Photos: Naziba Basher
In a span of 30 years, from a pitiable inward-looking agricultural country, China has developed itself into a global manufacturing force, a powerhouse to be reckoned with. Its investing and producing at home and exporting to developed markets has promoted it to the world's second-largest economy. Currently facing a slowing economy at home, China's leader has found new methods and channels to maintain its desire for growth – using the Silk Road.
The Silk Road was a network of trade routes, formally established during the Han Dynasty. The use of the road had been initiated from Chang'an (now Xian) in the East and ended in the Mediterranean in the West, linking China to the Roman Empire. As China's silk was the chief trade product, German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen named it the Silk Road in 1877. It was not just one road but rather a series of major trade routes that helped in building trade and cultural relationships between China, India, Persia, Arabia, Greece, Rome and Mediterranean countries. It reached its potential during the Tang Dynasty, but was rejected in the Yuan dynasty, established by the Mongol Empire, as political powers along the route became more disproportioned.
Recently, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forth the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives in September and October 2013, while he was visiting Central and Southeast Asian countries. The Belt and Road Initiative has accentuated the development of a community of common interests and common destinies, based on win-win strategies and a principle of shared success. It is a blueprint of all-round advancement that will break the borders of continents and oceans. The initiative involves more than 60 countries, representing a third of the world's total economy and more than half the global population.
As a part of the initiative, China Daily, the widest circulated English language newspaper in China, with financial support from the Chinese Government, invited 18 journalists from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Philippines, Uzbekistan, Laos, Nepal and Thailand for the Discover Jiangsu Trip. Located in the eastern coastal areas of the Chinese mainland, Jiangsu province has built a group of cities with its neighbouring Shanghai and Zhejing provinces. situated at the intersecting point between the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, Jiangsu province will play a very important role in the country's opening up and the Belt and Road Initiative.
Touring different cities in Jiangsu, namely Nanjing, Xuzhou, Lianyungang and Suzhou, the reporters were introduced to their development of economy, trade, culture and tourism within the province. It had successfully portrayed to the international community the importance of the role played by the Yangtze River Delta area.
Throughout the journey, the reporters noticed the remarkable ecological civilisation development and urban-rural combination, as they witnessed large, well-structured roads and fly-overs with clusters of trees planted almost at every corner- having Nanjing city being known as the 'green city' of China. The province has also had triumphs in industry upgrading and transformation, as it is home to some of the biggest development industries like Suning Group in Nanjing city, XCMG in Xuzhou city, Jiangsu Sierbang Petrochemical Project in Lianyungang city, and Hengtong group in Suzhou city, to name a few. The ports in Nanjing city and Lianyungang city can both boast to be powerhouses in the development of Jiangsu, and ultimately China- with Nanjing port reaching 191 million tons of cargo just in 2012 and Taicang port being the biggest port on the Yangtze river and Jiangsu province, and having the largest timber import in China.
Culturally also, Jiangsu has taken notable leaps as it now has three UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites and eight items on the world intangible cultural heritage list, including Zhouzheng Garden, the Imperial Tombs of the Ming Dynasty, Kunqu Opera and Yangzhou paper-cutting artworks. To have culture and history ingrained into the locals of the province, all public libraries, cultural centres and art galleries are open to all for free.
The One Belt One Road could have as much impact on China's internal economy as it will have internationally. China's top agenda is to rouse the domestic economy via exports from industries. With everything checked off the list and Jiangsu Province working in full-throttle, China's One Belt, One Road initiative can break bounds and assure many countries, including China itself, of mutual prosperity.