UCLan brings global experts together to evaluate 21st Century Maritime Silk Road
An ambitious Chinese project linking trade across around 60 European and Asian countries along a new Silk Road was put under the spotlight at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) as experts from China and major European countries met to draw up a mutually beneficial blueprint.
The “One Belt, One Road” initiative launched by China three years ago is a crucial element of President Xi Jinping’s foreign policy as the country boosts trade and investment. It focuses on connectivity and cooperation between China and countries along the land based “Silk Road Economic Belt” and the ocean’s “Maritime Silk Route”, which is essentially shipping lanes from China to Europe.
Central Lancashire’s Institute of International Law and Comparative Law and its Confucius Institute welcomed the National Institute for South China Sea Studies to Preston to assess and define the issues and risks faced by the Maritime Silk Road, which faces enormous challenges of geopolitical and security risks.
"By bringing global experts together in discussion, we explored various issues concerning the opportunities and challenges that both Europe and Asia face."
Professor of International Law at UCLan Keyuan Zou organised the event. He said: “Despite reshaping the geo-economic landscape of the Initiative, doubts remain that China is trying to realise its geopolitical objectives through the Maritime Silk Road Initiative. On the other hand, the regions along the Road are full of geopolitical conflict zones with traditional and non-traditional security challenges. Therefore, it is necessary to develop a risk assessment for the Maritime Silk Road Initiative, which given it is such a long-term and large scale strategy with so many countries and regions involved, it has also elicited a strong response from not only China’s neighbouring countries and regions, but the entire international community.
“By bringing global experts together in discussion, we explored various issues concerning the opportunities and challenges that both Europe and Asia face, including sea lanes and maritime connectivity, safety of navigation, non-traditional security threats, and sustainable development and marine environmental protection. In addition to the mutual benefit for Asian and European countries, the Initiative may be more beneficial for the UK particularly after its formal Brexit.”
Minister Qin Zhu, Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, London, spoke at the event and made four suggestions. First, to promote the construction of interconnection at sea, the second to strengthen the marine economic cooperation and marine industry docking, the third to deepen the marine cultural exchanges and cooperation, the fourth to maintain peace and security at sea. In addition, Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, pointed out that the United Kingdom is a major foreign economy and an important partner in the initiative.
UCLan’s symposium was held just about one week before the Belt and Road Summit to be held in Beijing in mid-May. The event was particularly poignant for the University as it celebrates 30 years of collaborative working with China this year.