Strategic Foresight

China's Silk Road Initiative: Opportunities and Risks
8 Jun 2015 15:45
Bron: Belsky/Wikimedia Commons

On Monday 8 June 2015 the Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized a seminar on “China's Silk Road Initiative: Chances and Risks for the Netherlands and the EU”. This seminar is part of the Asia Carrousel series of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a series of events aimed at enlarging the knowledge about Asia and emphasising the importance of Asia for the Netherlands, strengthening and expanding the Asia network and contributing to potential and existing forms of cooperation between the Netherlands and Asia. This specific event had the purpose of bringing together various experts from the government, academia, economic and business institutions in order to discuss the relevance of the Chinese “Silk Road Initiative” to the Netherlands and the European Union (EU).

The first part of the seminar was dedicated to four presentations dealing with the Silk Road Initiative from different perspectives. After a welcome by chair Ingrid D’Hooghe (Clingendael) and the opening remarks by André Haspels (ministry of Foreign Affairs), the Silk Road Initiative and China’s foreign policy were introduced by Frans Paul van der Putten, senior researcher at the Clingendael Institute. Ronald Kleijwegt, director logistics EMEA at Hewlett-Packard, subsequently introduced HP’s perspective on the Silk Road Initiative. A European perspective was brought by Duncan Freeman, research fellow at the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies. In this presentation, Freeman shed light on the economic security implications of China’s Silk Road. The final presentation was given by Ton van den Hanenberg, lecturer and researcher on transporteconomics at Rotterdam University and vice president of the Bivec Gibet Benelux association of transporteconomists. In his presentation, Ton van den Hanenberg introduced the case of Parchim International Airport to assess the implications of the Silk Road Initiative for the aviation industry.

The presentations were followed by a discussion on the implications of the Silk Road Initiative for the Netherlands. The discussion points were:

1. The geographical scope, time frame, main actors, organizational elements, motives, and potential of China’s Silk Road.
2. The consequences of Chinese investments in land infrastructure, airports and harbors on the Dutch position as transit country of choice, and more specifically the position of the port of Rotterdam.
3. Possibilities for governmental support for small and medium enterprises by minimizing the threats and maximizing the opportunities of the Silk Road. 
4. Dutch railroad infrastructure and the connection from Rotterdam to Duisburg.
5. Policy options for the Dutch government and the European Union vis-à-vis China and the Silk Road.
6. Discussion on relevant actors and the need for the regular exchange of information between actors at the national (and/or EU) level.

During the meeting the Clingendael Institute proposed the realization of a national network composed of Dutch research organizations, private companies and government institutions with the purpose of gathering and sharing information on the Silk Road Initiative in order to better assess which role the Netherlands could play in it. The participants agreed upon the need and the utility of setting up such a network.

Clingendael recently published a study on the Maritime Silk Road that can be accessed via: