The Conundrum of the Importance China Attaches to Afghanistan


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

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Why China and Pakistan Want to Include Afghanistan in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor?


(L to R) Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif attend a joint news conference after the 1st China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue in Beijing, China, December 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee

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


China, Pakistan to look at including Afghanistan in $57 billion economic corridor


(L to R) Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif attend a joint news conference after the 1st China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue in Beijing, China, December 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee

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.


Pakistan, China say economic partners till 2030


Ahsan Iqbal (L), Pakistan’s Minister of Planning and Development and Yao Jing, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan attend the launching ceremoney of CPEC long-term cooperation plan in Islamabad, Pakistan December 18, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

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.


Hoping to extend maritime reach, China lavishes aid on Pakistan town


Drazen Jorgic December 17, 2017

GWADAR, Pakistan (Reuters) – China is lavishing vast amounts of aid on a small Pakistani fishing town to win over locals and build a commercial deep-water port that the United States and India suspect may also one day serve the Chinese navy.

Beijing has built a school, sent doctors and pledged about $500 million in grants for an airport, hospital, college and badly-needed water infrastructure for Gwadar, a dusty town whose harbor juts out into the Arabian Sea, overlooking some of the world’s busiest oil and gas shipping lanes.

The grants include $230 million for a new international airport, one of the largest such disbursements China has made abroad, according to researchers and Pakistani officials.

The handouts for the Gwadar project is a departure from Beijing’s usual approach in other countries. China has traditionally derided Western-style aid in favor of infrastructure projects for which it normally provides loans through Chinese state-owned commercial and development banks.

“The concentration of grants is quite striking,” said Andrew Small, an author of a book on China-Pakistan relations and a Washington-based researcher at the German Marshall Fund think tank.

“China largely doesn’t do aid or grants, and when it has done them, they have tended to be modest.”

Pakistan has welcomed the aid with open hands. However, Beijing’s unusual largesse has also fueled suspicions in the United States and India that Gwadar is part of China’s future geostrategic plans to challenge U.S. naval dominance.

“It all suggests that Gwadar, for a lot of people in China, is not just a commercial proposition over the longer term,” Small said.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

Beijing and Islamabad see Gwadar as the future jewel in the crown of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (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.

The plan is to turn Gwadar into a trans-shipment hub and megaport to be built alongside special economic zones from which export-focused industries will ship goods worldwide. A web of energy pipelines, roads and rail links will connect Gwadar to China’s western regions.

Port trade is expected to grow from 1.2 million tonnes in 2018 to about 13 million tonnes by 2022, Pakistani officials say. At the harbor, three new cranes have been installed and dredging will next year deepen the port depth to 20 meters at five berths.
But the challenges are stark. Gwadar has no access to drinking water, power blackouts are common and separatist insurgents threaten attacks against Chinese projects in Gwadar and the rest of Baluchistan, a mineral-rich province that is still Pakistan’s poorest region.

Security is tight, with Chinese and other foreign visitors driven around in convoys of soldiers and armed police.

Beijing is also trying to overcome the distrust of outsiders evident in Baluchistan, where indigenous Baloch fear an influx of other ethnic groups and foreigners. Many residents say the pace of change is too slow.

“Local people are not completely satisfied,” said Essar Nori, a lawmaker for Gwadar, adding that the separatists were tapping into that dissatisfaction.

Pakistani officials are urging Gwadar residents to be patient, vowing to urgently build desalination plants and power stations.

CAUTIONARY TALE

China’s Gwadar project contrasts with similar efforts in Sri Lanka, where the village of Hambantota was transformed into a port complex – but was saddled with Chinese debt. (That is a lie. Sri Lanka is not saddled with Chinese debt for the port. On the contrary, the Chinese side is to pay Sri Lanka Port Authority USD973.658 millions for shares in the joint ventures that operate the port and the National Treasury of Sri Lanka has received 294 million dollars from the Chinese side as the initial 30% of the total amount that will be received. See my post “Lies, Fake News Cannot Stop China’s Belt and Road Win-win Cooperation” on December 12.)

