Afghnistan is not needed for China’s Belt and Road for connections to Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The connections through Central Asia are better. Why does China want to include Afghanistan in its major Belt and Road project the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor?
In CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping’s 19th congress speech on Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, he says, “As socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, the principal contradiction facing Chinese society has evolved. What we now face is the contradiction between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life. Only when China has resolved that principal contradiction can it attain the goals of building China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful by the middle of the century.”
How can China attain that goal? It has to make its development balanced and adequate. Where is its development unbalanced and inadequate? It is its vast west.
China’s vast Xinjiang has an area of 1.6 million square kilometers but has only a population of over 20 million with the population density of 13 per square kilometer. Jiangsu, a very small province of 104,000 square kilometers in China’s eastern coast, however, has a population of more than 55 million with a population density of 526 per square kilometer. Though very small compared with Xinjiang, Jiangsu’s GDP of nearly $700 billion is much bigger than Xinjiang’s $150b in spite of Xinjiang’s rich natural resources.
Xinjiang’s problem is its large deserts. There is the Tarim River in its vast Taklamakan desert of 330,000 square kilometers, but the river cannot provide enough water for farming and people’s livelihood there. However, in history the Tarim River made the Kingdom of Loulan in the now desert area prosperous. Loulan was extinct when it had used up the river’s water. We still can see the good irrigation system in the relics of the Kingdom.
That gives China the idea that if it brings water from Tibet’s Yarlung Zangbo River to Taklamakan desert to greatly increase the water in the Tarim, it can turn the desert soon into habitable farmland and urban areas. People and industries will soon move there to make Xinjiang as prosperous as coastal China.
China’s coastal areas quickly become prosperous due to their access to overseas markets and resources. With express ways, railways and oil and gas pipes through China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Pakistan’s port of Gwadar, Xinjiang will have better access to the markets and resources in Europe, the Middle East and Africa than China’s coastal areas.
Therefore, for balanced and adequate development in China’s west, Pakistan and Afghanistan are very important in preventing the spread of Islamic extremism to Xinjiang. That is why China has tried hard to improve the relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan in order that they can better tackle the violence in their respective countries. In addition, China has been making efforts to broker peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban militants. For China’s such efforts, including Afghanistan in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will certainly help as Afghanistan is very poor and needs Chinese investment to help its development.
Article by Chan Kai Yee
Afghanistan is not needed for China’s connection to the Middle East and Europe. Why then do China and Pakistan want to include it in their CPEC?
China, Afghanistan and Pakistan held their first tripartite dialogue in Beijing on December 26, 2017. The three foreign ministers’ joint press release says, “The three sides reaffirmed their commitment to improving their relations, deepening mutually beneficial cooperation, advancing connectivity under the Belt and Road Initiative, and fighting terrorism in all its forms and manifestations without any distinction. The three Foreign Ministers agreed to jointly work together on political mutual trust and reconciliation, development cooperation and connectivity, security cooperation and counter-terrorism as three topics of the trilateral cooperation.”
In addition, it says, “The three sides agreed to conduct win-win trilateral economic cooperation, with an incremental approach, starting from the easier initiatives to the more difficult ones. The three sides agreed to continue economic development cooperation in areas of mutual interest, and expressed willingness to strengthen people-to-people contacts.”
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said after the first trilateral meeting that China and Pakistan would look at extending their $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan and that he hoped CPEC could benefit the whole region and act as an impetus for development.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif make it clearer by saying, “The successful implementation of CPEC projects will serve as a model for enhancing connectivity and cooperation through similar projects with neighboring countries, including Afghanistan, Iran and with central and west Asia.”
Iran and central and west Asia are what China wants to include in its Belt and Road initiative. Chinese trade will go through CPEC to Iran on land and go through sea route from Pakistani port of Gwadar along coast of Iran to the Arabian Peninsula and then cross the Red Sea, the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean to Europe.
Moreover, extending CPEC to Afghanistan is very important to prevent the spread of Islamist terrorism from Pakistan and Afghanistan to China’s underdeveloped western region of Xinjiang.
Article by Chan Kai Yee
Ben Blanchard December 26, 2017
BEIJING (Reuters) – China and Pakistan will look at extending their $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday, part of China’s ambitious Belt and Road plan linking China with Asia, Europe and beyond.
China has tried to position itself as a helpful party to promote talks between Pakistan and Afghanistan, both uneasy neighbors ever since Pakistan’s independence in 1947.
Their ties have been poisoned in recent years by Afghan accusations that Pakistan is supporting Taliban insurgents fighting the U.S.-backed Kabul in order to limit the influence of its old rival, India, in Afghanistan.
Pakistan denies that and says it wants to see a peaceful, stable Afghanistan.
Speaking after the first trilateral meeting between the foreign ministers of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Wang said China hoped the economic corridor could benefit the whole region and act as an impetus for development.
Afghanistan has urgent need to develop and improve people’s lives and hopes it can join inter-connectivity initiatives, Wang told reporters, as he announced that Pakistan and Afghanistan had agreed to mend their strained relations.
