SINGAPORE — The “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” will pave the way for the establishment of the Asia-Pacific economic community as well as greatly stimulate the potential to spur rapid economic growth of emerging markets, said scholars in Singapore.
In regard to China’s new initiative of the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” -- a revival of sea route of the economic and cultural exchanges between ancient China and the rest of the world, Zhao Hong, senior research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, wrote in an article that a better infrastructure and transportation system, which China has included in its plan to boost regional connectivity, will play a key role in creating the Asia-Pacific economic community.
“There’re still huge differences in infrastructure among countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and it needs a large-scale reform and investment to improve the poor transportation,” the article said, adding that an Asian Development Bank report estimates that Asia as a whole needs as much as $730 billion per year in infrastructure investment before 2020.
“China has seen the opportunity in improving infrastructure in this region and is working on relevant policies to take the initiative in developing the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road,” the article said.
President Xi Jinping said in November last year that China will contribute $40 billion to set up a Silk Road Fund to strengthen connectivity and improve cooperation in the country’s neighborhood.
He said the new Silk Road Fund will be used to provide investment and financing support to carry out infrastructure, resources, industrial cooperation, financial cooperation and other projects related to connectivity for countries along its proposed the Belt and Road Initiative.
Together with the Chinese central government, local governments have also joined the mission. Earlier in May, the Fuzhou government in China’s southeastern Fujian province said it has set up a 10-billion-yuan ($1.6 billion) fund to support the programs of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
“Local governments’ activeness will no doubt stimulate a new round of investments in this region,” Zhao wrote.
As to worries among some countries over China’s leading role in the development of Maritime Silk Road, Zheng Yongnian, director of the East Asian Institute in Singapore, said China is not pursuing a hegemony. However, it aims to realize a win-win situation with relevant countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
“China has accumulated rich experiences in infrastructure building and its financial resources, and it could introduce capital and technology to developing countries through the Maritime Silk Road, which could greatly stimulate their economic development potential,” Zheng said.