China Launches New ‘Silk Roadster’ Concept In Nepal

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People to people exchanges a core part of new BRI local marketing campaigns being launched in Asia

China has launched a new “Silk Roadster” platform under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Nepal, in a slight change in marketing and explanatory direction that may be rolled out elsewhere.

Chinese leaders said the Nepal platform is a new concept brought to mark the tenth anniversary of the proposition of the BRI by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Nepal signed up to the framework agreement on the BRI in 2017, however six years later, no BRI projects have begun, although Kathmandu has selected nine to be executed under the framework. Delays in getting projects off the ground in Nepal have been due in part to covid, the problems of difficult terrain, cost wranglings and  political pressures from India.

The Silk Roadster concept is a new platform for practical cooperation and people-to-people exchanges between China and Southeast and South Asian countries, according to the White Paper issued at the Kathmandu launch. It states “By coordinating resources from local governments, universities, enterprises, and institutions in China, the ‘Silk Roadster’ aims to carry out technical skills training, services for the people, overseas study projects, short-term exchanges, cooperation between enterprises and cultural exhibitions and exchanges events with Southeast and South Asian countries.”

There are five projects under the platform—the Silk Road Embarkment, the Silk Road Empowerment, the Silk Road Enjoyment, the Silk Road Enlightenment and the Silk Road Enhancement—which will be implemented through various Nepali political parties and social organisations, according to the concept paper.

Two CPC leaders from Beijing were present at the function.

“Earlier, we were told that the BRI was about big projects related to infrastructure, connectivity, ports, railways, airports, power plants and telecommunication, but now they have included small projects including those on imparting training, building skills, scholarships and other short-term exchanges on various sectors” stated a Nepali MP who attended the function, who added “This could be a departure from the concept of the BRI, which has now been tweaked to encompass both macro- to micro-size projects. This new concept [Silk Roadster] is in an early stage, so we don’t know what impact it will have and what reaction and response it will get from Nepali political parties and government. And we don’t know if the new Chinese programmes will contradict Nepal government’s policies.”

According to the Silk Roadster concept document, many leaders of political parties of Southeast and South Asian countries have expressed their desire for more practical cooperation projects with China, which usually occurs via inter-party exchanges.

Dev Gurung, General Secretary of Nepal’s CPN (Maoist Centre) has stated that “Silk Roadster” focuses on small projects related to education, culture and economic empowerment at the grassroots.

Of the five projects, the Silk Road Embarkment focuses on small but effective projects to improve people’s lives.

The Paper appears to abide by this, stating “We are ready to work with political parties of all countries and Friends of Silk Road Clubs to provide free physical check-ups, medical care, optometry, electrical appliance repair and other services for the convenience of the people, so that the inter-party exchanges will bring tangible benefits to the people.”

A team from the working group led by Du Xiaolin and Du Wenlong, among others, from China’s  International Department Liaison Office visited Nepal to carry out events of two signature Silk Road Embarkment and Silk Road Empowerment projects.

Similarly, the Silk Road Empowerment focuses on vocational skills training where Chinese schools will provide vocational education courses to Southeast and South Asian countries through the Cloud Platform for Generation Z Vocational Education Cooperation, in order to train technical manpower needed in the long run.

Similarly, the Silk Road Enjoyment focuses on cultural exchanges and aims to promote people-to-people exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations while Silk Road Enlightenment focuses on exchanges among young people.

“We are willing to provide short-term training opportunities in China for foreign political parties and technical personnel, so as to encourage the young generation to learn more about China and enhance our friendship,” states the concept.

The Silk Roadster Enlightenment Event attaining nirvanic bliss.  

Likewise, the Silk Road Enhancement project is aimed at helping enterprises to connect and cooperate, and to boost business exchanges and cooperation.

In Kathmandu, the Chinese delegation organised the “Silk Roadster—Join the Ride for a Better Future!” event. Numerous Chinese vocational institutions and enterprises including Beijing Polytechnic, Beijing Business School, Tongren Polytechnic College, and Beijing Daming Optical Co, Ltd, participated in the event, while representatives from eight Nepali political parties and some NGOs, mostly working with various entities of the Chinese government, attended the function.

The Chinese side dispersed 330 solar lights, 20,000 biological sticky traps for insects, food and oil packs, 1,500 pairs of presbyopia glasses, and 500 sets of magnifying glasses to local Nepali’s attending the event.

After the opening ceremony for the Silk Road Embarkment project, the Chinese working group and representatives from Chinese vocational institutions visited Budhanilkantha and installed solar lights for residents there as part of their “Solar Village Project—Lighting up the Darkness”.

On July 12, according to the Friends of Silk Road Nepal, the Chinese side went to Kavresthali to set up sticky traps for insects in the crop fields, and gave tips about planting and pesticide to local farmers.

At the event, MoU were also signed between Chinese and Nepali vocational institutions, according to Chinese officials. “The Chinese side wishes to share its high-quality technical advancements, innovation and new technologies in areas like agriculture, renewable energy and hospitals,” said Kalyan Raj Sharma, the chairman of the Friends of Silk Road Nepal, which was one of the organisers of the Bhaktapur event.

The Chinese delegation has now left for Malaysia to launch a similar initiative there.

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