$62 billion is a lot of money. Though rich, China is not rich enough to squander such a large sum in Pakistan, a country notorious for its political instability and constantly under India’s threat.
EuroAisan Times’ article “CPEC: Internal Pressure, External Threat – Why China’s $60 Billion Investment In Pakistan Is At Risk?” tells the true incidents to prove that China’s investment in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is at risk but in fact fails answer the question in its headline: why the investment is at risk?
In fact, it is clear to all about the risks in investing in political unstable Pakistan under constant military threat of a much larger and stronger hostile neighbor India; therefore, no sober businessmen who pursue fair return of investment would invest in Pakistan. The answer to the question in the headline is so clear that there is no need to answer. The question needs answer is instead why China takes the tremendous risks to make such heavy investmentsi in its CPEC in Pakistan.
Pakistan is a poor country with few resources but has to incur heavy military costs for defense against Indian attacks.
In the past the US gave Pakistan significant financial and military aids to help it maintain military balance with India in order to counter Russia as it regards India as the Sovient Union and its successor Russia’s sphere of influence. Now however, China rise instead of Russia has become US first priority.
Russia is anxious to set up a Russia-China-India triangle to counter US hegemony in Asia. China also believes that it is a good idea. To form the triangle, China has to ease or even resolve its border dispute with India. It has made quite great efforts to ease border tensions with India and some progress in resolving the dispute. However, China’s close relations with Pakistan, india’s major enemy, may be an obstacle.
With China and Russia’s joint efforts, they have succeeded in attracting both India and Pakistan into their Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and tried hard to resolve the disputes between India and Pakistan without success.
In spite of China’s long-term efforts to win over India, India regards China’s rise as a threat to its security, especially China’s Road and Belt projects in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepel, which it regards as China’s chain to encircle India. India is particularly upset by CPEC as CPEC goes through the area of Kashimir controlled by Pakistan but claimed by India as its territory.
In order to contain China’s rise, Trump’s predecessor introduced TPP and pivot to Asia, but Trump scrapped TPP as he believed it hurt US interest and gave up pivot to Asia as the US failed to form the US-Japan-South Korea iron triagle as its basis due to historical enmity between Japan and South Korea. Trump, instead, seeked to form a Quad alliance of India, Japan, Australia and the US to contain China’s rise in both the Pacific and Indian Oceans. He exploited India’s fear of China’s rise and ambition to be the hegemon in Indian Ocean and used the provision of advanced US weapons as bait. True enough, India takes the bait. In order to join the Quad, it sent troops across the border to attack Chinese border troops there. It has thus win over US trust as its border provocation proved its sincerity in joining the Quad. That makes it possible for its switch to purchase of US instead of Russian weapons as weapons from the US are more advanced and not too expensive than Russia’s as Russia is not able to subsidize India’s purchase as the Soviet Union did.
China does not need Pakistan to counter India as its own troops are much stronger than India’s while the US cannot send troops from a long way away to help India if a border war breaks out between India and China. In fact the topology in the border is not favorable for large-scale military actions. Moreover, India’s major cities lie close to the border and may become easy targets of China’s air raids while Chinese cities lie too far away to be India’s targets.
However, US navy may block China’s trade lifelines through the Indian Ocean. With the CPEC China may bypass a large part of the Indian Ocean to send its goods to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port and will be protected by Pakistan and Iran to further ship the goods to the Middle East, Europe and Africa. China’s huge investment in CPEC concerns the security of China’s trade to its west including the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
With the CPEC, China may move its labor-intensive industries to Pakistan to enjoy the low labor and land costs there.
Moreover, China has stressed the development of its west for quite a long time but without much success as its west is too far away from its coast in East China. CPEC may provide a short route for export of goods from China’s west.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on EuroAsian Times’ article, full text of which can be viewed at https://eurasiantimes.com/cpec-internal-pressure-external-threat-why-chinas-60-billion-investment-in-pakistan-is-a-big-security-risk/.
