Pandapawdragonclaw.blog’s article “Empty trains on the modern Silk Road: when Belt and Road interests don’t align” says that it was rare for Chinsee media to probe into China’s projects; therefore, it regards Depth Paper’s probe into China-Europe Railway Express as exceptional.
It’s not exceptional but very normal but not known by media outside China as due to lack of people with knowledge of the Chinese language, foreign media can only monitor a small percentage of Chinese media. Moreover, the results of such probe often are not published but sent directly to related government agency for improvement. I had a post titled “Self-improvement, That’s the Secret of China’s Success” on July 21, 2019. How can China improve itself? It attached importance to such probes and people’s comments on government activities to enable it to be aware of its problems and make improvements; therefore such probes and comments are indispensable.
The article also reflects that. It says, when problems of excessive local subsidies for the projects has been found, “The Ministry of Finance is reportedly determined to pierce the bubble by enforcing a schedule for phased subsidy reduction. Subsidies by local government are to be no more than 40% of a route’s total cost in 2019. The ceiling will be further lowered to 30% in 2020 and zero by 2022. The Ministry is hoping that by then the trains running up and down routes would be completely market driven and China Railway Express will stand on its own two feet.”
As the China-Europe Railway Express provides alternative trade routes in case China’s trade lifelines are cut by US Navy, it has to be kept running smoothly for national security. Therefore, China has to keep it running even if the freight is not cost effective. There are certainly other strategic routes in BRI such as the Arctic shipping route along Russian coast that may shorten shipping route to Europe by 5,000 kilometers and that is safe with Russian military protection. Still the Express shall be maintained and cost be reduced as an alternative. China is rich enough to cover the costs for national security even if cost reduction cannot make the routes break even.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on pandapawdragonclaw.blog’s article, full text of which can be viewed at https://pandapawdragonclaw.blog/2019/08/23/empty-trains-on-the-modern-silk-road-when-belt-and-road-interests-dont-align/.
Southeast Asia draws flurry of investment but concerns over China linger
DYLAN LOH, Nikkei staff writer
August 18, 2019 03:33 JST
SINGAPORE — Southeast Asia is becoming ever more of a hotbed for investment related to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, two separate reports issued this month show.
Chinese investment and construction contracts in the region almost doubled to $11 billion in the first half of 2019, from $5.6 billion in the last six months of the previous year, one report issued by Maybank Kim Eng’s research arm says.
Within Southeast Asia, Indonesia drew the lion’s share of new BRI contracts, valued at $3 billion in the first half. It was followed by Cambodia at $2.5 billion, Singapore at $1.9 billion and Vietnam at $1.6 billion. Most of the projects were in transport and energy, the report notes.
These numbers reflect thriving interest in BRI participation in the region, also captured in the other report by PwC and the Singapore Business Federation, which represents more than 25,000 companies’ interests in the city-state.
Their report, released at a mid-August conference in Singapore on infrastructure development, named Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia as the top countries where organizations see BRI opportunities.
The report cites a survey of about 50 public- and private-sector leaders in the region — from industries like financial services, energy and construction — which found that 66% of respondents identified Vietnam as a place with BRI opportunities, followed by Singapore and Indonesia at 57%. Countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka drew less interest at 30%, while Pakistan was near the bottom at 18%.
Three-quarters of those polled cited political risk as a top concern associated with BRI projects — a sentiment echoed by private-sector representatives who spoke at the Singapore conference.
“Infrastructure projects are long term,” said Boon Chin Hau, managing director of Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, during a panel discussion on inbound investment. “They are there to serve the country, the people. They have social needs and therefore they are very long term. So having very stable government is quite critical to create an environment for private investors to come in.”
The China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has lauded the role that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has played in realizing development opportunities. At the conference, AIIB President Jin Liqun noted that while progress varies within the bloc, ASEAN nations are becoming better connected with the rest of the world.
“The vision of a seamless and integrated ASEAN that examines institutional connectivity alongside the physical infrastructure provides common frameworks that can remove trade barriers and maximize the infrastructure investment, and bring benefit to the people,” Jin said.
