Connecting Asia along the New Silk Road

This is a map showing the connections China envisions as it seeks to improve trade. ( Photo: Shutterstock )

The Belt-And-Road Initiative is proving to be an ambitious plan. But there is no stopping the Chinese government from accomplishing it as the nation has secured a joint venture deal with Hong Kong-based rail company MTR. The deal will result in connecting major cities in Asia within the area defined by the initiative.

China Railway’s Chairman, Meng Fengchao, found that working with a rail company likeMTR is advantageous as the railline “is more international than us.” He also acknowledged the advantages of working with a company with “a better understanding of overseas rules and regulations.” This was mentioned by the China Railway head in a Belt-And-Road Summit’s panel discussion reported by the South China Morning Post.

MTR’s Chairman, Frederick Ma Si-hang, was also present in the discussion. Ma viewed it sensible for MTR to be part of projects in this area. “Hong Kong’s rail company can’t be absent in Belt and Road projects,” he told the panel.

MTR’s project with China Railway in Asia involves bidding for the contract to build a high-speed rail link between the city-state of Singapore and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. The high-speed rail is reported to be spanning 350 kilometers. If MTR secures this contract, this will be the first confirmed project for MTR related to the Belt-And-Road Initiative.

Despite the vast experience that MTR has earned in working in western countries like Sweden and the United Kingdom, Ma emphasized the “very prudent” manner in which they implement their part in the Belt-And-Road Plan. “We haven’t invested any of our capital yet as we must assess a vast range of risks, from political risks, legal risks to financial risks.” He cited a recent visit to Myanmar to further stress that point.

The Hong Kong government’s first ever female Chief Executive, Carrie Lam Yuet-ngor, was also present in the Summit to inform the stakeholders about the discussion that the Hong Kong government is currently involved with. Talks are underway with Beijing regarding “a landmark agreement.”

This statement was supported by Edward Yau Tang-wah, Hong Kong’s Secretary of Commerce and Economic Development. Without revealing much, he said, “During ongoing negotiations of agreements, we will first consider Belt and Road countries and sign these agreements with them.” In other words, there will be some “favorites.”

The initiative, occasionally dubbed as “The New Silk Road,” is set to prioritize countries on this path, according to the Hong Kong Free Press. The priority treatment includes better trade deals and was confirmed by Yau before an audience that consisted of more than 3,000 representatives from the government and business sectors.

Having the participation of other countries along “The New Silk Road” means an expected return on investment. Yau did not shy away from saying it. “Obviously with limited resources and comparative priorities, we will focus on countries and economies where we think there will be mutual benefits.”

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