Beyond the Bike

Stories from Stuart and Claire's original & recent journeys….
Stuart Block

“One belt–One Drive” – A new Silk Road or China’s Marshall Plan?

 ‘If you want to get rich, you have to builds roads first’ said Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2014, citing an ancient proverb when announcing the inception of the controversial Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Alongside the massive $40bn ‘Silk Road Fund’, announced at a similar time by Mr Xi, it is hoped this will fund the “One belt – One Drive” initiative, China’s signature foreign policy. As parallels with the US Marshall plan and implications of economic imperialism continue to be drawn, the key question will be whether the policy proves transformative or exploitative.

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Stuart Block

The Economic Cycle looks for a hard landing in China!

Guilin, a premier tourist destination in Southern China has enjoyed double digit growth in the last 10 years. Chic residential tower block developments with exotic western names have sprouted up amongst the ancient limestone karst scenery, fuelled by cheap credit from China’s banks. We cycle into town on a drizzly mid-week May day along empty multi-lane highways. Cranes tower above nearly finished developments, with Starbucks and KFC advertising pathways to future obesity on the ground floor. But there is a eerie silence, exacerbated by the mist and spectacular scenery. The cranes are not working and many of the finished developments are empty….

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Claire Le Hur

China: A Country of Contrasts

As Deng Xiapeng and Mao Ze Dong both said 'One country, two systems'. Although they were talking about Macau/Hong Kong's relationship with the mainland, we saw this to be true in so many different ways. It is quite fitting that our final African country was one of huge (probably more well known) contrasts; geographic, ethnic and economic. Our final Asian country and of the entire journey (or the small part of the enormous country we have seen) really is also one of startling contrasts. Our first month was spent in the South of this huge country, travelling through the provinces of Yunnan, Guangxi and Guangdong en route to Hong Kong.

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Stuart Block

China - helping or hindering economic development in Africa?

If Africa was a physical battleground between east & west during the cold war of the 20th Century, it can arguably be seen today as the ideological 21st Century battleground between the difference approaches to promoting economic development: the western aid model versus the Chinese trade model. Is the Sino-Africa relationship mutually beneficial? I certainly don't claim to have a comprehensive answer to this but it has been interesting talking to Africans on my journey so far about their perception of this, particularly in Zambia...

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