China's Ministry of Commerce is speeding up the construction of a 21st century "Maritime Silk Road" and Ningbo and Zhoushan in the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang are expected to become important platforms for the route.
Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang said on April 17 during a press conference that the Maritime Silk Route is part of an important government policy of further opening up its markets. Russia and Central Asia will play a key role in this, he said.
The idea for the Maritime Silk Road for this century was proposed by China's president Xi Jinping, who suggested the idea when he visited the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in October last year.
Premier Li Keqiang also stated on March 5 in his work report to the national parliament that the planning of a Silk Road Economic Belt over land and a Maritime Silk Route will be stepped up.
The Zhejiang government plans to integrate the construction of a free trade zone with the free ports of Ningbo and Zhoushan, with the aim to transform the two cities into an important platform for trade between China and central European countries.
A Ningbo official stated that building the road could amplify the connection with the outside world on the sea and Ningbo has an edge and the right criteria to become a pioneer in the route's construction, given its role of a gateway to the Asia-Pacific region.
The province-level regions of Guangdong, Guangxi, Fujian, Zhejiang and Yunnan have also stated their willingness to play a role in the construction of the road since the beginning of this year.
The construction will benefit several areas from Guangxi and Yunnan from southwestern China to Zhejiang and Fujian in eastern China. Further, it is likely to boost consumption levels.
In addition, the regional financial service sector is also expected to get the rare opportunity for development, with the route expected to be favorable for the tourism sector because provinces in southwestern China and Eastern European countries have abundant tourism resources.