China made history earlier this week by sending its first freight train to London. The capital of England and Great Britain becomes the 15th European city with direct trains from China since President Xi’s unveiled his multi-billion dollar 'One Belt, One Road' initiative in 2013.
The China Railway Corporation said the train will travel from Yiwu West Railway Station in Zhejiang Province, Eastern China to Barking, London, taking 18 days to travel over 7,400 miles. The route runs through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France, before arriving in London.
The One Belt, One Road initiative hopes to create a modern Silk Road and improve trade and relations with markets across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. There are currently 39 routes linking 16 Chinese cities to 12 European cities.
Representatives of China’s Securities Regulatory Commission have previously stated that the country has set aside around $40 billion in a fund to finance roads and railways abroad under President Xi’s strategy.
Last month, the country announced plans to spend 3.5 trillion yuan ($503 billion) on expanding its own national rail system by 2020. This high-speed rail network will span more than 30,000 kilometers under the plan, according to a State Council Information Office. To put that into context, that is about 6.5 times the length of a road trip between New York and Los Angeles, and will cover 80 percent of major cities in China.
The Chinese government is keen to boost its economy in the face of slowing export and economic growth. The country’s exports totalled $2.27 trillion in 2015, slowing down from $2.34 trillion in 2014. The China Railway Corporation said it hopes the train to London will strengthen the connection between China and Western Europe and improve China-Britain trade ties.
Only time will tell, but the future of trade in Asia could depend heavily on what becomes of China’s expansive One Belt, One Road initiative.
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(Image Credit - eldelinux)