US talented political scientist Samuel P. Huntington says in his well-known book “Clash of Civilizations”, “For over two hundred years the United States has attempted to prevent the emergence of an overwhelmingly dominant power in Europe. For almost a hundred years, beginning with its ‘Open Door’ policy toward China, it has attempted to do the same in East Asia.”
China wants to rise to become the largest economy in the world as its people want to enjoy as high living standards as those enjoyed by developed countries. With its huge population, its economy will be much larger than the US even if its per capital GDP is only half of America’s.
US pivot to Asia and interference with China’s disputes with its neighbors in the South China Sea have made Chinese leaders realize that the US regards China’s rise as the emergence of an overwhelmingly dominant power in East Asia. They have begun their arms race with the US in order for China to grow strong enough militarily to resist US attack.
First, they built artificial islands in the South China Sea and will militarize them in order to prevent their homeland from being attacked by cruise missiles from US submarines there. They have tried repeatedly to make people believe that the artificial islands are for civilian purpose but who will believe that? Anyway, they do not militarize the islands openly.
On May 31, US media National Interest carried Robert D. Blackwill’s article titled “China’s Strategy for Asia: Maximize Power, Replace America” that says that China’s goal is to recover from the United States the primacy it once enjoyed in Asia as a prelude to exerting global influence in the future.”
Perhaps US leaders are ignorant of China’s intention and believe that China has such a goal. They tell their navy to conduct freedom of navigation operations to give China the excuse to militarize its artificial islands openly.
Mr. Blackwill’s article is absurd because, as I have pointed in my comment on his article: First, the US has never had primacy in Asia nor has China ever had. The nation that had primacy in Asia for some time in the past was Mongolia not China. How would China recover what it has never had? Second, China is stupid to want to have such primacy as it is unable even to have primacy in one of the three Asian powers Russia, Japan and India.
Some Chinese people perhaps want China to replace the US as number one in Asia and even in the world, but Chinese leaders are not as stupid as them now and shall not be so stupid in the future. They shall know China shall never try to take over from the US the very heavy and costly burden of world leader. As China has always been run by wise or at least shrewd leaders and as stupid people never run the country, I hope that China will never be so stupid as to try to do what the US wants to do but has failed sadly.
US ignorance of China does not stop there. On June 1, US media Foreign Policy carried Reid Standish’s article “China’s New Silk Road Into Europe Is About More Than Money”.
The article is correct in regarding China’s Silk Road initiative as aiming at something more than money, but fails to see the Silk Road is for security of trade with Europe and that it has nothing to do with Chinese investment in Europe. Nor even for geopolitics. Do you think that China is rich enough to buy goodwill from Europe that is much richer than China.
Everybody knows that the US is going to deploy more of its military force to East Asia to contain China and US military strategists have been discussing the ways to attack China. I said in my book “Space Era Strategy: The Way China Beats The U.S.” that the US is stupid in sending its troops within the range of Chinese weapons to be destroyed by China and will thus leave inadequate navy to control the oceans and cut China’s trade lifelines.
Chinese leaders have the vision to see that developing enough strength to resist US aggression is far from enough. China will be in great trouble if US dominant navy cut China’s trade lifelines through the oceans, especially Indian Ocean for trade with Europe, Middle East and Africa. Inability to get oil from the Middle East alone will be enough to cause Chinese economy to collapse.
Therefore, China has to develop land routes to Europe through Russia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe and to the Middle East and Africa through Pakistan and Iran. The construction of infrastructures in China’s Silk Road economic belt helps the countries along the routes develop so that they will allow Chinese goods to go through them without trouble. China’s huge investment in Silk Road economic belt aims first of all at security of its trade with Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Now, US efforts to draw India to its side have pushed Pakistan closer to China so that China’s trade lifeline through China-Pakistan economic corridor is quite safe now. If the US has instead had drawn Pakistan close to its side, China would have had great difficulties in getting oil from the Middle East when the US blocks China’s sea route to the Middle East.
