Let's Take Up the Challenge of the New Silk Road

The shape and the centre of gravity of globalization are changing and we barely realize it; locked in our French and European internal debates, constrained inside an idea of western and liberal globalization, imprisoned by financial economic tools of the past.

A project symbolizes this shift: the project for a new Silk Road, quickly made an economic and diplomatic priority in China by President Xi Jinping.

This collective story reminds us of the golden age of the Tang, while providing a flexible framework to respond to the country's main challenges: the internationalization of its economy and the strengthening of its currency's global function in world trade; rebalancing development for the benefit of inland provinces and household consumption; and international cooperation to solve tensions in Western China.

It is also a new collective story for the world, which lacks common projects since the end of the cold war and the failure of the liberal democracy without backtracking. It consists of filling the human,  political  and economic gap that separates the two prosperity poles of the Old World – Europe and East Asia, as well as the Middle East being rich in energetic resources, and even farther Africa – with numerous projects of infrastructure, ports, railroads, highways, as well as financial and communication projects. France has three good reasons to be interested.

It is an economic vision that transposes the Chinese-way of planning to the International Economic Cooperation. In a volatile and unstable financial world, it is urgent to take control of long-term projects, through new multilateral tools, reflected by the Asian Funds and through a new evaluation of project risk. The Chinese wish for partnerships between European and Chinese groups to gain market share along this road, to create synergies in technological, administrative and commercial capacity. This is an opportunity for Europe in transportation projects and urban services, where France is a leader (safe drinking water, electricity, lighting, hotels), but also for joint partnerships with third world countries, such as African countries, for example.

Europe would take this challenge and strive to articulate the Juncker investment plan of 300 billion Euros with a roadmap commonly defined around the Silk Road theme. It is a political vision that fights against the propagation of Islam from the Middle East in the North Caucasus to Central Asia through development. It is also a tool to articulate the new relationship between China and Russia, at the time of the mega gas deal of 400 billion US Dollars and many other common projects, especially in Siberia. Turning oneself towards the West, is giving oneself the choice of her policy, to avoid confrontation with the United States and go around the containment of the "string of pearls". The third reason is a matrix for a new multilateralism. On the one hand, it consists in creating new project multilateral institutions, which will be judged on their performance. On the other hand, it is an opportunity to open existing circles, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, to European countries in order to renew the dialogue. This can also allow the finding of frameworks for discussion and more flexible projects between Europe and Russia, in particular the finding of 30 billion US dollar necessary to Ukraine's stabilisation.

This thread between East and West still needs to be seized. Politics will be done differently, by the strength of economic projects, giving the same objectives to our companies. It is a task that should mobilize the European Union, the States, but also local authorities, chambers of commerce, businesses, not to mention universities  and think tanks

(Note: This article was originally penned in French for Les Echos.)