He noted that ASEAN countries were among the first to help form the AIIB when it was established in 2016, even as others viewed the institution with wariness. “The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was conceived and born with the birthmark of China. But it is not China’s bank. It’s an international development institution. It’s been brought up in the international community,” Jin emphasized at the conference, as he addressed over 600 government officials and industry leaders.
But Beijing’s specter looms over BRI ventures, even as businesses demonstrate interest in associated infrastructure projects. A report published in January by the ASEAN Studies Centre highlighted suspicions about China’s presence.
In a survey which included public officials and businesspeople in the region, 47% of about 1,000 respondents said they think the BRI “will bring ASEAN member states closer into China’s orbit.” The report noted that this finding “may have profound implications for Southeast Asia given the region’s concern that China will become a revisionist power.”
Source: Nikkei Asia Review “Vietnam and Indonesia stand out as Belt and Road bets, reports show”
Note: This is Nikkei Asia Review’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
Tuesday, 13 Aug 2019
Waiting shores: South-East Asian workers constructing a pier for a project, a region that is betting on the Belt and Road Initiative, with Chinese-built infrastructure that could pay off with jobs and prosperity. — Bloomberg
YANGON: The National League for Democracy was forged in an uprising against one-party rule.
Its activists spent years in jail under Myanmar’s military junta.
But since taking power three years ago, the party led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has found an unlikely ally – the China government.
The friendship has blossomed in high-level exchanges between Suu Kyi and Chinese leaders, but also in interactions between party members on visits that mix tours of container terminals or education projects with boozy dinners and shopping trips.
The trips are part of a push to make Myanmar a vital stop on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative, offering to build deep-sea ports, hydropower dams and economic zones in a country desperate for investment.
Reuters interviewed more than 20 party members and lawmakers who have visited China on expenses-paid trips, through which Beijing hopes to overcome historic distrust and fears among many in Myanmar of becoming indebted to their much larger neighbour.
“In the past it was only a relationship between two governments – (China) did business with the military generals and Myanmar people didn’t have good feelings towards them, ” said Aung Shin, who edits the party’s newspaper.
The invites have flowed since Myanmar’s relations with Western countries soured following their sharp criticism of a 2017 army crackdown in its north-western Rakhine state from which 700, 000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh.
China lent its neighbour support at the United Nations Security Council, when the West was pushing for a stronger response to allegations of killings, mass rape and arson by Myanmar forces.
NLD stalwarts such as Aung Shin, a former political prisoner, have welcomed China’s hospitality.
“They want to show that they are not like before, so they invited us and showed us, ” said Aung Shin, who has been on at least 10 junkets to China since 2013.
Some say they have also been impressed with the ability of China’s one-party system to drive through development projects.
Many countries extend invitations to politicians of other nations to deepen alliances, but China’s “soft power” efforts in Myanmar have been comprehensive.
The NLD has sent at least 20 delegations to China since 2016, said party spokesman Myo Nyunt.
China has also extended invites to the military-aligned opposition and other parties, as well as civil society and the media.
In interviews, NLD members said China uses the visits to showcase its state-led approach to building infrastructure.
Helen Aye Kyaw visited China for the first time in June as a member of an NLD women’s group at the invitation of the All-China Women’s Federation, touring a school for Communist Party cadres to study efforts to eliminate rural poverty.
In a written response to Reuters’ questions about the trips, China’s foreign ministry said engagement with Myanmar political parties, including the NLD, was conducted on a basis of equality and “non-interference in each other’s internal affairs”.
Since the Rohingya crisis, Suu Kyi has visited few countries that joined calls for action against Myanmar for the alleged abuses against the Rohingya – which Myanmar denies.
NLD officials say Suu Kyi’s government is putting Myanmar’s interests first in negotiations with China.
Interviews with NLD figures who have taken part in such visits give a flavour of how China has sought to win new friends among Myanmar’s emerging political class.
Yangon regional lawmakers visited China in September 2018, where they met CCCC representatives and visited its Yangshan port near Shanghai, according to two participants and Facebook posts.
The visit would not prevent her from voicing her concerns over the New Yangon City project, she said, but had given her pause for thought about China’s development model, drawing a contrast with the protests that often greet projects at home.
