Xi’an: the Chinese city at the start of the New Silk Road

20/04/2018

Its central position allows for strategic growth and development, and a future as China’s fourth pole of production

 

Located in central China, Xi’an is the capital of Shaanxi Province. Over the years its strategic position has created easy conditions for excellent connections in its province and in the entire country. It is the center of the economy, politics, and culture of the province and was designated as a national hub in the MOFCOM development plan (2015-2020) of trade and distribution logistics.

Its railway station is one of the eight main national railway stations. The Xianyang International Airport offers domestic and international flights, to destinations including Nagoya, Moscow, Seoul, and Paris. The Xi’an International Trade & Logistics Park, which enjoys a geographic advantage and easy transit connections, is the largest logistics park in western China.

For these reasons, it is not surprising that the city is at the center of the New Silk Road strategy to bring the economic prosperity of the People’s Republic to the undeveloped Western regions.

 

The belt and road commences from Xi’an, the fulcrum of the ancient Silk Road

 

President Xi Jinping pursued his desire to create a new economic belt and promote closer economic ties between European and Asian nations from the outset of his presidential term.

With international strategic importance, the creation of the belt and road would improve economic development in Western China and have a far-reaching impact on regional development in general. This New Silk Road commences west from Xi’an.

As China gradually advanced with a new cycle of reforms and openness, there was a clear need to establish a regional economic center in western China. The country is doing so through national policy initiatives to ensure progress in the whole of China – not just its wealthy coastal cities.

For this reason, the creation of this so-called economic belt, with Xi’an as a leading city, has been a priority. The government also plans to transform the western region into China’s fourth economic pole, in addition to the Yangtze River, the Pearl River Delta region, and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei economic zone. The Greater Xi’an area will be an international area located in the center of the northwest comparable to Chongqing.

 

The belt and road initiative is part of China’s long-term commercial and economic development strategy, which includes reforms that target start-ups and attract investment

 

The focus in Xi’an has been on urban development and large-scale construction that can affect and guide regional economic development. As the starting point of the ancient silk road, an economic center of northwestern China, and a famous cultural and tourist destination (it’s home to the Qin terracotta warriors), Xi’an is Beijing’s city of choice to be the center of the economic belt.

The State Council issued the development plan for the Guanzhong-Tianshui Economic Zone, which stated that the area would be used as a “strategic terrain for the development and opening of the national economy”. Xi’an, as the largest city in this economic zone, would have an important role to play.

Without economic development in the western region, a vast country like China can not successfully modernize. Without significant improvements in conditions in western China, especially in the unstable border regions, the security, stability, and unity of the country lay in jeopardy.

Chinese citizens and the central government alike hope the belt and road plan will bring development to poorer Western China. The implementation of the Western Development Plan in 2000, although fruitful, did not significantly reduce the gap with the eastern coastal areas and the less developed western regions. 

 

Practical experience has shown that regional development requires both the driving force and the dissemination effect of a strong central city coupled with a larger regional plan

 

The total economic output of Xi’an places it in the upper part of the cities in the northwest of China. It is the largest city in the region with a population of 8.5 million. Xi’an is also a base for scientific research, higher education, defense, and other hi-tech industries.

Xi’an has the largest industrial sector in Shaanxi Province. Its total industrial production amounted to RMB 535 billion in 2017, driven by the production of equipment, the processing of agricultural products and the design of automobiles. The service sector does not overshadow, in 2015 it was the most significant part of Xi’an’s economy, representing 60% of GDP. Tourism remains a mainstay of the city’s services sector.

As one of the four ancient capitals of the world, it has the distinction of being the capital during the largest number of dynasties in Chinese history, including the QinSui, and Tang empires. As a result, Xi’an has many cultural relics and tourist attractions. The city also has many research institutions and universities, ranking among the most developed areas for technology and education in China.

With President Xi’s encouragement, it is reasonable to hope that the development of the new Silk Road, with Xi’an at the forefront, can recreate the prosperous era that existed during the time of the ancient Silk Road , bringing the city back to its position the main cultural and economic center of the world, a guide to economic development in northwestern China, and the fulcrum of economic prosperity for the other western regions of the country.

 

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