Now, China has achieved its goal in its One Belt, One Road initiative. It has not only land route through Pakistan but also sea route from a Pakistani port to the Middle East. Iran is now discussing the deal of trading lucrative oilfield for China’s aircraft-carrier-killer anti-ship missiles (according to mil.news.sina.com.cn’s Depth Column article on May 31). When Iran has such missiles, US warship will not be able to attack Chinese commercial ships sailing along Iranian coast.
Economically, China can sell the excessive capacity in its construction, power generation, mining and building material industries to the countries along the Silk Road economic belt. Such investment may bring no return at all, but as the capacity shall be scrapped whether China can sell it or not, selling it to those countries can bring at least some goodwill from those countries and perhaps some proceeds as when those countries’ economy grows, they will be able to make some payments for the supply.
From the above, you see how wise Chinese leaders are in their Silk Road economic belt and maritime Silk Road initiative.
The initiative has nothing to do with Chinese investment in developed European countries. China’s investment there aims at economic gains as it has lost confidence in US dollars and has to divert its investment to Europe where the prospects may be better.
Philippe Le Corre of the Brookings Institution, co-author of the recently published book China’s Offensive in Europe may be right in saying, “The European part of One Belt, One Road will not be a walk in the park, It’s not that simple to say, ‘China is going to come and rescue Europe.’ I don’t think there’s appetite for this.”
Certainly China is simply unable to come and rescue Europe.
Le Corre’s problem is that there is no such European part of One Belt, One Road in China’s investment in Europe. One Belt, One Road in Europe only concerns trade route through Eastern Europe to developed Western Europe. China needs to buy goodwill along the route but no need to buy goodwill from European countries not along the Road.
As for China’s development of artificial islands and military strength in the South China Sea, China does not need European goodwill nor can it buy European goodwill in that respect as China is simply not rich enough and as quite a few European countries are not corruptible by money.
China is strong enough to resist US interference in the South China Sea alone while the US has to wait for the development of its B-21 prompt strike bombers for attacking China. Aircraft carriers cannot attack China as China has lots of anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles to sink them. Nor can submarines as China has built artificial islands to control the South China Sea.
What the US is able to do now is to cut China’s trade lifelines though the oceans, but that will harm lots of countries including European countries that are doing big business with China. I wonder whether the US can afford losing those countries’ goodwill. Anyway, Chinese leaders are wise in their One Belt, One Road initiative to make the US unable to cut China’s trade lifelines to Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Foreign Policy’s article: full text of which can be viewed below:
China’s New Silk Road Into Europe Is About More Than Money
Beijing is spending billions on new ports and rail lines, but its ambitions for Europe are as much about geopolitics as commerce.
China is actively building out the European portion of its ambitious new “Silk Road” plan, with port deals from Greece to the Netherlands, railroad investments in Greece, Serbia, and Hungary, as well as a handful of historic, high-profile state visits this spring by President Xi Jinping.
Beijing’s multibillion-dollar plans to build overland and maritime links across Central and South Asia — whether that means huge investments in Pakistan or gas pipeline deals in places like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan — grab the lion’s share of attention. But the ultimate prize in the Silk Road plan — also known in China as the “One Belt, One Road” initiative — is someplace else: Europe.
That’s true both because Europe represents a bigger and richer market than the relatively poor countries that dot the steppe, and because Beijing’s ambitions aren’t purely commercial.
“It is not an economic project, it is a geopolitical project — and it is very strategic,” said Nadège Rolland, an analyst at the National Bureau for Asian Research, a think tank. As it has across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, China is trying to parlay its economic heft into bigger diplomatic influence in Europe, especially in cash-strapped states in the east and southeast.
That task is made easier thanks to the increasing weight and reach of Chinese state-owned companies. Beijing began encouraging consolidation among competing firms last year as a way of trying to deal with overcapacity in Chinese industry, where having several giant firms in the same sector was leading to inefficiencies.
The resulting mergers created giants like such as CRRC Corporation, formerly a pair of railroad equipment makers and now the world’s second-biggest industrial company, and COSCO, cobbled together from a pair of state-owned shipping firms and now the world’s fourth-largest shipping company.