“Their country developed very fast within 20 years and even the roads became very good.
“Is that because of their one-party political system?” she said.
“In their country, if they do a project, no one opposes.” — Reuters
Source: The Star “Belt and Road silky smooth for Myanmar”
Note: This is The Star’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
By Li Qiaoyi and Chu Daye Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/4 21:23:40
Initiative embodies win-win approach, creates joint prosperity
The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has greatly boosted China’s foreign trade, achieving major progress in Europe and Asia and also cushioned the negative impact brought on by the US-initiated trade war, Chinese analysts said over the weekend.
Beyond foreign trade, the BRI, as a way of how China interacts with the world, offers a stark contrast to the America First approach heralded by the current US administration, the experts said.
The BRI, now 6 years old, is a massive development plan aimed at promoting interconnection of infrastructure and economic and cultural exchanges between China and neighboring countries.
Boosted by the initiative, China’s western provinces have recorded fast growth in their foreign trade, with a total 12 provinces and municipalities posting a foreign trade annual growth rate of 14 percent in the first half of the year, according to a report by Chinese news site jiemian.com on July 29.
The growth rate was 10.1 percentage points higher than the national average.
Published foreign trade data by 26 province-level regions shows robust trade growth with the EU and the member countries of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the report said.
With foreign trade between China and ASEAN growing 4.2 percent year-on-year in the first half of 2019 to $291.85 billion, the two sides have conducted a series of key projects from connectivity arteries to industrial parks, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) said on Wednesday.
As of 2018, bilateral investment volumes grew 22 times in 15 years and ASEAN has been a major destination for Chinese overseas direct investment.
Progress in ASEAN
ASEAN nations striving to spur growth against the backdrop of simmering anti-globalization have been riding the wave of BRI, as landmark BRI projects are giving local economies a much-needed boost, the experts said.
They said a high-speed rail project linking Jakarta-Bandung is on track to catapult Indonesia to be the first ASEAN nation to join “the bullet train club.”
The Indonesia Java No.7 coal-fired power generation project, comprising two 1,050 megawatts units, is poised to be a great shot in the arm for the southeastern Asia economy which still has a low electrification rate, they noted.
Two China-aided bridges, when complete, will help with traffic congestion in metropolitan Manila and the East Coast Rail Link is expected to connect Malaysia’s east and west coasts, the experts noted.
Without the initiative, these projects being built and pushed forward by Chinese firms would be much more difficult to accomplish, they said.
Besides concrete projects, the BRI also brought career opportunities to local people and a ladder to improve their lives, the experts said.
Expressing gratitude for creating job opportunities for locals, Mark Kim Budianto, an on-site interpreter for the No.5 mixing plant of China Railway Group Limited’s Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway project, said he also learned management skills from his Chinese employer, an invaluable asset to career development.
Tulus Martini from Cilacap in Central Java, working as a human resources specialist for Energy China’s Java No.7 coal-fired power generation project in Serang, recalled her career from “a nurserymaid to a well-paid white-collar worker.”
The makeover, enabled by learning Chinese and working with Chinese companies, she said, has changed her life for the better.
Chinese experts said Tulus Martini’s case was symbolic of how BRI has aided ASEAN economies and hundreds of millions of people in the region aspiring to turn their lives around.
Chen Fengying, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times that the expansion of the BRI could actually help boost Chinese exports to partner countries and regions.
“As many companies have built up industrial parks overseas, they need to import parts or materials needed for production from China,” Chen said.
“This has helped beef up China’s exports, now facing protectionist headwinds.”
The promulgation of the initiative also become a bandwagon onto which central and western Chinese regions could jump, to develop trade with a new destination or produce exports unwanted by China’s original trading partners, bringing them to the forefront of opening-up, experts said.
Beijing has achieved significant progress in pushing negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations over Friday and Saturday, a MOFCOM spokesperson said on Saturday.
RCEP is a proposed free trade deal between ASEAN and its six trading partners including China.
As the trade war between China and the US wages on, the progress of BRI has provided some cushions to companies caught up in the tariff battle.
“So far China has been able to effectively diversify its sources of supply for many agricultural and mineral commodities for which tariffs were imposed on US imports as these are relatively easily obtained from other nations worldwide,” Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific chief economist with IHS Markit.
