From the 15th century to modern times, the destiny of countries and peoples in Africa, Asia and the Americas was formed by the developments and decisions made in Europe, later on the United States of America (Rachman 2016). However, the Western hegemony in global affairs now is teetering.
Whereas the Western power is declining, Asia; especially China on the rise over the decades. Power is shifting from West to East, the world is more multipolar than ever before. While leader of the free world, the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, is threating the liberal world order with his actions like praising nationalism, imposing tariffs, withdrawing the US from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the Paris Agreement; China’s President Xi Jinping showed up as a defender of free trade, globalization and economic openness. China has become an active participant of international cooperation, from United Nations peacekeeping missions to Paris Agreement.
Moreover, China is promoting international development and integration with Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). BRI has come to symbolize China’s increasing significance in international relations.
China, as the world’s largest trading country, energy consumer and largest economy (ranked by purchase power) is trying to revive ancient Silk Road to promote integration, boost infrastructure and improve economic relations in Eurasia. The BRI is leading giant infrastructure projects such as building of new railways, highways, ports, oil & gas pipelines, power lines and internet networks all around Eurasia.
The Expansion of Rail Transport from China to Europe
Using railroads to transport goods from one destination to the other one could look like an old-fashioned way to do business but the idea behind the BRI is totally new and compatible with modern time’s needs. The era of the internet and globalization, attaches continents by cross-continental railways, which might result in a real transportation revolution.
Compared to sea freight, cross-continental railways have notably reduced time needed to transport goods; compared to air freight, the cross-continental railways have remarkably reduced the transportation costs by 40% (Egger and Larch 2008); and above all, rail cargo is more environmentally friendly than air freight. First regular cargo trains between Europe and China launched in 2011, since that date EU-China rail freights grew a hundredfold. 6,637 freight trains were operated in both directions, including with 3,673 record figure in 2017 alone (Jakóbowski et al. 2018)
Global Actor: China
The Chinese says, ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with single step’ (Bruyninckx 2016). China with The Belt and Road Initiative started this journey in order to integrate Eurasia, to increase infrastructure, and boost economic relations among the participating countries and the whole region. At the time when the United States is no longer interested in further developing the world economic system, the BRI as a grand strategy is unique opportunity to demonstrate global leadership (Truman 2016) for China.
The West is in decline, the East is on rise; power is shifting. China is the centre of this process. The BRI has created high hopes and motivation as a huge development project which called by Xi Jinping, project of the century. To have good connections with Asia is indispensable for Europe. China, with BRI, is trying to open itself to Europe and European market. The Overcapacity problem can be converted by BRI to opportunity around Eurasia. Railways will continue to play a crucial role in connecting Europe to Asia and overall, will increase integration of Eurasia.