One Belt One Road Development of China’s BackyardPosted: May 15, 2017
Like Latin America for the US, Central and Southeast Asia can be regarded as China’s backyard. Chinese President Xi Jinping has the vision to see the importance in developing those areas. China has already had great influence in Southeast Asia through trade and its rich overseas Chinese there. The collapse of Obama’s pivot to Asia has now left China as the only dominant power there.
US long-term close ally the Philippines’ switch to China’s side is a clear indication.
To strengthen China’s dominance there, Xi invented his 21st century maritime Silk Road to include in his One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative Southeast Asia that has never had anything to do with China’s Silk Road. Chinese investment in the infrastructures there will benefit both China and the overseas Chinese there.
What about Central Asia, the traditional part of Silk Road that links China with the Middle East and Europe?
Reuters says in its report “China’s COSCO to invest in Kazakhstan border project as part of Silk Road drive” yesterday that Chinese state-owned shipping giant COSCO “will sign a deal on Monday with Kazakhstan’s national railway company to take a 24 percent stake in a dry port in the Khorgos Eastern Gates special economic zone (SEZ)”.
Khorgos exchange is an important transport hub for change in railway gauges for the railway link between China and Europe. Through the railway network 27 Chinese cities have already connected with 11 European cities including London and Duisburg.
On April 24, SCMP published Tom Holland’s article “Puffing across the ‘One Belt, One Road’ rail route to nowhere” stating, “Compared to sea or air, the Europe-China freight service just makes no economic or environmental sense, either coming or going”
Mr. Holland simply regards the railway link between China and Europe as stupid as it is not cost effective and has no market.
However, it is of great strategic importance for China’s national security as it provides an alternative land route for transport of important goods between China and Europe in case China’s sea route is cut by enemy navy.
In addition, Xi wants to make those poor sparsely populated Central Asian countries rich by helping them exploiting their natural resources and providing jobs for their cheap labor. When those countries have become rich and filled with lots of Chinese immigrants, China will be better able to prevent illegal immigration and drug traffic from there.
The railway link between China and Central Asia and between Central Asia and Europe will greatly facilitate the trade of those inland Central Asian countries.
Those countries were formerly members of the Soviet Union so that Russia has great influence there. Xi’s efforts in establishing de facto alliance with Russia enable China to invest in infrastructures in and have close economic relations with them smoothly. The economic development in those countries will, in fact, also benefit Russia. Why shall Russia hinder China’s efforts?
China is even investing in infrastructures in Russia and lots of Chinese have moved into Russia now.
China now almost has the entire Asia as its backyard, allies or friends except India, Japan and South Korea.
India should regard Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh as its backyard, but has failed to do so. It lacks the strategic flexibility to turn its most important neighbor Pakistan into its backyard or at least a friendly neighbor. India’s enmity has turned Pakistan into China’s close ally.
It is interesting that the US regards Latin America as its backyard. It has set up a free trade area with Canada and Mexico that draw its neighbors close to it. However, it now wants to scrap the free trade area or revise the terms of the area and thus push its neighbors away.
Perhaps the US is too rich and strong to need friends. It is happy to provide protection to all its allies without any consideration that it needs real allies that may help it when it is in trouble.
China, perhaps, is too poor and weak and has to build up its backyard and seek alliance and friendship.
Comments by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters and SCMP’s articles, full text of which can be viewed at http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-silkroad-cosco-idUSKCN18A0KP and http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/business/article/2089507/puffing-across-one-belt-one-road-rail-route-nowhere.