The “Silk Roadster” platform for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was introduced by the Communist Party of China (CPC) last week in Bhaktapur, Nepal, in the presence of a few political parties and social organizations.
Chinese officials said that the platform was a novel idea introduced to Nepal to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s proposal of the BRI. Nepal ratified the BRI’s framework agreement in 2017. Six years later, however, not a single project from the program has begun in Nepal, despite the fact that the government has chosen nine projects to be carried out under the framework.
According to the concept paper for the initiative, which was released during the launch, Silk Roadster is a new platform for effective collaboration and people-to-people contacts between China and nations in Southeast and South Asia.
The “Silk Roadster” concept paper states that it “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” by coordinating resources from local governments, universities, businesses, and institutions in China.
According to the concept paper, the platform will be carried out through a number of Nepali political parties and social organizations through five projects: the Silk Road Embarkment, the Silk Road Empowerment, the Silk Road Enjoyment, the Silk Road Enlightenment, and the Silk Road Enhancement.
At the event were two Beijing-based CPC leaders.
“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,” a UML leader who attended the function said to the Post while requesting anonymity.
“This may be a divergence from the BRI’s original definition, which has been updated to include initiatives of all sizes, from macro to micro. We don’t yet know what effect this new idea—the Silk Roadster—will have or how Nepal’s political parties and administration will respond to it since it is still in its infancy. Additionally, we are unsure whether the new Chinese programs conflict with government regulations in Nepal, the leader remarked.
Many political party leaders from Southeast and South Asian nations have reportedly voiced a desire for more concrete cooperation projects with China, which may allegedly happen via inter-party interactions, according to the Silk Roadster concept paper.
The CPN (Maoist Centre)’s general secretary, Dev Gurung, who was also present at the ceremony on July 13, told The Washington Post that “Silk Roadster” concentrates on local grassroots initiatives focused on empowering people via education, culture, and economics.
The Silk Road Embarkment, one of the five programs, focuses on modest yet impactful initiatives to enhance people’s lives.
According to the concept paper, “We are ready to work with political parties of all nations and Friends of Silk Road Clubs to provide free physical examinations, medical attention, optometry, electrical appliance repair, and other services for the convenience of the people, so that the inter-party exchanges will bring real benefits to the people.”
To carry out activities for two iconic Silk Road Embarkment and Silk Road Empowerment initiatives, a working delegation headed by Du Xiaolin and Du Wenlong, among others, from the CPC’s International Department Liaison Office visited Nepal.
Similar to this, the Silk Road Empowerment focuses on developing vocational skills. Through the Cloud Platform for Generation Z Vocational Education Cooperation, Chinese schools will offer vocational education courses to nations in Southeast and South Asia in order to develop the technical manpower required in the long run.
Similar to how Silk Road Enlightenment concentrates on interactions between young people, Silk Road Enjoyment concentrates on cultural exchanges and seeks to encourage people-to-people exchanges and mutual learning across civilizations.
According to the concept paper, “We are willing to offer foreign political parties and technical personnel short-term training opportunities in China to encourage the young generation to learn more about China and strengthen our friendship.”
Similar goals are pursued by the Silk Road Enhancement initiative, which aims to facilitate commercial connections, collaboration, and exchanges.
The event, “Silk Roadster—Join the 3 Ride for a Better Future!” was organized by the CPC delegation in Bhaktapur on the same day. The event included participation from a number of Chinese vocational colleges and businesses, including Beijing Polytechnic, Beijing Business School, Tongren Polytechnic College, and Beijing Daming Optical Co, Ltd.
Attending the event were representatives from eight political parties in Nepal and a few NGOs, most of which collaborate with the Chinese government.
With locals in attendance, the Chinese side distributed 330 solar lights, 20,000 biological sticky bug traps, some food and oil packs, 1,500 pairs of presbyopia glasses, and 500 sets of magnification glasses.
Following the Silk Road Embarkation project’s inaugural ceremony, the Chinese working group and representatives from Chinese vocational schools traveled to Budhanilkantha to carry out their “Solar Village Project—Lighting up the Darkness” by providing solar lights for the community’s people.
The Chinese side visited Kavresthali on July 12 to put up sticky traps for insects in the agricultural fields and provided local farmers advice on planting and pesticide use, according to the Friends of Silk Road Nepal.
The concept paper cited Du of the CPC working group as stating, “By doing so, we can ensure that our bilateral relations and party-to-party friendship enjoy greater growth, and our two peoples greater mutual understanding and development opportunities from Chinese modernization.”
According to Chinese authorities, agreements between Chinese and Nepali vocational institutes were also made during the occasion.
According to Kalyan Raj Sharma, the chairman of the Friends of Silk Road Nepal, one of the groups behind the Bhaktapur event, “The Chinese side wishes to share its high-quality technical advancements, innovation, and new technologies in areas like agriculture, renewable energy, and hospitals.”
A group from the CPC has already departed for Malaysia to introduce a similar program there.