Both of those mega-firms are active in China’s recent European investments: COSCO is snapping up stakes in ports, while CRRC is working to build new rail lines in Eastern Europe. Another state-owned giant, ChemChina, has been on a European buying spree in the last year, gobbling up agricultural firms, tire makers, and machine tool manufacturers. And their state-backed involvement makes clear that more is at stake than the financial bottom line.
“Most Chinese foreign direct investments are not normal foreign direct investments,” said Philippe Le Corre of the Brookings Institution, co-author of the recently published book China’s Offensive in Europe. “With a few exceptions, they just happen to have the whole Chinese state behind them.”
One of the unstated purposes of China’s entire Silk Road program is to buy political goodwill from countries along the way. Decades ago, Chinese investment in Africa often brought support from those countries for Chinese positions in the United Nations. Chinese investments in Afghanistan, for instance, have recently translated into Kabul’s support for China’s territorial positions in the South China Sea disputes.
In Europe, China’s investment push has indeed led to a few diplomatic victories. Fueled by big investments in the energy sector, Xi received red-carpet treatment from British leaders on a state visit last year, and China considers the U.K. its best friend in the West.
Several of Europe’s biggest countries, including the U.K., France, Germany, and Italy, supported China’s creation of a new international development bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, despite heated objections from the United States.
China is perhaps making its biggest inroads on Europe’s periphery. It has created a new grouping, known as the “16+1,” of the 16 Central and Eastern European countries including some inside and some outside the European Union. The informal club has responded to Chinese infrastructure investment with closer ties and a more compliant approach to issues that are prickly for Beijing, especially human rights.
The Czech Republic, for example, once outspoken on the subject of Tibetan independence, now hews closer to Beijing’s line regarding its continued control of the Himalayan nation. Beijing hailed Slovenia as one of a group of 40 countries China says back its position on the disputes in the South China Sea; plenty of other countries on that list, from Afghanistan to Mozambique to Venezuela, have also been on the receiving end of China’s economic largesse.
But China is also encountering plenty of pushback — and not just in Europe. In Central Asia, Beijing is a preferred partner for the region’s many autocratic governments who welcome China’s non-interference in their affairs. But China’s growing footprint there has received a much cooler reception from the local population.
Kazakhstan, which has inked $50 billion worth of deals with China, has been wracked since April by protests over the fears the government will open the country up to large-scale Chinese purchases of land. In neighboring Kyrgyzstan, mounting public pressure caused the government to abandon plans to offer mining concessions to Chinese firms in lieu of paying back $1 billion in loans.
In Europe, China’s geopolitical ambitions have run into growing opposition, both in the street and among some governments. Protesters defaced Chinese flags in the Czech Republic during Xi’s visit this spring, for example. And earlier this month, the European Parliament recommended against granting China “market economy status,” a label Beijing craves and which it believes it is entitled to 15 years after joining the World Trade Organization. The EU reticence is driven, in part, by concerns of continued unfair Chinese competition, including “dumping” the detritus of its industrial overcapacity in Europe, which makes life more difficult for struggling European firms.
Europe has also begun to push back against China’s territorial ambitions in the South China Sea. Slovenia made clear, in contrast to Beijing’s public pronouncements, that it does not take sides on the dispute.
In April, France signed a $40 billion deal to build advanced new submarines for Australia, prompted by French concerns about Chinese military expansion in the Western Pacific. More recently, Britain urged all countries including China to respect an upcoming ruling by an international arbitration panel on the South China Seas imbroglio; Beijing has attacked the tribunal’s legitimacy and vowed to ignore whatever ruling it hands down.
Those setbacks suggest there’s a limit to the leverage that Chinese investment can buy in Europe, despite the region’s continued economic woes, said Le Corre.
“The European part of One Belt, One Road will not be a walk in the park,” he said. “It’s not that simple to say, ‘China is going to come and rescue Europe.’ I don’t think there’s appetite for this.”
Reid Standish contributed to this article.
In conventional perspective, China needs at least 3 aircraft carriers to control the vast sea areas in the South China Sea that China claims as its marine territories.
That certainly takes lots of time especially the training of lots of pilots for carrier-based fighter jets.
