A new crisis in China and the rise of a new generation of Silk Road tycoons are prompting the West to reconsider its policy towards the Asian giant.
China has long claimed the Silk Road as a key strategic asset to help it assert its power in the Asia-Pacific and counterbalance its growing influence in the region.
But the world’s second-largest economy is also now pushing for more of its goods to be exported to the rest of the world.
China’s decision to open up its market has seen its exports rise from $1.5tn in 2014 to $11.6tn in 2020, according to the US State Department.
The Silk Road, which runs from the Persian Gulf to China’s east coast, is a vital artery for China’s economy, which accounts for around 70% of global exports.
The region’s new leaders also have been seeking to expand their influence through a network of trade and investment links that runs from Kazakhstan to Myanmar.
The countries have had several rounds of trade talks, but the talks have fallen apart after China accused the US of trying to sabotage the talks by blocking access to its market.
The Trump administration has sought to shift the focus from trade to trade policies, particularly with China.
It has also been pushing for greater economic ties with Myanmar, where the military and its allies are engaged in a civil war that has left more than 200,000 people dead.
Last month, Trump said the US would consider opening up the US market to Myanmar if the country was willing to help settle the refugee crisis in its neighbouring country.
China also has long been a key partner for the US in Asia, and it has long wanted to maintain the Silk Route’s commercial value.
But while the region’s leaders have all been keen to promote a new Silk Road and China’s economic prowess, the Trump administration’s new trade and economic policies have made the country increasingly suspicious of China’s intentions.
China sees a huge risk in the US taking a more assertive position in Asia.
China is also worried that the West’s policies in the area could result in the end of the Silk Way and undermine its influence in Asia and beyond.
In a speech last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that “any country that is not prepared to make a sincere and honest effort to open its market and its economy to the world will be doomed to lose its place in the future”.
China has responded by cutting back on trade, reducing investment and investing in other parts of its economy.
The US has also stepped up pressure on China over the trade disputes in the South China Sea and the South Korea-U.S. military exercises, which are seen as destabilising the region and could lead to a full-blown war.
But analysts say the economic impact of the economic slowdown is still being felt in the Silk Roads economies, which account for 80% of China and 70% in the wider region.
China is now pushing to open the US’s market to more of China.
The US is looking to boost the growth of its own domestic market as a way of countering China’s growing influence and leverage in the world, said David McWilliams, a professor of Asian studies at the Australian National University.
“The Chinese government is pushing to get the US to open their markets to more and more products and services, but they also want the US government to do more to support the development of the Chinese economy in the areas that matter most to them,” he said.
“It’s a big risk, but it’s also a risk that China is going to be able to absorb.”
Mr McWilliams says Beijing’s push for greater access to the Silk Path is already causing alarm in Washington.
“They’ve been trying to get Washington to open it up to Chinese goods and services for decades, and they’re doing that even though they’re now worried about US economic policy,” he told ABC News.
“But if you look at China’s policies, they’re not just trying to sell to the West; they’re also trying to undermine the US, which means they’re going to do that.”
Mr Trump has also threatened to pull the US out of a major international trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would see the United States and 11 other nations move away from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
The trade agreement has been a major part of the US President’s economic policy, with the US trading goods and service with its Pacific neighbours.
However, Mr McWilliams said it was also the US that had been slow to open markets to Chinese products.
“In some cases they’re just taking advantage of the fact that the US is doing more business with China,” he explained.
“They’re also doing it in some cases because of the pressure that they’re under from Washington, and that means the Chinese are just going to keep going to Washington.”
China has been building up a network for years through its trade routes to Europe and the Middle East, with a focus on Asia.
Its largest export, steel, has been one of its most