“21st Century Silk Road”: China Pushes for More Links to Europe

Written by | Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on the European Union and China to increase the volume of their trade while talking on the sidelines of a plenary session of the 12th National People’s Congress, China’s legislative body. When speaking about the country’s so-called “belt-and-road” priorities, Minister Wang Yi said that that the emphasis of the Chinese foreign policy “will be on promoting infrastructural connectivity, and building overland economic corridors and pillars of maritime cooperation”.

“One belt, one road” refers to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s plan to link Asia and Europe. The Silk Road Economic Belt is to be established along the ancient Silk Road trade route, which stretched northwest from China’s coastal area through Central Asia, the Middle East and on to Europe, while the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is projected to run through the country’s south to Southeast Asia. The “one belt, one road” initiative has been a popular topic in the Chinese domestic discourse on economic policy for about two years. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang emphasized that the initiative is another way for China to open up.

In the meantime, the EU is discussing China’s market economy status within the World Trade Organization (WTO) as the country was categorized as a non-market economy when it joined the Geneva-based organization in 2001. Although the issue is still being reviewed, some suggest that China should be automatically given the status of a market economy in 2016. The status of a market or non-market economy determines the level of fines and sanctions in case of issues with other WTO members. In general, non-market economies are subject to higher fines than market economies which is why Beijing would like to see China’s status revised. Moreover, the country is seeking to increase its prestige in the organization. Currently, China and the EU trade more than €1 billion a day. China is the EU’s number one source of imports but it has also become one of the block’s fastest growing export markets.

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