// . //  Insights //  Why The New Silk Road Is A Dynamic Commercial Story

Centuries ago, the Silk Road was a critical network connecting East and West, with linkages across trade, culture, and politics. That network has been revived — and 20 years into its rebirth, the New Silk Road presents particularly dynamic opportunities. 

Three major triggers are powering the Silk Road’s resurgence: the energy transition, global supply chain disruption, and geopolitical tensions, and regionalization. Each is reshaping and generating opportunities. 

Oliver Wyman will dig deeper into factors reshaping the New Silk Road in a series of executive roundtables across the region’s key cities. Senior business leaders, government officials, and entrepreneurs will join us to identify the risks, opportunities, business structures, and governance models impacting the region’s growth.

How to define the New Silk Road

The modern Silk Road covers Asia and the Middle East. However, our research focuses on the major economies of Central Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, which collectively account for 95% of the region’s gross domestic product and are highly integrated into the regional economy.

Exhibit 1: The Silk Road’s commercial story used to be about a simple exchange of goods. Today the flows are two-way, and more varied:

Why the New Silk Road matters

The modern Silk Road is home to eight out of the world’s top 20 economies. The region’s share of global GDP climbed to 40%, up from 29% in the 1990s, and we estimate it will reach 48% by 2040. The number of Fortune 500 companies based in the region has similarly grown to 221 — almost half of the total.

Exhibit 2: The Silk Road’s importance to the global economy
Source: Oliver Wyman analysis, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization. 2022 data

The region will have a significant impact on economic and political policies influencing energy and supply chain markets. Its global export share is 86% for semiconductors, 65% for clothing, and 40% for oil. The mobility of its 4.9 billion-strong population will also shape cross-border transport networks, especially regarding aviation, with more than 65% of the international flights that take off from the region destined for other Silk Road countries.

Exhibit 3: Asia and the Middle East’s share of the world’s GDP continues to rise
Source: International Monetary Fund. Forecasts: Oliver Wyman analysis

In The New Silk Road, we identify a series of no-regret moves that companies and governments can consider today to capture these opportunities. These include:

For companies
• Pick your corridors
• Understand national priorities
• Identify opportunities holistically
• Find the right partners
• Tackle company silos
• Manage your talent

For governments
• Revisit trade and investment agreements
• Leverage the strength of sovereign wealth funds (SWFs)
• Facilitate trade, investment, and technology flows
• Focus on the role of development funds
• Support the private sector

The pathways to opportunity along the dynamic New Silk Road are abundant, but ever-changing. We believe the no-regret moves outlined in this white paper will help both the private and public sectors to cement their positions and maximize impact across the region.