Moreover, the fire power on those carriers is limited. If they are not big enough, they can only carry 40 fighters each. The number of the three together is only a little larger than one US nuclear aircraft carriers. Moreover, lots of funds are necessary for building, maintaining and operating the three carriers.
China’s gifted strategist says in his The Art of War, “Subduing the enemy by stratagem is the best of best”.
Instead of building expensive carriers and encountering the great difficulties in training pilots for carriers, China has developed a wise strategy that enables it to obtain much greater fire power for absolute control of the South China Sea—It build more than six large artificial islands to deploy on them the best radar, much more fighter jets, bombers, early warning aircrafts, air-defense missiles, rocket cannons, land-based anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles and even intermediate ballistic missiles. The fire power will be much greater than that of a few aircraft carrier battle groups.
Aircraft carrier battle groups cost a fortune to build, maintain and operate, but artificial islands cost much less to build. It can bring income to cover the expense of their maintenance and operation from fishery, fish farming, tourism and the facilities for offshore exploitation of natural resources. They are cash earners instead of spenders.
The South China Sea is China’s now. Period! It is not only entirely controlled by China but also a cash cow for China.
However, in case of war, China shall have the capabilities to protect its trade lifelines at high sea, which is dominated by US aircraft carrier battle fleets.
This blogger thinks China will build aerospace bombers to deal with US carrier fleets. He describes the bombers in his book Space Era Strategy: The Way China Beats The U.S. However, it takes a lot of time to develop such bombers though building comparable aircraft carrier fleets is more time-consuming.
China needs a short cut. It again has its wise strategy to subdue the enemy. It will build large floating artificial islands in the oceans.
Global Times gives a report on the exhibition of achievements in defense science, technology and industries obtained through joint military and civilian development that opened on July 16. One of the important exhibits in the exhibition is the model of a huge floating artificial island that China plans to build in the ocean.
Such an island will be built by connecting pre-constructed modules. Its major platform will be 2,400 meters by 3,200 meters to contain a dock, floating shipyard, parking aprons and runway and a huge wind power plant to ensure its power supply.
In peace time, the island is to be used for ship maintenance, fishery, fish farming, tourism, etc. and generates much cash income to cover the costs for the maintenance and operation of the island. In war time, it serves as a military base with much greater fire power than a dozen aircraft carrier battle groups as the troops deployed on it will be similar to that deployed on a large artificial island that China has built in the South China Sea.
A few such artificial islands in one ocean will be powerful enough to protect Chinese ships in the ocean.
For cheap and fast transport to the artificial islands, China has successfully developed large ground effect vehicles and is developing its large amphibious aircrafts.
Article by Chan Kai Yee as comment on Global Times’ report “China displays its top military industrial achievement – artificial islands on oceans that can be used as military bases”. There is summary translation of the report from Chinese.
Since US President Obama adopted his new policy of pivot to Asia, the US has made great efforts to encircle China. It has exploited China’s maritime territorial disputes with Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam and border disputes with India to encircle China militarily in China’s east, west and south and tried hard to exploit the disputes to pit ASEAN against China diplomatically and establish its Trans-Pacific Partnership to contain China economically.
It has made some progress though has not achieved substantial success there. However, it leaves a large hole in its encirclement to the west of China: Pakistan in addition to its failure to contain China in its north through Russia.
In fact, Russia is of key importance to the encirclement. It is relatively easy for the US to pit Russia against China as there was military conflict between China and Russia’s predecessor the Soviet Union in late 1960s and early 1970s. Moreover Russia regards China’s rise as a threat.
However, Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping exploit the remnant enmity between Russia as the successor of the Soviet Union and the US to develop an alliance with Russia. Xi is lucky that the Ukraine issue almost entirely diverted the bunt of US pivot from China to Russia.
Due to US strategy illiteracy, the US has focused on developing its anti-A2/AD capabilities against China but fails to see that China’ geographical advantage in using its land-based missiles and air force to defeat any US anti-A2/AD attempts.