“So China and Pakistan are willing to look at with Afghanistan, on the basis of win-win, mutually beneficial principles, using an appropriate means to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan,” he added.
How that could happen needs the three countries to reach a gradual consensus, tackling easier, smaller projects first, Wang said, without giving details.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said his country and China were “iron brothers”, but did not directly mention the prospect of Afghanistan joining the corridor.
“The successful implementation of CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) projects will serve as a model for enhancing connectivity and cooperation through similar projects with neighboring countries, including Afghanistan, Iran and with central and west Asia,” he said.
India has looked askance at the project as parts of it run through Pakistan-administered Kashmir that India considers its own territory, though Wang said the plan had nothing to do with territorial disputes.
China has sought to bring Kabul and Islamabad together partly due to Chinese fears about the spread of Islamist militancy from Pakistan and Afghanistan to the unrest-prone far western Chinese region of Xinjiang.
As such, China has pushed for Pakistan and Afghanistan to improve their own ties so they can better tackle the violence in their respective countries, and has also tried to broker peace talks with Afghan Taliban militants, to limited effect.
A tentative talks process collapsed in 2015.
Wang said China fully supported peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban and would continue to provide “necessary facilitation”.
The Belt and Road infrastructure drive aims to build a modern-day “Silk Road” connecting China to economies in Southeast and Central Asia by land and the Middle East and Europe by sea.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie
Source: Reuters “China, Pakistan to look at including Afghanistan in $57 billion economic corridor”
Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
Reuters Staff December 18, 2017
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan and China on Monday unveiled a long-term cooperation plan in economic development envisioning cooperation until at least 2030 in areas ranging from infrastructure to information technology.
It is the first time the two countries have announced how long they plan to work together on the project, known as the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The long-term CPEC plan was made public in a ceremony in Islamabad attended by Pakistani Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal and Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing.
The document did not, however, give specific details on the projects, such as terms and conditions of investments and loans, nor did it provide details for Special Economic Zones, some of which are already underway in Pakistan.
The (CPEC), a flagship of Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative to build a new “Silk Road” of land and maritime trade routes across more than 60 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa, has committed a $57 billion investment in Pakistan.
The long term plan highlighted key cooperation areas between the two neighbors, which included connectivity with a road and rail infrastructure, information network infrastructure, energy, trade and industrial parks, agriculture, poverty alleviation and tourism.
Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Richard Balmforth
Source: Reuters “Pakistan, China say economic partners till 2030”
Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
Obama’s pivot to Asia aimed at containing China but had the side effect of containing Russia. Before the pivot, the US had already been making hard efforts to reduce Russia’s influence in Eastern Europe and the Middle East; therefore, even though it was very clear that Obama was containing China especially creating trouble for China in the South China Sea, Russia felt threatened.
Seeing Russia’s predicament, China realized that due to the change in situation, it was possible for China to seek alliance with its long-term enemy Russia.
Now, China and Russia are de facto allies. Russia is now providing China with advanced weapons and cooperating with China in developing large airliners and heavy helicopters
Obama’s pivot has been a failure so that Trump has scrapped it, especially TPP the economic part of it.
Now, the US is wise in having quad to control both the Indian and Pacific Oceans. However, China sees the threat to its trade lifelines through the Oceans earlier and began earlier its Belt and Road initiative to establish alternative connections to Europe, the Middle East and further to Africa other than the connections through the Indian Ocean that may easily be cut by powerful US navy. For such connections, Russia, Central Asia and especially Pakistan are vital.
However, India as a key part of quad has long been Russia’s friend and major market of Russia’s export of weapons. According to mil.huanqiu.com’s report “Russia has been thoroughly kicked away? India’s new aircraft carrier will perhaps use F-18 carrier-based fighter jets”, as the US has promised India to help it develop aircraft carriers with better US technology, it is quite natural India will use US made carrier-based fighter jets.
However, Russia has developed and made 45 Mig-29K worth $2.2 billion specially for India’s new aircraft carrier. India’s participation in US quad will cause Russia to lose its major weapon market to the US. It will push Russia further closer to China and remove all possible obstacles to Belt and Road in Central Asia.
Central Asia countries were previously parts of the Soviet Union. Russia wants to establish an Eurasia Union to keep them as its satellite states or at least in Russia’s sphere of influence. China’s Belt and Road projects in Central Asia may very likely replace Russia’ influence with China’s. China needs to make great efforts to convince Russia that the projects are but economic with no political effect. However, it is impossible to separate economics from politics.
China and Russia has had an agreement to find a way accommodate Belt and Road with Eurasia Union without much progress. Fortunately, the US comes to their assistance. It resumes the quad of US, India, Japan and Australia with the obvious intention to contain China. US Secretary of State made that very clear in his speech at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies on October 18. In spite of that, Russia has been upset in losing India, its major weapon buyer.
Moreover, US arming India gravely scares Pakistan and thus further strengthened Pakistan’s iron brotherhood with China. As a result, the US has made it much easier for the two iron brothers to overcome their disagreements to China’s vital project of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on mil.huanqiu.com’s report “Russia has been thoroughly kicked away? India’s new aircraft carrier will perhaps use F-18 carrier-based fighter jets”, full text of which in Chinese can be viewed at http://mil.huanqiu.com/world/2017-11/11388949.html.