As BRI is based on win-win, so it has immense potential for future growth, said Dong Dengxin, director of the Financial Securities Institute at the Wuhan University of Science and Technology.
“Because of the trade war, China will develop a closer and deeper economic relationship with more countries,” Dong said.
“The Chinese approach of win-win, and its contribution to multilateralism will help the country win the respect of world countries and attain global leadership.”
To pursue connectivity between Europe and Asia, the EU and ASEAN agreed to upgrade their relations to a strategic partnership on Friday.
Huang Ge also contributed to this story
Source: Global Times “Belt & Road cushions impact of trade war”
Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
July 30, 2019 / 12:12 PM / Updated 3 hours ago
SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Chinese equity investment in solar, wind and coal power projects in Belt and Road countries has surged from 2014 to 2019, with planned capacity up more than tenfold compared to the previous five-year period, environmental group Greenpeace said.
The Belt and Road initiative is a Beijing-led program to boost economic and trade ties in dozens of countries in Asia, Europe and beyond, mostly through investments in energy and infrastructure.
According to a study published by Greenpeace on Monday, China’s wind and solar power investments in Belt and Road countries amounted to 12.6 gigawatts (GW) since the initiative was launched in 2014. It had invested in just 0.45 GW of solar prior to 2014.
The country has also invested in 67.9 gigawatts of new coal-fired power in Belt and Road countries since 2014, but Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Liu Junyan said the increase in the share of renewables should be welcomed.
“Chinese investors’ ratio of coal to solar is now the same at home and abroad – both are still six-to-one (in favor of) coal, unfortunately, but I’m amazed to see what five years of equity investment in solar made possible,” Liu said.
China has been building dozens of new renewable energy projects at home to reduce the share of coal in its total energy mix to 59% by the end of last year. It has also been encouraging its existing coal-fired power plants to install ultra-low emissions technology.
But China has been criticized for funding coal-fired power projects overseas that would not meet its own emissions standards, with a study published earlier this year saying it is supporting more than a quarter of all new coal-fired plants worldwide.
China is expected to put another 40 GW of solar power capacity in operation at home this year, energy officials said on Friday.
China’s total coal-fired capacity also expected to rise by another 45 GW this year, with the total eventually expected to peak at around 1,300 GW, up from 1,140 GW at the end of last year, researchers from China’s State Grid said this month.
Reporting by David Stanway; editing by Christian Schmollinger
Source: Reuters “China Belt and Road power investments surge from 2014-2019: study”
Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
Updated 08:33, 06-Jul-2019
China and Bangladesh vowed to deepen their Belt and Road cooperation on Friday during talks in Beijing between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is on an official visit to China.
President Xi pointed out that China and Bangladesh enjoy a long-standing traditional friendship. “The ties between the two countries were upgraded to a strategic partnership of cooperation during my state visit to Bangladesh in 2016,” he noted, adding that the deepening ties had instilled a new impetus for accelerating socio-economic development and improving livelihoods in both countries.
Strengthening the partnership between China and Bangladesh will bring prosperity, stability and openness not only at the regional level but also on a global scale, Xi said.
He highlighted the importance for the two nations to boost cooperation in the digital economy and jointly build the Digital Silk Road, so as to unleash its great potential.
Xi encouraged the enhancement of high-level interaction, the strengthening of exchanges and cooperation at various levels between governments, legislative bodies, political parties and the maintenance of respect and support for core interests and major concerns.
China is willing to enhance educational, cultural, youth and media exchanges with Bangladesh and provide continued support for Bangladesh to develop its counterterrorism and law enforcement capacity, the Chinese president said.
For her part, Hasina thanked China for its consistent support and took the chance to offer congratulations on the 98th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
She pointed out that Bangladesh cherishes the long-standing traditional friendship between China and Bangladesh and firmly supports the one-China policy. Bangladesh admires China’s development achievements and is ready to strengthen cooperation with China while pursuing its “Sonar Bangla” dream, she added.
Hasina said Bangladesh is willing to actively participate in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and accelerate the construction of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor.
