already approved a number of initial aid projects. During the First Trade Fair on Syrian Reconstruction Projects held in Beijing in early August, a Chinese-Arab business group announced a $2 billion commitment from the government for the construction of industrial parks in Syria.

Digital Technologies Will Build an Interconnected Silk Road

Dec. 8, 2017 -This week, China held the fourth World Internet Conference in Wizhen, with the implementation of the Digital Silk Road on the agenda. President Xi, in an opening statement last Sunday (Dec. 3), stressed “cyber sovereignty” that states should manage and contain their own Internet without interference. This will be important in being free to build the Silk Road projects, without attempts at outside interference or sabotage.

An important aspect of China’s push for the expansion of access to the Internet among the Silk Road countries, is to enable high technology development corridors, and to be able to build the large-scale infrastructure projects underway and planned. Much of the transportation infrastructure, for example, will traverse rural or uninhabited land, such as deserts. There must be a reliable communications and information network so phases of construction, delivery of materials, and availability of infrastructure will flow smoothly.

At the conference, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Thailand, Laos, Serbiia, and the UAE were amoing the countries that “agreed to cooperation with China in the digital economy to build an interconnected Digital Silk Road,” {NZ city} reports.

The Space Silk Road serves a compatible function, providing a view from Earth orbit that creates new tools with which to supervise, plan, map, and evaulate great projects. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is discussed as a concrete example of the application of digital technology, in Pakistan’s {Daily Times} on Dec.6.

The article details the CPEC projects, and the digital technologies that will make it a “high tech digital corridor.” Some progress is already being made, the article reports, in Africa. For eaxmple, the Exim Bank of China is providing technical expertise and is investing $1 billion for Internet connectivity in Cameroon, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Togo, and Niger.

Former French Prime Minister De Villepin Praised Silk Road

Dec. 11, 2017 -Speaking at the Sanya Forum on the Belt and Road, held on Hainan island, former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin called the Belt and Road “a showcase project building a new type of regional integration” and “a unique chance for local and global stability.” Globalization has created a complex network of interdependency, also in terms of risks, between countries, so that stronger regional integration is necessary in managing those risks, he said. The Belt and Road promotes political and cultural understanding by integrating countries from at least three continents, De Villepin said.

        The expansion of infrastructure in remote regions will be a major driver of stability in Central Asia as well as East Africa, and economic stimulation will be a great opportunity to support long-term recovery in major economies like Europe and China, De Villepin told the forum. The Belt and Road “offers a new model of prosperity based on inclusiveness, sustainability and balance.”

Japan To Participate in China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative

Dec. 5 -At a reception of the Dec. 4-5 Sino-Japanese Entrepreneurs and Former High-level Officials Dialogue in Tokyo,Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, stressing the need for open economic activity across Asia, gave his approval for Japan’s participation in China’s One Belt, One Road initiative. He said:
“I believe Japan will be able to cooperate well with China, which has been putting forward its One Belt, One Road initiative” in a free and open Indo-Pacific region…. Meeting robust infrastructure demand in Asia through cooperation between Japan and China will contribute greatly to the prosperity of Asian people, in addition to the economic development of the two countries,” Kyodo News reported.

Abe’s willingness to participate in the Belt and Road was expected, following the appearance on Nov. 28 of an article in Japan’s {Yomiuri Shimbun} that the Abe government is considering supporting Japanese companies to carry out joint projects with the Chinese companies along the China-formulated One Belt, One Road economic project, for “improving Japan-China relations and obtaining China’s cooperation in hindering North Korea’s nuclear and missile development.” The article had also said that this emerged following a meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping during the July G20 summit in Germany. “During the meeting, Abe described the project as an ‘initiative with potential’ and expressed his willingness to cooperate,” the article wrote.

The third round of Sino-Japanese Entrepreneurs and Former High-level Officials dialogue, according to Xinhua, was attended by former Chinese Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan and former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda along with 70 business leaders.

Portugal and China Agree on Joint Insfrastructure Building in Third Countries

Dec. 2 – Chinese and Portuguese public companies last week signed a Memorandum of Understanding for a joint partnership to build rail and road projects in Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa, with the possibility of doing the same in Brazil.

