Today the OutBeyond team is in Xi’an, the capital of the Shaanxi Province, in Northwestern China. We’ve visited two secondary schools over the last two days with a combined student enrolment number of 6500 students. Before we leave we’re set to visit another five schools of a similar size and run more in-house leadership sessions with the students. 

Xi’an, one of the oldest cities in China, is famous for its city walls, the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda and, of course, the terracotta warriors. But perhaps Xi’an’s most important historical function has been as part of the ancient Silk Road, one of the oldest trading routes in the world.

 

 

The Silk Road stretched from China to Europe and connected traders from Asia with traders from Europe. It was incredibly important to the economic development of both continents and was named for the silk that made up the majority of China’s exports.

 

 

 

While it hasn’t been used as a major trade route crossing the world for many years, the Silk Road still features in the modern world as more than just nostalgia – in the Central Government’s new ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, for example.

 

 

Announced in 2013, the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative has often been characterised as the modern Silk Road. It aims to encourage economic growth in China’s less populated west and provide the infrastructure for both land maritime trade routes from China to the world, all the way to both Europe and the African Coast through the Suez Canal. The initiative is backed by billions of dollars, primarily from the Asia-Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). So the question is, is Australia a part of this initiative and how can we benefit?

 

Australia became an unofficial partner in 2016 however, according to The Conversation, ‘the Australian government appears to be torn between a fear of Chinese influence and a desire not to miss out on potential opportunities for lucrative involvement in OBOR projects.’

 

 

Despite the government’s apparent reluctance to become involved at this stage, particularly at the risk of alienating allies like the US as a result of a seemingly strengthened China, Professor Liang Haiming (advisor to the Chinese Government on OBOR) believes Australia is definitely part of the initiative and that ‘economic collaboration and cultural exchange are the two wings of the OBOR initiative.’ He particularly notes the opportunities for collaboration on education as a key aspect in satisfying the cultural aims of the initiative. There is, Liang continues, ‘great potential for for Chinese-Australian joint ventures in education.’ It’s not just hard industries like mining that stand to benefit – it’s everyone.

 

 

 

OutBeyond strongly believes that the One Belt One Road initiative will be of great benefit to Australian businesses, particularly those of lesser importance and sectoral priority to the OBOR like tourism and education.  We’re unbelievably excited to be working with schools all across China to bring their students on a cultural immersion in Australia, and to support the agenda of international education and improve cross-cultural awareness between Australia and China. In our mind, there is no harm caused by strengthening ties with a key player in the Australasian region.

 

 

A strong relationship between Australia and China is undoubtedly a precursor to improving infrastructure and wellbeing in the entire region, and Aussie businesses risk losing out big time by not having the support and backing to seize the opportunity. And the kids are legends.