A REFLECTION ON THE ‘SILK ROAD’ ECONOMIC SUMMIT IN BEIJING
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Makwaia Wa Kuhenga
Typography

THOSE following the news on global television networks here -most likely– may have come across reports of a well-attended summit of global leaders meeting in Beijing a fortnight ago. I, for one, was particularly intrigued both by the theme of the summit and the fact that I was coming across the existence of such a gathering for the first time named ‘Silk Road’.

For this reason I made an effort to read more about this meeting, which I thought should be of interest to people in developing countries like mine. Googling on the Internet, I settled for the speech of the host of the summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping who formally opened the summit attended by representatives from over 100 countries. In that speech, I learned the meaning of a “Silk Road” from an historic perspective accounted by the Chinese leader.

Excerpts: “This is indeed a gathering of great minds. In the coming two days and by engaging in full exchange of views, we will contribute the Belt and Silk Road Initiative, a project of the century to benefit people across the world.” Then he went ahead to tell what “silk road” was all about.

“Over 2000 years ago, our ancestors (Chinese) trekking across vast steppes and deserts, opened the transcontinental passage connecting Asia, Europe and Africa known today as the ‘Silk Road’.

“Our ancestors, navigating rough sea routes linking the East with the West, namely the maritime Silk Road. These ancient silk routes opened windows of friendly engagement among nations, adding a splendid chapter to the theory of human progress.

“The thousand-year-old “gilt bronze silkworm” displayed at China’s Shaanxi History Museum and the Belitung shipwreck discovered in Indonesia bear witness to this exciting period in history.

“Therefore, spanning thousands of miles and years, the ancient silk routes embody the spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit. The Silk Road spirit has become a great heritage of human civilization.

” The Chinese leader, in this interesting historic account then proceeded to recall his country’s Han Dynasty of the year 140 BC when silk routes both over land and at sea, boomed.

“Great adventurers, including Du Huan and Marco Polo of Italy and Ibun Batutah of Morocco, left their footprints along these ancient routes. Clearly these pioneers had won their place in history, not as conquerors with warships, guns or swords.

They were to be remembered as friendly emissaries leading camel caravans and sailing treasureloaded ships. “Eventually, generation after generation, the silk route travelers have built a global bridge peace and East-West cooperation.

” Then, the Chinese leader spoke: an era of openness and inclusiveness dawned. “The ancient silk routes spanned the valleys of the Nile, the Tigris and Euphrates, the Indus and Ganges, not to forget rivers Yellow and Yangtze.

“They connected the birthplaces of Egyptian, Babylonian, Indian and Chinese civilizations as well as the lands of Buddhism, Christianity and Islam including homes of people of different nationalities and races. These routes enabled people of various civilisations, religions and races to interact with and embrace each other with open mind.

“Today, ancient cities of Jiuquan, Dunhuang, Tulufan, Kashi, Samarkand, Baghdad and Constantinople as well as ancient ports of Ningbo, Guangzhou, Guangzhou, Beihai, Colombo, Jeddah and Alexandria stand as living monuments to these past interactions.

This part of history shows that civilisation thrives with openness and nations prosper through exchange.” Then the Chinese leader went ahead to remind about the ancient silk routes that they were not exclusively for trade, but for mutual learning as well.

Said President Xi Jinping: “History is our best teacher. The glory of ancient silk routes shows that geographical distance is not insurmountable. If we take the first courageous steps towards each other, we can embark on a path leading to friendship shared development, peace, harmony and a better future.” Clearly, this is an excellent Chinese initiative for global economic cooperation based on the historical Silk Road as narrated above by the Chinese leader.

According to reports, in the spirit of a Silk Road agenda, Africa is generally earmarked for Chinese support of its infrastructural development. Last year alone China completed 1,000 infrastructure projects in Africa, including rail and highway construction.

Plans are in the works for railroads, bridges and roads linking 55 African countries. Now China has plans to create a modern Silk Road over and above its ancient one, which reportedly will surpass US dollars 2.5 trillion in a decade.

For us in the developing world, we look upon the Chinese modernised Silk Road initiative in a win-win stance, given China’s honourable and remarkable contribution to the economies of many developing countries without a bigbrother overbearing stance.

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