West China seeks fortune on modern Silk Road

As the eastern end of the ancient Silk Road, Shaanxi has achieved renewed prominence, serving as a bridgehead connecting China with Belt and Road countries.While China’s western provinces mainly depend on their affluent eastern peers for investment, a national strategy to revive the centuries-old trading routes connecting Asia, Europe and Africa gives them the unique advantage of “looking west” for development opportunities.Over the weekend, more than 12,000 officials and businessmen from 37 countries and regions, and delegations from 27 Chinese provinces convened in Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi Province, for the Silk Road InternationalExposition, or the 20th Investment and Trade Forum for Cooperation between East and West China (ITFCEW).More than 20 topics including streamlining customs declarations, tourism and business cooperation will be discussed.From hinterland to heartlandThree decades of reform and opening up have given China prosperity, but unbalanced development between the east and the west is an outstanding problem.Landlocked western provinces used to rely on mechanisms like ITFCEW for business opportunities. Inter-provincial investment deals reached during such a forum have grown from 29 billion yuan (4.5 billion U.S. dollars) in 1997 when it was launched to 790 billion yuan in 2013.As the Chinese economy moderates in its transition and eastern provinces strive for new ways forward, west China is in an urgent need of new platforms to keep its economy rolling.Proposed in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative — the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road — works for improved cooperation between China and countries in a vast part of Asia, Europe and Africa.