China's dream to revive a 2,000-year old trade route is emblematic of the country's two-speed reform process, according to Barclays.
The legendary Silk Road, named after the lucrative Chinese silk business, spanned three continents until the end of the 14th century. Now, China is spearheading an effort to recreate those trade networks in a project called The New Silk Road.
Comprised of a land-based Economic Belt that will snake through Central and West Asia and a Maritime Silk Road that will link South Asian ports, the initiative is one of many plans to open up China's economy and exercise its influence on the global agenda. Other examples include the recently-launched Stock Connect program and the BRICS-focused New Development Bank.
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"The fast progress in these regional initiatives compared with the relatively slow motion in domestic reforms highlights the contrasting economic circumstances facing China domestically and abroad," said Jian Chang, chief China economist at Barclays, in a report.
As Beijing experiences its slowest pace of growth in five years, experts complain that officials aren't doing enough to speed up structural reforms that are desperately needed to transition the economy away from exports. These include social measures such as boosting job creation to fiscal programs like tax relief for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).