Beijing, China. Just as Syria has been torn apart over an east west dispute on where a Saudi pipeline would be placed years ago, future conflicts are possible as China sets forth its great expansion effort with a silk road from Beijing to Berlin.
China is gearing up for a major diplomatic offensive as it welcomes Vladimir Putin among 20 international leaders for a summit on building a “new Silk Road” to bring China closer to the world. The One Belt, One Road project – the centrepiece of Chinese international commercial engagement.
The ambitious plan involves a US $1 trillion dollar mega-investment to transform China’s transport and trade links through Eurasia and South-East Asia. The aim is for China to become a world leader in trade and securing its place as a 21st-century superpower.
China’s project has two strands, “one road”, which is road and rail connections, and “one belt”, which is about the sea. The sea element is focused on everything from a harbour development in Malaysia to a new free trade agreement with New Zealand, while the land part has primarily focused on Central Asia as the most direct route to Europe.
Better links to Europe and the Middle East and potential access to seaports point to greater trading opportunities and extra revenues from transit fees to and from China. Each republic has been enthusiastic about participating, and there have so far been railway lines completed from China to Iran and Afghanistan via the region.
Project construction may be slowed down by unfinished border demarcation and disputes in several unsettled areas, especially between Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. There is also a cautious and sometimes hostile attitude towards Chinese migrants and workers from local people, especially in Kazakhstan.
Russia is closely interested despite hosting no initiatives to date. Relations between China and Russia tend to be “coldly cordial”, turning on mutual support on some international issues such as Syria, and peaceful coexistence in Eurasia.
The lack of western support for a more developed trans-asian corridor is probably no great surprise as CIA efforts at destablaization of Russia’s southern islamic underbelly continues. A sign that no good idea goes unpunished in the world of competition between a western ideology rooted in greed and an eastern one of progress.