Last week, Sri Lanka formally handed over operations to China on a 99-year lease in exchange for lighter debt repayments, a move that sparked street protests over what many Sri Lankans view as an erosion of sovereignty.

The Hambantota port, like Gwadar, is part of a network of harbors Beijing is developing in Asia and Africa that have spooked India, which fears being encircled by China’s growing naval power.

But Pakistani officials say comparisons to Hambantota are unfair because the Gwadar project has much less debt.

On top of the airport, Chinese handouts in Gwadar include $100 million to expand a hospital by 250 beds, $130 million towards upgrading water infrastructure, and $10 million for a technical and vocational college, according to Pakistani government documents and officials.

“We welcome this assistance as it’s changing the quality of life of the people of Gwadar for the better,” said Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, chairman of the parliamentary committee that oversees CPEC, including Gwadar.

China and Pakistan jointly choose which projects will be developed under the CPEC mechanism, Sayed added.

When China suggested a 7,000 meter runway for the new airport, Pakistan pushed for a 12,000 meter one that could accommodate planes as large as the Airbus 380 and be used for military purposes, according to Sajjad Baloch, a director of the Gwadar Development Authority.

The scale of Chinese grants is extraordinary, according to Brad Parks, executive director of AidData, a research lab at the U.S.-based William and Mary university that collected data on Chinese aid across 140 countries from 2000-2014.

Since 2014, Beijing has pledged over $800 million in grants and concessional loans for Gwadar, which has less than 100,000 people. In the 15 years before that, China gave about $2.4 billion in concessional loans and grants during this period across the whole of Pakistan, a nation of 207 million people.

“Gwadar is exceptional even by the standards of China’s past activities in Pakistan itself,” Parks said.

HEARTS AND MINDS

There are early signs China’s efforts to win hearts and minds are beginning to bear fruit in Gwadar.

“Baluchistan is backward and underdeveloped, but we are seeing development after China’s arrival,” said Salam Dashti, 45, a grocer whose two children attend the new Chinese-built primary school.

But there are major pitfalls ahead.

Tens of thousands of people living by the port will have to be relocated.

For now, they live in cramped single-story concrete houses corroded by sea water on a narrow peninsula, where barefoot fishermen offload their catch on newly-paved roads strewn with rubbish. Many of the fishermen say they fear they’ll lose their livelihoods once the port starts operating.

Indigenous residents’ fear of becoming a minority is inevitable with Gwadar’s population expected to jump more than 15-fold in coming decades. On the edge of town, mansions erected by land speculators are popping up alongside the sand dunes.

Analysts say China is aware that previous efforts to develop Gwadar port failed partly due to the security threat posed by Baloch separatists, so Beijing is trying to counter the insurgents’ narrative that China wants to exploit Baluchistan.

“That weighs heavily on the minds of the Chinese,” Parks added. “It’s almost certainly true that they are trying to safeguard their investments by getting more local buy-in.”

Chinese officials, meanwhile, are promoting the infrastructure development they are funding.

“Every day you can see new changes. It shows the sincerity of Chinese for development of Gwadar,” Fijian Zhao, the deputy chief of mission at the Chinese embassy in Islamabad, tweeted last month.

NAVAL FACILITY

For its investment in Gwadar, China will receive 91 percent of revenues until the port is returned to Pakistan in four decades’ time. The operator, China Overseas Ports Holding Company, will also be exempt from major taxes for more than 20 years.

Pakistan’s maritime affairs minister, Hasil Bizenjo, said the arrival of the Chinese in the region contrasted with the experience of the past two centuries, when Russia and Britain, and later the United States and the Soviet Union, vied for control of the warm water ports of the Persian Gulf.

“The Chinese have come very smoothly, they have reached the warm waters,” Bizenjo told Reuters. “What they are investing is less than a peanut for access to warm waters.”

When a U.S. Pentagon report in June suggested Gwadar could become a military base for China, a concern that India has also expressed, Beijing dismissed the idea.

