Here’s the scoop on China’s New Silk Road
|Beijing has, for instance, committed $46 billion to a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that will involve upgrades to pipelines and highways linking western China to Pakistan’s deep-water port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea. Gwadar is less than 400 miles from the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial passageway for oil tankers. That means crude oil sent from Persian Gulf ports to China will soon begin arriving on Chinese soil by pipeline after a drastically curtailed sea journey, resulting in steep savings in time and expense.
•The most visible development has been the transcontinental railway. In 2011, eighty-three freight trains took three weeks to make the seven thousand mile run across six countries. By 2018, four thousand trains carrying $40 billion of goods took twelve days and cost forty percent less.
•Funded the China-Central Eastern Europe Development Bank, the Silk Road International Bank (SIB) and opened the first Chinese-funded bank on the African continent, in Djibouti.
•Signed contracts for key routes and ports in 26 member countries and begun construction of forty energy projects, power plants, electricity, oil and gas networks in nineteen BRI countries.
•Completed cross-border transmission and communications projects in thirty BRI countries and reduced cellphone roaming charges across the region.
•Opened the $51 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor–two thousand miles of roads, rail lines, pipelines and fiberoptic cables and Started transporting oil and gas directly from the Persian Gulf, bypassing the strategic Malacca Straits, through Pakistan’s new port, Gwadar. Opened three pipelines from Myanmar’s Bay of Bengal, to Kunming in Western China, for which it will pay Myanmar thirteen million dollars in annual right of way fees for transporting oil and gas that will bypass the Malacca Straits and cut delivery time in half. Surveyed Thailand’s isthmus for the Kra Canal, also designed to bypass the vulnerable Malacca Straits.
•Begun construction of the Pan-Asia Railway Network, whose central line crosses Laos and Thailand to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore while the eastern line runs through Vietnam and Cambodia to Bangkok.
•Opened the first shipping link between Iran’s Bandar Abbas port and Qinzhou, on the Tonkin Gulf and begun a a freight train service in the reverse direction, 6,000 miles to Tehran, cutting a month off the sea voyage. China and Iran are targeting $600 billion annual trade by 2020–five times the current level of China-U.S. trade.
•Acquired control of Greece’s Piraeus Port and made it the busiest in the Mediterranean by connecting megaports Haikou, Fujian, Kuala Lumpur, Calcutta, Nairobi and Kenya through Piraeus to logistical nodes throughout Eastern Europe.
•Established Xiamen as the hub for a rail line to Poland’s new dry port of Terespol, where transcontinental freight trains stop for customs clearance and transfers to the Berlin–Moscow expressway and the Belarus highway connector.
•Connected BRI rail corridors between China-Mongolia-Russia, China-Central Asia-West Asia, China-Pakistan, Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar, China-Iran, China-Moscow and China-Indochina Peninsula-Singapore by using cities and industrial parks as ‘cooperation platforms’.
•Linked ancient ports like Azerbaijan’s Baku to Turkey, Iran, India, Russia, and the E.U. via the Tbilisi-Kars rail line.
•Began constructing Georgia’s first deep sea port at Anaklia and completed Turkmenistan’s Port for the Silk Road.
•Began constructing the $15 billion Moscow-Kazan high speed rail line, the first Western leg of a $100 billion HSR line that will connect Moscow and Beijing.
•Completed the first leg of Africa’s transcontinental, $4 billion electric railway, 466 miles from Djibouti to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, while upgrading the railway from Nairobi to the port of Mombasa and constructing a new port at Lamu in Kenya’s north and connecting it with a new rail line.
Cargo trains link China, Germany, June, 2016: A cargo train linking Germany and northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region began operation on Saturday, local authorities said. It takes ten days for the train to reach Germany’s industrial city of Duisburg from Xinjiang’s regional capital Urumqi over a distance of 8,000 km, during which it goes through Kazakhstan, Russia and Poland, said Xu Yongxin, general manager of the company that undertook the project. The outbound trains transport Xinjiang specialties such as chemical products, tomato sauce and textiles, while the inbound trains bring back food, furniture, mechanical and electrical products, and health products. It is a cargo train route with the shortest distance between China and Europe, which is at least 2,000 km shorter than other similar China-Europe cargo train routes and saves two to three days in time.
In Odyssey for Chinese, Greece Sells Its Fabled Port of Piraeus [Foreign Policy] With the sale, China’s state-owned COSCO aims to turn a once-sleepy port into the “dragon’s head” of OBOR: China’s New Silk Road.