The MOU protocol was signed in Lisbon on Nov. 24, at the headquarters of the Portuguese Agency for Foreign Trade and Investment (AICEP), between the IP Engenharia/Grupo Infraestruturas de Portugal and the China Tiesiju Civil Engineering Group/China Railway Engineering Corp.

According to Shao Gang, vice-president of China Tiesiju Civil Engineering Group/China Railway Engineering Corp., a joint commission of Portuguese and Chinese companies will meet in January next year to draw up a timetable for the implementation of joint projects in Angola, Mozambique, Cabo Verde, São Tomé and Principe, and Guinea-Bissau, “in the projects that each country will most need to develop and stimulate the local economy,” Jornal de Angola reported on Nov. 27.

Shao spoke also of possible Chinese loans, on advantageous terms, to “financially weaker” African countries, but he said that this would have to be approved by both the Portuguese and Chinese governments.

The Angolan paper reported that during its visit to Lisbon, China Tiesiju Civil Engineering Group/China Railway Engineering Corp. also signed a MOU with the big Portuguese construction company, Teixeira Duarte, on identical terms.

China To Build Papua New Guinea’s First National Roadway System

Nov. 25 -{Global Construction Review} (GCR) reported on Nov. 24 the signing of an agreement between China Railway Group and Papua New Guinea to build a roadway system that is estimated to cost $4 billion. Apart from the agreement on the roadway system, government of Papua New Guinea has signed on Nov. 20 a series of Memorandums of Understanding with the government of China and the China Railway company that will deliver a number of new infrastructure projects in the Highlands, P.N.G.’s Prime Minister’s office reported.

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said the new projects will have direct positive impacts on the lives of people in Eastern and Western Highlands provinces. These projects will enhance agriculture, roads and water supply in parts of the Highlands, will improve lives and help people to be more active in the economy. “China is one of our strongest development partners, and this direct investment is an example of the huge confidence that China and Chinese companies have in Papua New Guinea,” O’Neill said. “These projects are taking place as part of the One Belt, One Road initiative that is creating more efficient trade corridors between the Asia-Pacific and Western Asia.”

Papua New Guinea, with a population of about 8 million, is virtually bereft of transport infrastructure, partly due to the mountainous terrain. The country’s main road, the Highland Highway, is a single carriageway pocked with potholes, GCR wrote.

China and Eastern and Central Europe Summit on BRI Cooperation

Nov. 27 -Joint cooperation through the global Belt and Road Initiative was the leading topic at the Sixth Summit of the China-Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC), also known as the “16+1 Cooperation,” which opened today in Budapest.

The Hungarian and Chinese Prime Ministers, Viktor Orban and Li Kequiang, kicked off this discussion in their addresses to over 1,000 entrepreneurs from China and the CEEC member countries attending the opening of the Economic and Trade Forum connected to the summit, according to a Xinhua report. The meeting of all 16 heads of government followed.

“If Europe shuts itself in, it loses the possibility of growth. We 16 have always been open and would always like to remain so. We always saw cooperation with China as a great opportunity,” Orban stated at the outset. “European resources are in themselves insufficient. For this reason we welcome the fact that as part of the new economic world order, China sees this region as one in whose progress and development it wants to be present.”

He referred to the Chinese role in the planned reconstruction of the railway line between Budapest and Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, as the “flagship project” of China’s increased presence in the region, asserting that the rail line could become  the fastest transport route to Western Europe for China’s New Silk Road. Hungary announced today the public procurement tenders for the reconstruction of that railway line, which is being financed mainly by China.

“We see the Chinese president’s One Belt, One Road initiative as the new form of globalization which does not divide the world into teachers and students, but is based on common respect and common advantages,” Orban said.

Chinese Premier Li laid out an aggressive program for increased China-CEEC cooperation by “docking” the Belt and Road Initiative with the development strategies of the CEEC, in the words of Xinhua. “Our aim is to see a prospering Europe,” he said, adding that the closer ties with the 16 countries, which includes 11 European Union members, will “usefully complement” EU-China relations.

