The first train connecting Iran and China packed with Chinese goods arrived in Tehran on 15 February 2016. The arrival revived the ancient Silk Road trade route and also highlighted the economic possibilities for Iran since the lifting of international sanctions.
The train, also referred to as Silk Road train, passed through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to Iran, travelling a distance of 10399 kilometres. It had left Yiwu city in east China's Zhejiang province on 28 January 2016. The train, carrying 32 containers of commercial products, took 14 days to make the journey. Compared to the sea voyage of the cargo ships from China's Shanghai city to Iran's Bandar Abbas port city, the travel time of the train was 30 days shorter.
Why the revival of ancient Silk Route?
• In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the idea of creating a new Silk Road through Russia and the Ukraine into Europe. Under the title One Belt, One Road, this plan is China's new national vision to improve its connectivity to Europe, Asia, and Africa.
• The revival will reduce the overall transportation cost as the journey through train was 30 days shorter than the sea voyage from Shanghai to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.
• China is Iran’s biggest trading partner and accounts for one third of its foreign trade. The rail route will boost bilateral trade between both countries as Chinese President Xi Jinping and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had agreed in January 2016 to build economic ties worth up to 600 billion US dollars within the next 10 years.
About ancient Silk Route
• The Silk Route was an ancient network of trade routes that were central to cultural interaction through regions of the Asian continent connecting the West and East from China to the Mediterranean Sea.
• It derived its name from the lucrative trade in Chinese silk carried out along its length, beginning during the Han dynasty. The Central Asian sections of the trade routes were expanded around 114 BCE by the Han dynasty, largely through the missions and explorations of Chinese imperial envoy, Zhang Qian. The Chinese took great interest in the safety of their trade products and extended the Great Wall of China to ensure the protection of the trade route.
• Trade on the Silk Route was a significant factor in the development of the civilizations of China, the Indian subcontinent, Persia, Europe, the Horn of Africa and Arabia, opening long-distance, political and economic relations between the civilizations.
• In addition to economic trade, the Silk Road served as a means of carrying out cultural trade among the civilizations along its network.
The location of Iran is strategically important as it is in the Middle East (West Asia) and shares land borders with 8 nations. It also has sea channels on its northern and south-western coasts. By connecting Iran through revived Silk Road China will leverage Iran’s strategic location to get access to extensive delivery routes connecting to the Eurasia and Middle East.
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Where: In Tehran from China
When: 15 February 2016