China’s investment in Asia often has great risks due to political instability in the countries it invests in. Myanmar’s suspension of the Myitsone dam project and Malaysia’s scrapping of the east Malaysia railway project are typical examples. However, in spite of the political instability, China has been successful in carrying out its Belt and Road initiative in Asia.
The Myitsone dam project started long before the beginning of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative. It was planned to sell 90% of the electricity the project generates to China’s Yunan Province, but now Yunan has more than enough supply of electricity due to China’s rapid development of infrastructures.
However, the project has now become a Belt and Road one as it will provide power for Myanmar’s industrial development and thus facilitate removal of China’s labor-intensive industries to Myanmar where labor cost is very low.
Anyway, it is not a key project for Belt and Road that mainly aims at providing connection to the outside world for China.
For connection to the areas to the west of China, there may be three routes in which the railway link to Malaysia’s west coast to bypass the Malacca Strait is the last choice due to its long land route across three countries.
The best choice is a canal through Kra Isthmus to bypass Malocca Strait but with the greatest risk. The canal will benefit not only China but also other nations that use Malacca Strait as their major trade route to the west. If China funds the construction of the canal, it has to own the canal to obtain return to its investment but Thailand’s political instability make such huge investment very risky. Moreover, the canal may be nationalized like Panama Canal and Suez Canal.
The best choice seems to be a railway through Myanmar to the port at Kyaukpyu at the Bay of Bengal. China has already built oil and gas pipelines from Kyaukpyu to China’s Ruili and according to The Medi Telegraph’s report “China to develop deep sea port in Myanmar”, China has signed an agreement with Myanmar on the construction of a deep sea port at Kyaukphu with two deep berths.
It is obvious that the port will not be fully useful if it is only used for oil and gas freight to the pipelines. There must be a railway between Ruili and Kyaukpyu, which will not be such a huge investment as Kra Canal but will greatly benefit China and Myanmar. Politically, it is simple as it goes through only one country.
The railway and the port will make the port of Hambantota China is building in Sri Lanka an important transport hub for Chinese shipping to the Middle East, Europe and Africa. From that we see Chinese leaders’ vision in developing the port of Hambantota.
The ports in Sri Lanka and Myanmar under construction, the pipelines completed and the railway if built will be China’s successful 21st maritime Silk Road.
Western media simply ignored the pipelines and port at Kyaukpyu and spread the lies that China’s purchase of 80% shares in the company that has the lease of the port of Hambantota was forced asset-loan swap. They believe by such cover-up and lies they can convince readers that China’s Belt and Road is a failure.
Western and Japanese statesmen are not so stupid as to be deceived by the cover-up and lies. They now are interested in joining China’s Belt and Road or have other ways to invest in infrastructures in Asia and Africa that will ultimately benefit China in providing infrastructures and expanding market for China.
Even the United States has initiated a “Prosper Africa” strategy to contend with China in building infrastructures in Africa. But the United States is hard up. The dispute between President Trump and Congress over a small sum of $5 billion for the construction of a border wall should result in government shutdown! Poor America! Where will it obtain funds to build infrastructures in Africa? It even lacks funds to fix and rebuild its 50,000 bridges in poor conditions!
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on The Medi Telegraph’s report, full text of which can be viewed at http://www.themeditelegraph.com/en/shipping/2018/11/12/china-develop-deep-sea-port-myanmar-ebet6fyKi9LXtA6q16KIXO/index.html.