Both sides agreed to fully tap the potential of cooperation in various fields such as trade, investment, the digital economy, infrastructure construction, anti-climate change, counterterrorism, security, and other emerging fields.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also met Hasina on Thursday when they stressed work on expanding cooperation and for regional peace and development.
Source: CGTN “China, Bangladesh to deepen Belt and Road cooperation”
Note: This is CGTM’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
June 22, 2019 18:58 IST
Updated: June 22, 2019 18:59 IST
Ahead of the recently concluded summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Chinese state media provided extensive coverage of Beijing’s recent forays into Central Asia, including into Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
On its website, the state-run Xinhua news agency splashed pictures of the Irkeshtam pass, one of China’s gateways to Kyrgyzstan, a few days before planes ferrying leaders of the eight SCO member countries, apart from observers, flew into Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s capital.
The lofty Irkeshtam pass, perched at a height of 2,950 m, is a geographic marvel. It is a deep gorge at the junction of the southern edge of the Tian Shan and the mighty Pamir mountains. From its impressive elevation, the pass commands several trade routes that jostle their way towards the steppes of Central Asia.
Re-imagining an ancient route
One of them weaves its way from Kashgar, a major trade node along the ancient silk route in China’s mountainous Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR). This route heads westwards into the bone-dry Tarim basin.
There, the sands of the forbidding Taklamakan desert, a graveyard in the past of traders and their fellow travelers who once dared to caravan along the ancient silk road, overwhelm the area. On either side, the majestic Kunlun and the Tian Shan mountains wall the route, as it opens towards the Irkeshtam pass.
Under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the ancient route towards the Irkeshtam pass will now provide the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) a critical node into Central Asia. The CPEC runs from the Arabian Sea coast at Gwadar towards Kashgar, passing through the extremely challenging terrain of Pakistan’s Balochistan province.
Across the Irkeshtam border post, which straddles the pass, the road heads towards the northwest in the direction of the Kyrgyz city of Osh, 250 km away. Osh is located inside the famed Fergana valley. Its abundance of fruit and grain is legendary. The first Mughal emperor Babur, who was born in the nearby Uzbek city of Andijan, spent time in Osh, where he built a mosque atop the Sulayman mountain, a world heritage site.
The road from Osh leads westwards towards the Uzbek border, which is only 5 km away. Osh is also the fulcrum of other strategic routes that the Chinese are opening up in the region as part of the BRI. A brand new north-south motorway will soon link Osh to capital Bishkek in the north. Once the 250 km-road, being built by the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), is completed by 2021, the spanking new highway will connect Osh with Kazakhstan’s Almaty. Eventually, the $698-million project, bankrolled by China’s Exim Bank, will interlink Pakistan, China and Kyrgyzstan, with strategic nodes extending to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan.
Focussing on Osh, China’s telecom giant, Huawei Technologies, has recently unveiled an ambitious plan. In partnership with China Telecom, it plans to transform Bishkek and Osh into “smart cities”, powered by fast Internet and cyber monitoring systems.
Apart from highways and power projects, China is concentrating on railways in its bid to open up Central Asia and beyond as part of BRI. For instance, Osh sits along China’s West passage-3 railway project. After passing through Kashgar and Osh via the Irkeshtam pass, the railway spears towards Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Turkey, and beyond.
Separately, West Passage 1 enters Kazakhstan through Alashankou in Xinjiang. From there it hooks up with Russia’s Trans-Siberian Railway and enters Belarus before reaching out to the European Union.
Similarly, the exit point of West Passage 2 is Xinjiang’s Alashankou. Kazakhstan, in this case, becomes the gateway to Turkmenistan, setting the stage for a railway link-up with Iran, Turkey and possibly Europe. China is also working on East Passage 1. This route connects Erenhot in its Inner Mongolia province, with the Trans-Siberian railway on the way to Europe.
All cross-border initiatives on infrastructure feed into China’s ‘go-global’ policy. This is a joint initiative of China’s central planners and provincial administrations to shift sections of Chinese capital and supply chains overseas.
(Atul Aneja is The Hindu’s Beijing correspondent.)
Source: The Hindu “The Central Asian nodes in Belt and Road project”
Note: This is The Hindu’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.