Beijing’s ambitions to build a modern-day “Silk Road” connecting China, Central Asia, and Europe took a big step forward Friday when Chinese state-owned shipping giant COSCO finally sealed a deal to purchase the Greek Port of Piraeus, south of Athens.
For COSCO and for Beijing, it’s a billion-dollar conclusion to a seven-year saga. COSCO, formally known as the China Ocean Shipping (Group) Co., took over operations at one part of the Port of Piraeus in 2009, and had long wanted to take ownership of the whole port, one of the biggest in the Mediterranean. But the port’s privatization was put on hold for a year because Greece’s left-wing leadership bitterly opposed earlier plans to do so by the previous government. On Friday, COSCO agreed to acquire control of the port and to spend hundreds of millions of dollars more to continue upgrading and modernizing Piraeus.
In classical Greece, the “long walls” connecting Athens to the Port of Piraeus were the city’s lifeline, protecting it from hostile armies and ensuring Athens’ regional supremacy. Today, Piraeus could again be a lifeline for Greece, helping attract billions in foreign investment and turning a backwater into a global hub. Read more on Foreign Policy.
Report: China Europe and the Maritime Silk Road Download
The aim of this report is to assess how the Chinese involvement in ports along the Asia-Europe maritime corridor – from the South China Sea to the Mediterranean Sea – is relevant for the European Union. The Chinese government is currently developing an ambitious programme of maritime infrastructure construction along the main Asia-Europe shipping route. China’s initiative for a so-called ’21st Century Maritime Silk Road’ is aimed at port development in South-East Asia, around the Indian Ocean and in the eastern Mediterranean region. The Chinese leadership publicly presented its initiative for a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road in October 2013. Earlier that year China had already launched its Silk Road Economic Belt initiative, which is aimed at infrastructure cooperation in a zone that stretches from Xinjiang (the north-western part of China) to the Baltic Sea. The Chinese government uses the term ‘One Belt, One Road’ to refer to the combination of these two initiatives. Chinese investment in large infrastructure projects constitutes the basis of One Belt, One Road. These projects are financed, constructed, supplied and sometimes operated by Chinese firms that are either state-owned or that otherwise have close relations with the Chinese government.
The developments described in this report are significant for the European Union. First, China is gradually becoming more influential economically and diplomatically – and eventually geostrategically – in regions close to Europe. Stronger investment and trade relations between China and countries in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia are increasing China’s stake in regional affairs, as well as the need for these countries to maintain friendly relations with Beijing. For the time being, this process is hardly visible, since China is careful in such regions to keep a low profile in the military and security domain. Second, the Chinese government has an increased ability to influence which routes the trade between China and the EU flows. While this is not a matter of Beijing being able to switch between trade channels on an ad-hoc basis, the Chinese government has a growing leverage over how trajectories develop during the course of several years. The port of Piraeus is a good example:
China’s decision to develop this Greek port has been decisive in creating a new trade link between Central Europe and Asia via Greece and the Balkans. This, in turn, affects intra-EU relations, since it helps the Eastern European economies to move away from their peripheral role within the EU. At the same time, the Chinese infrastructure strategy provides an opportunity to redefine and deepen EU-China relations. Third, in the long term it is likely that transport and supply chain routes involving Asia and Africa will increasingly bypass Europe.
While China will strengthen its already central role in terms of logistics and transportation, Europe will at the same time lose much of the centrality that it long held in these areas. On the other hand, China’s engagement can help economic development in Europe’s neighbourhood, which contributes to stability and can help the EU’s own economic growth.
China’s new initiatives, as discussed in this report, will accelerate the growth of its influence in the maritime domain as well as in Asia, Africa and Europe more broadly. How this affects European interests depends in part on Europe’s response. A proactive approach to closely monitoring and working with China and local actors seems to be the best way to preserve a European role. Such engagement would also allow Europe to support and benefit from economic development in the sectors and regions affected by China’s infrastructure strategy. Download the full report here.
If any significant portion of this ambitious vision is accomplished, it will alter the logistics of commerce and cultural intercourse between three-fourths of humanity. It will facilitate multiple forms of communication over an expanse even greater than that ruled by the Great Khan. The 13th and 14th century Pax Mongolica was — till now — the largest contiguous economic zone in history. The Mongols used force to unite China, Central Asia, Russia, and much of Western Asia in a single area with multinational governance and no significant barriers to trade, travel, and cultural exchange. But China’s integration with the lands to its west and south is to rely on peacefully negotiated commerce, trade, investment, and construction, not military coercion or conquest. And it will leave Westphalian notions of sovereignty intact. Read more from Ambassador Charles Freeman..