SubChina says in its report “China and Pakistan negotiate Belt and Road disagreements” yesterday that according to Pakistan’s Power Secretary Younus Naseem Khokar, ongoing energy projects accounting for 72 percent of China’s $50 billion-plus investment package in the country have been making “very smooth” progress.
The scrapping of the previously-agreed hydroelectric power project is regarded as a great setback of China’s Belt and Road initiative, but SubChina says in its report, “The bottom line: Pakistan remains optimistic on China’s Belt and Road projects in the country, striking a contrast with how this investment is perceived in media outside of Pakistan.”
It mentions the agreement among relevant parties on the commencement of the first phase of a special economic zones (SEZ) in Pakistan for the petrochemical, steel, textile, leather processing, and machinery industries.
The report says that Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Interior and Planning, Development and Reforms, Ahsan Iqbal, is confident that the SEZs and other projects would ensure transfer of technology, knowledge and skills to Pakistan.
The energy projects and the SEZs are the major parts of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) linking China with the Middle East, especially Iran.
The US is restoring the quad of US, India, Japan and Australia to contain China in Indo-Pacific, but by winning over India, the US has pushed Russia and Pakistan closer to China as I will elaborate in my next post.
What about the quad of China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan that US quad is forcing those four to form?
The Indian Ocean seems vital to China’s trade with the Middle East, Europe and Africa so that the US forms the quad to be able to cut China’s trade lifelines through the ocean. However, with the CPEC, China has an important alternative land route through Pakistan without going through the Indian Ocean.
In addition, do not forget that as the Arctic Ocean is melting due to global warming, China will soon have a shortcut to Europe through the Arctic Ocean completely under Russian control.
Obviously, US new Indo-Pacific strategy cannot contain China. On the contrary, it helps China overcome Russia’s opposition to its projects in Central Asia and strengthen the iron brotherhood between Pakistan and China to ensure the success of CPEC.
If the US really wants to contain China, it has to win over Russia and Pakistan instead of India. Trump tried to have détente with Russia quite early, but he has been opposed by US Congress and media.
Pakistan was for quite a long time US ally, but the US has never respected it as perhaps the US regards itself as the rider and its allies as horses. Now, Pakistan and the Philippines have refused to be America’s horses. Will India become America’s horse?
I believe that Indian Prime Minister Modi, a very shrewd politician, will not pull chestnuts out of the fire for the US.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SubChina’s report, full text of which can be viewed at http://supchina.com/2017/11/21/china-pakistan-negotiate-belt-road-disagreements/
In its report “Multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan project will benefit entire region, Pakistani envoy says” yesterday, SCMP quotes Pakistan’s ambassador to China, Masood Khalid as saying that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project is “a project [for the] common good of people”.
He said that in response to Rajiv Kumar, vice-chairman of the National Institution for Transforming India, a think tank affiliated with the Indian government, who said the corridor could only benefit the Pakistani elite and Islamabad would use its ties with Beijing to counter New Delhi’s influence.
True enough, having been defeated by India in its last two of four wars with India, Pakistanis whether elite or common people want China as a close ally to counter India.
India is certainly unhappy in being sandwiched by the close alliance of China and Pakistan so that Kumar wants people to believe the project is not desirable for common Pakistani people.
The project will resolve Pakistan’s shortage of electricity and provide transport facilities for the development of Pakistan’s as well as China’s vast west, especially Xinjiang.
China is drawing up a plan to divert from the Yarlung Tsangpo to Xinjiang to turn the vast desert there into prosperous farmland like America’s California. If so, Pakistan’s prosperity will be ensured as it provides China’s west with connections to the Middle East and Europe.
China and Pakistan are carrying out the project for their own benefits. What Khalid said about “common good of people” is irrelevant. China will invest $62 billion in the project while Pakistan has to contribute land, labor and military protection for the project for years. No one will risk such huge investment for the common good without first of all considering one’s own interests.
The project along with the water diversion project will enable China to achieve the ambitious goal set by Chinese President Xi Jinping in his report to the 19th Party Congress.
On the other hand, Kumar certainly did not care about Pakistani people’s interests in making his comments as such interests have nothing to do with him, an Indian hostile to Pakistan. The truth is that he fears that the project will make India face not only a rich and strong China but also a rich and strong Pakistan. There will be no hope for India to defeat Pakistan in the future like what it did in the previous two wars.
What shall India do?
My suggestion is that India builds an India-Pakistan corridor to connect India with the Middle East so that it will have better access to the oil, gas and market there. Pipelines linking India and the Middle East through Pakistan will greatly reduce oil and gas transport costs and time.
If India does not want the project to be regarded as a part of China’s Belt and Road initiative, it can give it the name of India’s new frontier or any other name.
It’s time for India to put an end to its Cold War mentality and pursue win-win cooperation with its neighbors.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2118537/pakistani-envoy-plays-regional-gains-silk-road-mega.