It is not my intention to stick my nose into the ongoing tit-for-tat between Michael Setter and Yingwai Suchaovanich. What interests me is the language. Why does the Chinese government call its massive infrastructure initiative “Belt and Road” (in Chinese, “Yi Dai, Yi Lu”, “One Belt, One Road”)?
The “road” part I get. This project proposes to emulate the ancient Silk Road, an ancient land route linking China to the West. It’s the “belt” part that I don’t get. A belt is used to hold your pants up. Whose pants is this project intended to hold up? A belt can also be interpreted metaphorically to hold things together, although rope, glue, or scotch tape might do it better.
Since the project aspires to link China to the West, and also to the South, perhaps it might better be called the “Great Link” (Chinese: “Da Huan”) project. This would give us a pleasing parallelism with the Great Wall. Just as the Great Wall was intended to keep the barbarians out, so the Great Link may be intended to hug them close, just as an octopus does to its prey before ripping their guts out.
But the question remains, so it’s over to the linguists at the Chinese embassy for an explanation. Exactly what does the “belt” in “Belt and Road” represent?
Published : April 10, 2019