Li pressed for the building of connectivity projects such as the Hungary-Serbia high-speed railway to be accelerated; proposed production capacity building be expanded, through the joint
building of “economic and trade cooperation zones and creating an industrial chain, value chain and logistics chain featuring closer integration, stronger drive and wider benefit;” and called for cooperation between small and medium-sized enterprises to be promoted, according to Xinhua’s report.

Li estimated China’s imports over the next five years should total $8 trillion, as it has moved from a phase of high-speed growth to high-quality growth, which “will surely create opportunities for all countries in the world… We hope the central and eastern European countries find their place in this volume and expand their presence on the huge Chinese market.”

Financial resources for all this, were also addressed. Li announced that the China Development Bank will provide $2.4 billion (2 billion Euros) for the China-CEEC Inter-Bank Association being inaugurated on Monday, and that China will provide another $1 billion for the second phase of capitalization of the China-Central and Eastern Europe Investment Cooperation Fund, most of which will be channeled to CEE countries.

Enthusiasm on Belt and Road at China-Latin America Forum

At a Beijing forum on China-Latin America Investment Productive Capacity Cooperation, held on Nov. 22, there was enthusiastic endorsement of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by the many Ibero-American and Caribbean participants, representing Jamaica, Uruguay, Chile, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru and Cuba, Xinhua reported Nov. 22. Officials from two Chinese companies also attended the conference, sponsored by the China Overseas Development Association.

Zhang Zhenxi, Vice President of the China Overseas Development Association, noted in his speech that Chinese non-financial direct investment in Latin-America grew by 40% in 2016 over the previous year, adding that he was sure that this will continue to increase. “The Belt and Road Initiative… offers a unique development perspective,” he said, “which has great significance for the improvement of infrastructure in Latin American countries.”

The Latin American participants expressed a desire to see more Chinese investment in their countries, and stronger bilateral cooperation in the framework of the BRI. Uruguay’s ambassador to China, Fernando Lugris, offered details on his country’s strong bilateral ties with China, and announced that in the future “we’ll promote relations with China under the Belt and Road Initiative, encouraging economic cooperation even further.” Note that the Uruguayans have been organizing for months for the large Nov. 30-Dec. 2 China-Latin America-Caribbean Business Forum, taking place in Punta del Este, Uruguay, at which Latin America’s participation in the Belt and Road will be a key topic of discussion.

Felipe Aguayo, head of the ProMexico government trade office, said many Chinese companies are beginning to invest in Mexico because it offers favorable conditions. As for the BRI, he said, “Mexico is very interested. We want to participate in that initiative. We think it is a great opportunity…” Andreas Pierotic, from the Chilean embassy in Beijing, underscored that for Chile, as well as for the rest of Latin America, “the Belt and Road has profound significance,” and noted that last year, when Xi Jinping attended the APEC summit in Lima, “he invited Latin America to become part of this great initiative of trade connectivity, infrastructure, finances, thinktanks and people-to-people” cooperation. He noted that recent agreement to expand the Chile-China Free Trade Agreement, signed by Xi and President Michelle Bachelet, reflects “the deepening of trade connectivity in the context of the Belt and Road.”

China-Europe Freight Train Traffic Is Booming

Nov. 20 -China-Europe freight train traffic broke all records this year, with more than 3,000 cargo trains traveling on 57 lines between cities at either end–surpassing the past six years combine–according to a Nov. 18 Xinhua report. For example, freight on the the Yiwu-Madrid line, only inaugurated in November 2014, rose 54% in the first ten months of 2017, compared to the same period of 2016. All of this, Xinhua noted, “is considered a significant part of the Belt and Road Initiative.”

Chinese urban rail transit is also booming. The executive vice president of the China Association of Metros, Zhou Xiaoqin, announced that, as of the end of June, 31 Chinese cities had urban rail systems in operation, with a total length of 3,965 km. Beijing and Shanghai each had systems exceeding 500 km in length. Another 53 cities have started building systems, and by 2020 the total length in the country should be over 6,000 km–more than 50% greater than today. The total now being planned comes to over 9,000 km. Urban rail systems have been growing steadily over the last ten years, Zhou reported.

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