One Belt One Road Development of China’s Backyard

People wave Chinese and Union flags as they pose for photographs during departure of a freight train transporting containers laden with goods from the UK en route to Yiwu in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang. Photo: AFP

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 and


7 Comments on “One Belt One Road Development of China’s Backyard”

  1. Anon says:

    Mr Chan, as is quite often the case, Chinese writers have limited understanding of the nuances of the words they use in English.

    Using the word “backyard” is very undiplomatic and insensitive way to describe other countries and societies. It projects an image of the “arrogant” Chinese and the peope who say it or write it. I am not sure if you intent that. For sure, nobody wants to be in anybody’s “backyard”. It is situations like these that causes many misunderstandings and riots against the Chinese.

    It may be a case of lost in translation since Chinese language has limited number of words and its syntax hasn’t quite got the kind of logic to enable accurate translation even by a computer but I doubt that is the case here.

    Nonetheless even if the translation is correct, what may be “acceptable” in Chinese culture may not be accepted in other cultures or languages. This is not the only instance of unthinking and boastful words uttered by Chinese writers. There have been quite a few in my years of reading the comments on the internet. You can either catalyse the positive responses or you can catalyse the negative responses. Words have a way of achieving either.

    Please be carerful with the words used in a public domain.


    • Steve says:

      Absolute Nonsense – The US calls the South China Sea America’s Backyard. Americans speak English. Would you say the world’s hegemonic global leader is very undiplomatic, insensitive and making derogatory remarks on ASEAN – the 10 littoral states of the SCS.

      To add more insult, disrespect and project an image of the arrogant American, the US calls the Latin American countries including Mexico – America’s backyard. Nonetheless, this maybe arrogantly acceptable to American standards, but is it acceptable in other cultures and languages.

      Unlike the English language, the Chinese language is not a Magpie language that borrows words from practically All cultures and languages. The Chinese language has it’s own writings and spoken words with assimilated dialects in Chinese linguistic traditions.

      How would you define a Backyard, Frontyard and Sideyard.? I know that India is a SideYard.

      An English professor once said that the English language is a Mongrelised language, irrespective of the nuances of words used in English. The history of nuance starts in Latin, but English borrowed nuance from French.

      The English are unashamed in using borrowed words in a public domain, least of all not the Americans. What about you.


      • Anon says:

        You miss the point. Washington is indeed arrogant. Why would you want to be like Washington, especially the Obama and Bush era?


        • Steve says:

          No point twisting your words, you were arrogant with your boastful lecture out of ignorance. Mr. Chan was merely providing a notion of his point of view, a concept of how things are objectively. You were quoting out of context.


  2. Steve says:

    It appears President Trump’s shrewd business acumen will be shred to pieces.

    By putting America 1st is equivalent to putting Canada 1st and Mexico 1st, as Trump wants to re-negotiate NAFTA to US advantage. Contrary to Trump, GE (general electrics) has said they are ‘very supportive’ of NAFTA. The Mexican president has given Trump ominous signs that Mexico has other favourable avenues like China and negotiating with the Asia Pacific free trade area. If Trump enforces his ‘protectionism policies’ which still lacks clarity, it will widen the gap of US trade policy with LatAm nations. The US will be competing with shrewd China and China will be shredding the ‘America 1st’ to pieces. China’s commitment and investments in LatAm and Mexico will gradually overshadow the US. If US trade and investments continue to decline in LatAm and with the collapse of Obama’s pivot, burial of TPP, the US will become much lesser competitive – gloom days ahead.

    China has pledged increase trade to the LatAm region by $500 billion and foreign investment to $250 billion by 2025 and to demonstrate China’s commitments, China’s two development banks
    CDB and EXIM are now providing more development finance to LatAm than the world bank, inter American development bank and the Andean Development corporation – All combined.

    Since Obama, now Trump has been pushing the LatAm nations into the arms of China. Clearly, the US is on the decline, irrespective who is the American President.


  3. Joseph says:

    One good use of the train to Britain is, we can ship SCMP back to where it belongs in Britain to be together with its Reuters brethren. We have no use for such propaganda machine here. It is not that SCMP is doing its works here in the region anyway. It gets it sources from Britain and its reporters rarely get out of Hongkong to do reportings. Getting reports about south East Asia from Filipino maids in Hongkong is by no way a credible way to get good reportings.
    British and American surely don’t need the train because they have no commerce along its route. After all, the British and the American are struggling to salvage their dwindling commerce in their traditional ports, trading increasingly unpopular products. After all, before the British started selling opium in China illegally, they have no commerce to China. They needed tea from China, but China needed nothing from them. Infact, even after China succumbed to European treaties and overpriced European junks flooded China, China hardly needed anything from Europe. Even during modern time where China ‘needs’ Europe modern technology, it is actually China who supplies Western demand of manufacturings and talented people to do their ‘advanced’ researchs. British pharmaceutical conglomerate GSK even had to employed illegal and despicable practice of corrupting Chinese doctors to get their Chinese vulnerable patients to get hooked at its useless medicines, in the practice reminiscing the Opium War era. Well Britain indeed doesn’t need the train, but countries travelled by the train do. After all, it was China who helped them through the post-Soviet era of starvation as the result of capitalism going wrong. The humble instant noodle is the unlikely savior of the starving Central Asian people and now is being praised by those who survived. It was transported by trucks, camels, and donkey carts, anything that moved, in that difficult times, but now they can easily have access to it, thanks to the train. These people have a lot to trade to, to China and to other places. It doesn’t necessarily going to Britain. Now because of the train, their commerce will go somewhere. What does their commerce mean anything for Britain? Absolutely nothing. Britain is just a terminus end point for the train. It doesn’t have any other significant. If the British people is resourceful, they may have some hope for commerce. If not, well they can work to service the train. After all, since they leave EU, they will have little leverage. And a lesson they should learn is, not everything in the world is about Britain or America. And if the British shall rise again (which is highly unlikely, considering the way the Roman and the Spanish and other European ‘great’ powers went), they should consider to behave like civilized society.


    • Anon says:

      Yes, Mr Jack Ma, what are you doing about the condescending CIA paid anti Chinese trolls at the SCMP?