If the US had been wise, it should have adopt the strategy of maintaining naval dominance at high sea to enable it to cut China’s marine trade lifelines at any time. On the other hand, it would have pit Russia against China to prevent China from having an alternative trade lifeline through Russia on land.
That is not a big error as the US always has difficulties in dealing with Russia, while the land route is too long for China.
US critical strategy illiteracy lies in its failure to see the vital importance of Pakistan in its encirclement of China.
Pakistan has long been a close US ally due to US support for it in its conflicts with India. US efforts to win over India to encircle China alienated Pakistan.
In secret, Chinese leaders see the tremendous importance of Pakistan as its link to the west. Pakistan may provide an alternative land and sea route for China’s trade with the Middle East and Europe.
If China has succeeded in developing such an alternative trade lifeline, it will not fear that US navy may cut its trade lifelines to the west especially its vital oil supply from the Middle East.
Therefore, China has made decades of efforts to tighten its ties with Pakistan. Now, there is the best timing for China to develop its alternative trade lifeline through Pakistan as US has alienated Pakistan by its infringement on Pakistani territorial sovereignty in sending its special force to kill Bin Laden in Pakistan and efforts to win over India while China has become very popular in Pakistan through decades of efforts.
In addition, China has abundant financial, technical and industrial resources to develop that alternative trade lifeline.
Four generations of Chinese leaders Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping have the vision to make the trade route possible through decades of efforts while none of US leaders have ever had such vision.
China is lucky that not only its leaders but Iranian leaders also see the importance of Pakistan as a link with China.
Iran Daily says in its report “Iran backs pipeline to China under ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative’ yesterday, ‘Iran says it has ambitious plans to extend its energy delivery network to China under Beijing’s massive ‘One Belt, One Road’ push to boost regional connectivity.
“This has been announced by Iran’s Ambassador to China Ali Asghar Khaji.
“Khaji said Iran would expand its railways, roads, ports, telecoms sector and energy security under a five-year development plan. ‘Setting up an extended network of energy pipelines would help regional security and development,’ he told China’s media.”
There has already been an agreement between Iran and Pakistan to build a gas pipeline between the two countries. Iran has built the part of the pipeline in it, but Pakistan lacks the fund to build it in spite of its urgent need for the gas to ease its pressing energy shortage.
During Xi’s recent visit to Pakistan, an agreement was signed for China to build the pipeline for Pakistan.
Iran Daily quote Khaji as saying, “I don’t think it’s too far away [for] this pipeline [from Iran] to be extended to China through Pakistan. That is something that would be of common interest to Iran, China and Pakistan.”
The three countries are now making China’s alternative trade lifeline through Pakistan a reality in a few years.
Source: Iran Daily “Iran backs pipeline to China under ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative”
Full text of Iran Daily’s report may be viewed at http://www.iran-daily.com/News/116546.html?catid=3&title=Iran-backs-pipeline-to-China-under–One-Belt–One-Road–initiative
“China and Pakistan are tie ge’ermen (iron brothers).” That is the caption in Chinese of the photos of Pakistani and Chinese leaders on some of the many banners in Pakistani streets to welcome visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping.
This blogger saw feature shots of the banner in CCTV’s primetime report on Xi’s visit to Pakistan.
The term tie ge’ermen is quite new in Chinese.
Traditionally, for more than a thousand years in Chinese history close friends ties the bond of sworn brotherhood but that tradition seems obsolete now.
When I was in primary school, I was fascinated by the sworn brotherhood of Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei in the well-known Chinese fiction The Romance of Three Kingdoms and suggested to have sworn-brother relation with my closest classmates but none of them was interested in such a relation. I did not know why.
Perhaps, at that time we lived in the areas that were foreign concessions a few years earlier, where strong Western influence remained. Westerners are not interested in sworn-brother relations.
Perhaps, it was due to the then Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek’ poor examples. Chiang offered and became Feng Yuxiang’s sworn brother when he needed Feng’s help in defeating the warlords in the north to become Chinese leader. However, later he fought a war against and defeated his sworn elder brother Feng by the trick of buying over the generals under Feng.