“Talk that China is building a military base in Pakistan is pure guesswork,” said a Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman, Wu Sian.

Bizenjo and other Pakistani officials say Beijing has not asked to use Gwadar for naval purposes.

“This port, they will use it mostly for their commercial interests, but it depends on the next 20 years where the world goes,” Bizenjo said.

Additional reporting by Hassan Raza Syed in KARACHI and Asif Shahzad in ISLAMABAD:; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Kay Johnson and Philip McClellan.

This blogger’s note: The port add no threat to India as India is already sandwiched by China and Pakistan, a port cannot add much to the existing threat of sandwiching), however the port may be militarized like the islands in the South China Sea if the US or India has conducted freedom of navigation operations near it to threaten Pakistan and China. That was why Bizenjo said, “it depends on the next 20 years where the world goes.


China targets export market with latest submarine designs


The 1100T is a multirole diesel-electric submarine design that will be capable of performing a diverse range of missions, from anti-ship and submarine attack to patrol and reconnaissance. Source: Jane’s sources

Kelvin Wong – Jane’s International Defence Review

12 December 2017

Key Points
•Buoyed by recent successes with the Pakistan and Thai navies, Chinese naval shipbuilder China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation has recently unveiled a slew of new submarine concepts targeted at the export market
•New export concepts include 200-, 600-, and 1,100-tonne diesel-electric submarines

With decades of experience from submarine design and construction for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), Chinese naval developers – led by the state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) – are looking to expand their presence on the world stage with indigenous export submarine designs having secured recent successes in Pakistan and Thailand.

Pakistan is acquiring eight S20 diesel-electric submarines based on the Yuan-class (Type 039A-series) design, with the first four boats to be built in China and deliveries commencing to the Pakistani Navy (PN) from 2022. The remainder will be built in Pakistan by the Karachi Shipbuilding and Engineering Works (KSEW).

Meanwhile, the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) signed a contract worth THB13.5 billion (USD390 million) with China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Corporation (CSOC), the international trading arm of CSIC, for the delivery of a S26T diesel-electric submarine, an export variant derived from “the most advanced version” of the Yuan-class platform – the Type 039B/041 – in 2023. The service is expected to order two more S26T submarines in the next few years with the aim of operationalising all three boats by 2026. The entire programme would be worth THB36 billion if the follow-on order materialises.

“Drawing upon 60 years of submarine design and construction beginning with the Romeo-, Ming-, Song-, and the Yuan-class, China is capable of independent submarine research and development, including design and construction of submarine platforms and a full range of associated equipment, sensors, and weapons,” a spokesperson of CSOC told Jane’s .

Export submarines

According to CSIC, the S20 and S26T platforms are fully indigenous designs that leverage the company’s experience from developing the Yuan-class submarines, which were first launched at its Wuchang Shipyard in Wuhan in May 2004.

Source: Jane’s “China targets export market with latest submarine designs”

Note: This is janes.com’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


China’s Maritime Silk Road Taken Shape in Indian Ocean


Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom (left) shakes hands with Xi Jinping after signing deals at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

China has already the rights over ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

SCMP says in its report “China and Maldives sign free trade, maritime deals” yesterday that during Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s China visit he signed deals to cooperate on a free-trade agreement and on Beijing’s maritime trade plan.

With close ties with Maldives and Pakistan and port in Sri Lanka, China’s 21st century maritime Silk Road has taken shape in Indian Ocean.

The report says that the deals are expected to aggravate India’s concerns over China’s influence in South Asia.

True, India may use all its financial resources to import US advanced weapons for its hegemony in Indian Ocean, but Silk Road is a road for peaceful trade that will benefit India in its trade with China, Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia, especially with Iran for energy.

India cannot be benefited by military approaches. If it cuts China’s trade route through Indian Ocean, its trade route to the Middle East especially Iran will be cut by the iron brothers of Pakistan and China while its trade routes to Southeast Asia, Japan and South Korea will be cut by China.

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/2123389/china-and-maldives-sign-free-trade-maritime-deals