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Ahead of the Beijing summit earlier this month, the China Development Bank had set aside almost 0 billion alone for more than 900 projects.

China’s Big Four state-owned banks extended an estimated billion in loans to the economies related to the initiative last year alone.

Despite this largesse, though, the AIIB has provided less than billion in funding over the past year.

Instead, this new superpower may offer connectivity." Sixty-two countries could see investments of up to US$500 billion over the next five years, according to Credit Suisse, with most of that channelled to India, Russia, Indonesia, Iran, Egypt, the Philippines and Pakistan.

Chinese companies are already behind several energy projects, including oil and gas pipelines between China and Russia, Kazakhstan and Myanmar.

One strong incentive is that Trans-Eurasian trade infrastructure could bolster poorer countries to the south of China, as well as boost global trade.

Domestic regions are also expected to benefit – especially the less-developed border regions in the west of the country, such as Xinjiang. The country’s vast industrial overcapacity – mainly in the creation of steel and heavy equipment – could find lucrative outlets along the New Silk Road, and this could allow Chinese manufacturing to swing towards higher-end industrial goods.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the trade route marked the “dawn of a truly new era of synergetic intercontinental cooperation”.