He offered and became powerful Northeast warlord Zhang Xueliang’s sworn brother to make Zhang accept his national leadership, but later he placed his younger sworn brother Zhang under house arrest for decades.
Moreover, Chinese Mafia gangs regard their organizations as sworn brotherhood. They worshiped Guan Yu as their guiding god due to the description in The Romance of Three Kingdoms of Guan’s loyalty to his sworn elder brother Liu Bei.
However, a Mafia is in fact not an organization of brothers. Its members call its head “Laotouzi (old man)” the term people call their fathers at home.
When I studied in Anhui and did business in northern China for years after I had grown up, I never heard anybody mention that he had sworn brother relation with another person. As far as I know, sworn brotherhood is obsolete in China since 1950s.
Since then, the term “ge’ermen (brothers)” equivalent to “buddies” in English had been viral among people who regard one another as close friends.
However, during the Cultural Revolution, it was common that a person betrayed his buddies under severe pressure from Red Guards or Rebels. People now want iron bond relations among his buddies. The term “tie ge’ermen (iron brothers)” becomes viral now.
The iron bond between iron brothers is so strong that no pressure however severe can break it.
In reality, people may have iron brother relations but can countries have such relations? Iron brotherhood is among equals. There is no elder brother or leader in the group of iron brothers. There have been iron bond relations between the US or the Soviet Union and its allies. But it’s not equal relations. The US and the Soviet Union are the bosses to be followed by their allies.
In a group of buddies in Shanghai, there is usually a big brother equivalent to the leader of the buddy group. As a result, there is no term equivalent to tie ge’ermen in Shanghai dialect.
The term “sidang (diehard friend)” is perhaps its equivalent term in Hong Kong’s Cantonese dialect.
When I just arrived at Hong Kong, I could not find a job and had to work at a relative’s retails shop as I did not understand Cantonese. I saw my relative’s friend came to borrow more money three months after he had borrowed a large sum from my relative and had not made any repayment as he promised. My relative draw a check for the sum he asked without hesitation. I was surprised and asked my relative why he lent more to the person. It was obvious that the person was in financial difficulties.
My relative replied that the person was one of his sidings. He gave me the advice that if I had become a small entrepreneur, I had to have my own group of sidings. In such a group, when one is in difficulties, the others will help him out.
It turned out that the borrower was a factory owner who moved his factory to Chinese mainland to exploit the cheap labor there. He lacked working capital when he had accepted lots of orders due to the low prices of his products. He was unable to borrow more from banks as he had already mortgaged his residential unit and factory premises, but he avoided bankruptcy as he was helped out by his diehard friends. He became much richer than his friends later when his enterprise succeeded in the Mainland.
The sidang relationship in Hong Kong is similar to that of tie ge’ermen in Mainland China. All the friends are equal. There is no big brother who wants others to be loyal to him.
That is the attraction of such relationship. China is Pakistan’s iron brother. It will lend Pakistan lots of funds but on no conditions. And China takes great risks in doing so due to the problems in Pakistan such as militancy, separatism, political volatility and official corruption that BBC points out in its report “China’s Xi Jinping agrees $46bn superhighway to Pakistan” today.
However, BBC is wrong in quoting correspondents as saying that China’s project in Pakistan marks a major advance in China’s plans to boost its influence in Central and South Asia.
Such a relationship is too risky to be an offensive one to boost China’s influence. Just like what my relatives said, the diehard friendship or iron brother relationship is established for survival.
Such a relationship is possible only because of the serious danger each of the friends or brothers faces so that they are willing to take the risk to help one another.
For China, the China-Pakistan economic corridor will provide it with the safe route to get energy from and export goods to the Middle East and Europe through Iran.
For Pakistan, it will enable Pakistan to become rich and have Chinese aids in dealing with a rising India.
That is why an iron brother relationship is possible between China and Pakistan.
Source: CCTV “Xi Jinping arrived at Islamabad to begin his state visit to Pakistan” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)
Source: BBC “China’s Xi Jinping agrees $46bn superhighway to Pakistan”
The full text of BBC report can be found at