26 January 2017
The fanfare surrounding the pioneering China-Europe container express train that completed a one-way journey between 1-18 January 2017 is only partially warranted. Frictions abound over issues of inter-operability of railway gauges and the diplomacy of connectivity as China pushes ahead with its massive One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative.
The first transcontinental railway between China and Europe arrived in London on 18 January 2017, exactly 18 days after it began its journey of 12,000 kilometres from Yiwu in eastern Zhejiang province, with its cargo of garments, bags and other consumer goods. The train carrying 24 containers pulled by a German Deutsche-Bahn locomotive for its final leg, transited Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France before arriving in Britain. A comparable journey by sea would take 30 days or more though carrying a staggering 20,000 containers.
The steel railroad across the Eurasian heartland symbolising the new overland Silk Road – officially known as the Silk Road Economic Belt – partly realises the “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) vision of China, and includes the many high speed rail projects embraced by much of Asia in the past decade. While the pioneer freight train service was welcomed with much fanfare in Britain and China, in reality, a number of obstacles lie on the less than smooth Silk Road.
… Wu Shang-su is Research Fellow in the Military Studies Programme, and Alan Chong is Associate Professor with the Centre for Multilateralism Studies, both within the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
CMS / IDSS / Online
Last updated on 30/01/2017