China’s foreign policy under Xi Jinping has witnessed a significant shift. Formerly focused on China’s relationship with the world’s major powers, China’s leaders are now redirecting their attention to relations with the nations around China, as well as to those nations beyond with which China seeks to develop closer economic ties.
President Xi’s much-heralded “one belt, one road” strategy envisions a revival of the ancient Silk Road that two thousand years ago linked China and its trading partners in Europe. Consisting of high-speed rail lines along with highways, and oil and gas pipelines, this transportation infrastructure would ostensibly provide a counterbalance to China’s current reliance on maritime routes, which could potentially be choked off in the event of a military conflict.
China’s strategy for the massive transportation and trade link includes “infrastructure diplomacy,” namely, strengthening relations with countries along the route, including the Central Asian republics, Vietnam and Myanmar, through investment. Given that many Christians in China have been praying about and discussing their role in taking the gospel to regions beyond China, the government’s official plans present some interesting possibilities. Just as doing business has historically provided Wenzhou Christians with a natural way to extend their witness to cities around China and beyond, perhaps in a similar way engineering, resource exploration, and related fields might provide pathways for Christian professionals from China to pursue their own Silk Road vision.
Encompassing 4.4 billion people with a combined GDP equal to one-third of the world’s wealth, the new Silk Road would eventually link China to three continents. In the words of one analyst, “If this vision can be fulfilled, then eventually all roads will quite literally lead to Beijing.”
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Image credit: Silk Road #8 by Jonathan Kos-Read, on Flickr.
Brent Fulton is the president of ChinaSource and the editor of the ChinaSource Quarterly. Prior to assuming his current position, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding US director of... View Full Bio