When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Where The Silk Road Began: Xi'an, China Could Return As Global Trade Hub

Inside the old city gate in Xi'an
Inside the old city gate in Xi'an
Zhang Yenlong

BEIJING — When recently visiting four Central Asian countries, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that the starting point of the ancient Silk Road by which China exported its silk, china and jade to Europe was his own hometown of Xi’an.

He suggested that China and the Central Asia countries, with a total population of 3 billion, should together build a “Silk Road Economic Zone” and develop this “unique market size with great potential.”

At the Eurasian Economic Forum inaugurated Sept. 26, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang responded to the president’s idea by saying that a new economic zone could present “an unprecedented opportunity for revitalizing the region’s development.” In the end, the idea would turn out to be the central focus of the forum.

On the day before the Eurasian forum opened, ground had been officially broken on an area in Xi’an called the Central Cultural Business District (CCBD). It’s situated just five kilometers south of the Xi’an landmark Giant Goose Pagoda, a Buddhist structure built in the 7th century.

The CCBD includes 20 major building projects with an overall investment of more than 200 billion RMB (or $32.5 billion) expected to be complete by 2020. An experimental urban district, this project aims to combine Xi’an’s historical and cultural advantages with the business functions that are required in cosmopolitan city.

Based on its economy and population, Xi’an is still considered a medium-sized city in China. Even compared to the relatively underdeveloped central and western cities such as Chongqing, Wuhan and Chengdu, its urban scale lags behind. President Xi’s idea will give Xi’an the chance to return to the world stage.

The brand new CCBD hopes to develop differently than a conventional business district. It aims to keep culture as its core and means to become Xi'an’s new city center, integrating culture, technology, finance and business development on nearly 900 acres. Not only will it help Xi’an to achieve a modern service industry, but it will also attract more talent and bring about a transformation in this ancient city


[rebelmouse-image 27087435 alt="""" original_size="458x585" expand=1]

Xi'an's Bell Tower, early 20th century — Photo: Charlesdrakew

As Shaanxi Provincial Party Secretary Zhao Zhengyong said during the Eurasian Economic Forum, Shaanxi “is striving to build the bridgehead of the Silk Road Economic Zone.” Hopefully, the Xi’an CCBD will become a symbol of it.

The particular cultural heritage

Culture is the soul of Xi’an, which could be reborn as an international metropolis. For many Westerners, Xi’an is regarded as the place to go when visiting China or trying to know China. In 1998, then-President Clinton made it his first stop on his trip to China. It was also in this ancient Chinese capital that he uttered the famous phrase, “To know a nation, one has to know where the nation comes from.”

A mighty China is rising. Many Westerners are eager to find out whether this is a threat or a strategic opportunity for the West.

Xi'an has all along been a city of cultural and strategic significance. But in the context of a Silk Road economic bloc, the city that is located at its starting point ought to play an ever more important role in fulfilling China’s strategic idea for regional cooperation.

As Xi’an Party Secretary Wei Minzhou and Xi’an Mayor Dong Jun stated jointly, a Silk Road Economic Zone would help accelerate the development of China’s western region. It is also a golden opportunity for Xi’an — a glorious city in the Tang Dynasty more than a thousand years ago — to again find its renown.

At a time when China is seeking to extend its influence through southeast Asia, this push to extend its influence into central Asia is clearly part of the same logic.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

BDS And Us: Gaza's Toll Multiplies Boycotts Of Israel And Its Allies — Seinfeld Included

In Egypt and elsewhere in the region and the world, families and movements are mobilizing against companies that support Israel's war on Gaza. The power of the people lies in their control as consumers — and the list of companies and brands to boycott grows longer.

A campaign poster with the photo of a burger with blood coming out of it with text reading "You Kill" and the Burger King logo

A campaign poster to boycott Burger King in Bangkok, Malü

Matt Hunt/ZUMA
Mohammed Hamama

CAIRO — Ali Al-Din’s logic is simple and straightforward: “If you buy a can (of soda), you'll get the bullet too...”

Those bullets are the ones killing the children of Gaza every day, and the can he refuses to buy is “kanzaya” – the popular Egyptian soft drink. It is just one of a long list of products he had the habit of consuming. Ali is nine years old.

For the latest news & views from every corner of the world, Worldcrunch Today is the only truly international newsletter. Sign up here.

The clarity and simplicity of this logic has pushed Ali Al-Din to boycott all the products on the lists people are circulating of companies that have supported Israel since the attacks on Gaza began in October. His mother, Heba, points out that her son took responsibility for overseeing the boycott in their home.

A few days ago, he saw a can of “Pyrosol” insecticide, but he thought it was one of the products of the “Raid” company that was on the boycott’s lists. He warned his mother that this product was on the boycott list, but she explained that the two products were different. Ali al-Din and his younger brother also abstained from eating any food from McDonald's. “They love McDonald’s very much,” his mother says. “But they refuse.”

Keep reading...Show less

The latest