Comes from the Past and leads us to the Future

China is moving to revitalize the ancient Silk Road trade route, and its plan runs through a number of Nations that believe in co-operation and development of trade.

A New Silk Road that would help a number of Nations to strengthen relationships with its neighbors through resumed trading routes and the rebuilding of critical infrastructure. It is supposed to promote stability in the region that is why, at least at the introduction of the project, China announced its initiative to invest time, policies and money for the long-defunct trade corridor, called the Belt and Road Initiative, and according to foreign policy experts, China’s ambitions are now developing with visible success.

China’s initiative is two-pronged. The Silk Road Economic Belt is the revived land network connecting Asia, Europe and Africa, while the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is an economic passageway running through the Pacific and Indian oceans. Together, the two amount to a set of free trade agreements and infrastructure projects that reach 4.4 billion people, or 63 percent of the world’s population.

China seems willing to spend heavily to promote its plan.

Dr. Zhiqun Zhu, a professor of political science and international relations at Bucknell University, said the high-end estimate is that China spends 14 to 15 times the cost of the Marshall Plan, with inflation. The Marshall Plan cost about $13 billion in 1950, which translates to more than $100 billion in 2015.

While the estimated cost is high, one potential prize among Silk Road riches are undeveloped mineral resources in Afghanistan, worth a reported $1 trillion.

“It’s a very rich country when it comes to mineral resources,” said Jack Medlin, program manager at the U.S. Geological Survey.

Afghanistan’s mineral deposits include an estimated 1.4 million metric tonnes of rare earth elements (REEs), such as lanthanum, cerium and neodymium.

Such deposits, buried deep in the land that was at the core of the U.S. Silk Road plan, are used widely in the making of cellphones, cameras, cars, wind turbines and computers, among many other technology products.

China’s rare advantage

“It would be too bad if China ended up with all the rare earth minerals that are apparently in Afghanistan,” said a former senior Obama administration official who has worked on relationships in the Asia region.

It’s been suggested that the Chinese initiatives may spark a new “Great Game,” as China moves to assert its power and prowess in Asia, the Silk Road is part of a plan designed to weave all of these countries closer to China.

The vying investment plans for nations like Afghanistan could impact the overall relationship between the established and emerging global powers.

According to Yang Xiyu, a senior fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, if the U.S. and China can combine Silk Road initiatives into one overarching policy for overlapping regions, such as Afghanistan, even small achievements made by the Silk Road plans could lead to an improved U.S.-China relationship. But such cooperation can’t be guaranteed, and Xiyu said that geopolitical competition along the Silk Road implies that the U.S.-China relationship would inevitably slide into confrontation.