“The Silk Road, no longer just a concept in history books, has evolved into a story of modern logistics and Sino-European cooperation,” Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, told a conference this month.

The New Silk Road Economic Belt — from China across Central Asia and Russia to Europe — and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road — through the Malacca Strait to India, the Middle East and East Africa — have become the centerpiece of China’s economic diplomacy. The belt and the road, as China’s diplomats refer to them, are the focus of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit being held in Beijing this week. They aim to cement China’s emerging role at the heart of the 21st century economy.

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