Silk Road Headlines_6th September, 2019
Georgia is building a new port at Anaklia, which is to become the first deep-sea port on the eastern side of the Black Sea. As such it has the potential to be a transportation hub on the new Silk Road between China and Europe. The Georgian government contracted a US-Georgian consortium to build the port, instead of one that is China-led. This seemed a way to ensure that Georgia can play a role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative without becoming too dependent on Chinese companies. However, recently the main member of the consortium, the US construction firm Conti group, abandoned the project leaving behind its Georgian partner TBC [Postcard from the New Silk Road: Another Belt and Road Port?]. It is unclear why Conti withdrew, and it seems that the harbour cannot be built unless TBC finds a new partner. The Georgian government now once more faces the choice whether or not to work with Chinese construction firms on this project.
Further north, a new ‘Cherry Road’ is being created to link Japan and South Korea with Europe. Cargo is shipped by sea from Japan or South Korea to Vladivostok in the Russian Far East. From there the Trans-Siberian Railway brings the goods to Poland [Japan/South Korea – Europe multimodal route has options for new branches]. This multimodal route links Europe and east Asia while bypassing China. Meanwhile Japan has hosted the seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) through which the Japanese government tries to counter China’s influence in Africa by offering an alternative source of infrastructure financing [Japan keen to do business in Africa as China extends reach on continent]. This creates further pressure on China to improve the quality of its BRI infrastructure projects in Africa and elsewhere.
Frans-Paul van der Putten