‘The new Silk Road is hugely underestimated’

Frank Sieren on the exclusive link between the Metropolis Ruhr and China

Author and journalist Frank Sieren is Germany’s leading expert on China and has been living in Beijing since 1994. We met up with him at the Business and Investors Forum China in Duisburg, which he was moderating. There is a reason why Chinese and German investors chose Duisburg as the location for this event. The city with the world’s largest inland port also marks the end of the new Silk Road.

Largest infrastructure project in world history

Goods are transported quickly and in an environmentally friendly manner along the 11,000-kilometre-long train line between China and Duisburg. ‘The new Silk Road is the largest infrastructure project ever created. It creates a unique link between the Metropolis Ruhr and China,’ says Sieren. He believes that the new Silk Road is a great opportunity for the region, whose economic impact remains very undervalued in Germany.

Expertise in the environmental economy

However, it is not just the geographical link and the advantageous location in the heart of Europe that makes the Metropolis Ruhr attractive for Chinese investors. Companies whose business models were previously shaped by the coal and steel industry are now using their technological expertise to adapt to new market demands with innovative technological and knowledge-based products and services. This is also exciting for the Chinese market. The expertise of businesses operating in the environmental economy is particularly sought after in China, according to Sieren. ‘Since the Metropolis Ruhr came through a structural change so successfully, there are numerous technologies here that are of interest to the Chinese market,’ he says. ‘The rivers are polluted, the air is dirty, and China itself knows that it cannot continue in this way. This is where we can share our knowledge.’