China seeks two objectives. On the one hand,China has ambitions to grow into a competitive super power able to challenge America's world wide hegemony. But on the other hand,China wants to become strong enough on an internal self-sustaining basis that it can both remain apart and offer no opportunities (of dependency upon foreign trade,etc) to external entities to use as leverage against China.
To accomplish both of those tasks,China needs to create alternate paths that it controls. It must devise an economy that is not reliant upon external trade for it's growth,but one that can utilize that trade for it's benefit. Trade routes along with new markets that can be a lever in welding influence and power over those in it's (hoped for expanded) sphere of influence.
To reorient it's economy from an export dependent economy to one that is self sustaining internally,China is trying to develop it's interior markets with each region developing a unique industrial, agricultural or manufacturing base that can be viable just within China's borders if need be. This is in addition to the export bases located in China's coastal cities. This way China can benefit from world trade without having it's economy tied to it in case there is a collapse or other unforeseen disaster.
They also want alternate trade routes that are separate from traditional maritime routes(that are controlled by the West). These new trade corridors would open up new markets separate from western markets relieving China of any dependency upon the West for it's trade. But in turn these new routes would offer alternative routes to western markets for Chinese products- again a pathway set up by the Chinese rather than the US.
And so we present the New Silk Road,or as the Chinese term it - One Belt,One Road. An overland route and a maritime route.
Xi Jinping presented his plans for the One Belt,One Road Initiative in 2013. It would involve an economic overland belt that would go from eastern China, crossing China's interior to Xinjiang province on China's western border to Istanbul,Turkey by way of Iran, and from there to European markets. This involves not only building infrastructure to connect all of these sections of the route (building various transportation infrastructures has now become a specialty skill of the Chinese) but integrating economic systems (thus China's Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) and increasing China's influence along the way as each country increases it's interdependency with China.
12 min - From the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) - recommend listening through to the end,he does a good job of presenting the Chinese case for the benefits of the road.
The overland belt actually is three beltways in one. There is a northern route that goes from east China up to Russia and then to Europe. The southern route goes straight from eastern China down to Thailand and India.
The central route is the one mentioned above - departing from the same central Asia hub across land route through Iran to Istanbul on the Mediterranean Sea and then to Europe. Although this is the route most commonly mentioned,it is actually the one that is least likely to be achieved easily because of regional issues.
The Maritime Route - The Road part of the One Belt,One Road Initiative goes down through the China Sea through several important trade chokeholds that run through Indonesia,by Sri Lanka and down along the eastern African coastline. China has been buying and building property that could double as bases and investing in the local economy in areas of interest to China in each of the territories that control the maritime chokeholds.
China sees Africa as an important investment for the future when it will be Africa,not Europe that will become important in population,trade markets and influence.
In particular,China is interested in eastern Africa from the coastline inward to Kenya.
Another important off shoot route for China involves the Pakistan Economic Corridor and the Bangladesh/Myanmar Economic Corridor.
(information source - wiki)