Britain Backs Silk Road Initiative

    Britain Backs Silk Road Initiative
    Chancellor Philip Hammond, 2015. Copyright: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

    The chancellor, Philip Hammond, has said that Britain is a natural partner for China’s new Silk Road initiative as he hopes to further secure economic ties between Britain and China.

    The Silk Road initiative, also known as the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, is an ambitious economic development that will build infrastructure in an attempt to connect China with Asia, Africa and Europe. The project, first launched in 2013, hopes to boost trade and further economic growth throughout Asia and beyond. Some plans for this are well underway with pipelines in Pakistan, bridges in Bangladesh and railways to Russia already proposed—routes that Beijing believes will spur ‘a new era of globalisation.’

    Theresa May’s order to review China-backed Hinkley Point C Plant back in 2016, put a strain on the Britain/China alliance—a relationship once dubbed the ‘golden-age’ of ties under David Cameron. Now the £18 billion project has been approved, the relationship between prime minister May and president Xi Jinping has since soared.

    Mr Hammond spoke to some 1500 delegates during a two-day forum in Beijing on the 14 May celebrating president Xi Jinping’s Silk Road initiative, hailing China’s ability to drive remarkable economic growth. ‘China and the UK have a long ad rich trading history. Indeed, the English first attempted to find a trade route to China in the 16th century although it took us four decades to find one,’ said the chancellor. He continued, ‘I welcome the “Belt and Road” initiative as an opportunity to strengthen these ties and I welcome the progress that has already been made.’

    Hammond claimed that by 2030 around $26 trillion would need to be invested into infrastructure in China. He said of the ambitious project that the UK ‘can be a natural partner in delivering this infrastructure by supporting the finance, the design and the delivery needed to make the vision a reality.’ Mr Hammond’s support of the Silk Road initiative was warmly welcomed by Chinese leaders.

    There have been concerns about the Silk Road initiative, however, with some speculating that countries could be left in serious debts as most of the funds for the development are gifted as loans from China rather that grants.

    President Jinping reassuringly responded, ‘China is willing to share its development experience with all countries. We will not interfere in other countries’ internal affairs. We will not export our system of society and development model, and even more will not impose our views on others.’

    Britain is eager to sign a new free-trade agreement with China after the two-year negotiations period with the EU has concluded. While China has repeatedly expressed support for closer European integration, it has said that Brexit will not affect a relationship between the UK and China.  Hammond’s support of the Silk Road initiative has begun to pave the way for new and ambitious trade relationships with world leaders.