Post link 13 June 2015, 11:49
WRITTEN BY Steve LeVine June 09, 2015 qz.com

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Workers complete welding the last pipe links at the construction site on the steppe near the country's commercial hub of Almaty July 10, 2009.A last weld.(Reuters/Pavel Mikheyev)

All these land and marine projects align with existing Chinese natural-resource investments on the continent. For example, the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) has large oil projects in Chad and Mozambique, and Chinese manufacturers are fast setting up Ethiopian factories that rely on cheap local labor.

The new Chinese empire is enveloping its neighbors …

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Map 5: The China-Laos Railway(Radio Free Asia)

In addition to its planned high-speed rail network into Malaysia and Singapore (map 2) and Laos (map 5) into southeast Asia (see map 5 for Laotian portion), China plans a canal across the Isthmus of Kra in Thailand, a deep-water container port and industrial park in Kuantan, Malaysia, and a $511-million expansion of Male airport in the Maldives.
… and nations further afield in the Pacific

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Map 6: Chinese investments in the South Seas, by dollar amount(Lowly Institute)

China wants to dominate not only the South and East China seas, but far into the Pacific (map 6). According to the Lowy Institute, transportation comprises by far the largest portion of $2.5 billion in Chinese assistance and commercial credit to South Sea nations. Among the projects are:

Fiji: A $158 million hydroelectric plant and several sports complexes, including the 4,000-seat Vodafone stadium in Suva.
Samoa: A $100 million hospital in Apia, a $40 million terminal and upgraded runway at Faleolo Airport, and a $140 million wharf at Vaiusu.

Tonga: A $12 million government building to be called St. George Palace, and two small Chinese turboprop aircraft for domestic routes aboard Real Tonga airlines. The aircraft deal has been controversial because neither of the planes are certified for use in the West.

Vanuatu: Two more turboprops, this time for Air Vanuatu, and $60 million to build a Port Vila campus of the University of the South Pacific and a Parliament House (both loans have been forgiven).
Pakistan is pivotal to China’s Silk Road …

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Map 7: The Pakistan-China rail link(Xinhua)

Why has China lavished $42 billion in infrastructure projects on Pakistan? The two have always been allies. But China has a particular goal: It wants to contain Uighur separatists who have been fomenting violence in the western province of Xinjiang. Some of these separatists have sanctuaries in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Beijing has pushed hard for both countries to hand over Uighurs living there.

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But sending goods through Pakistan (map 7) also helps China avoid the Malacca Strait (map 8). Much of Beijing’s oil and other natural resources passes through this narrow, 500-mile-long stretch of sea between Malaysia and Indonesia. China worries that, if its relations with Washington become truly hostile, the US could theoretically blockade the strait and starve the country of its lifeblood resources. That is in large part why Beijing is financing a deep Arabian Sea port at Gwadur, and the 1,125-mile-long super-highway, high-speed railway and oil-pipeline route to the Chinese city of Kashgar.

… as is Central Asia …

Central Asia has been an almost exclusively Russian playground for almost two centuries. It still is when it comes to pure muscle. But in matters of cash, China is fast moving in.

The relationship revolves around oil and natural gas. Turkmenistan supplies more than half of China’s imported gas. It gets there through three, 1,150-mile-long pipelines; a fourth pipeline is soon to begin construction. China is the only foreign nation that Turkmenistan allows to drill for gas onshore, in particular from Galkynysh, the second-largest gasfield in the world. China’s $5 billion share of the Kashagan oilfield in Kazakhstan is one of its largest oil stakes anywhere. Xi also has signed $15 billion in gas and uranium deals in Uzbekistan.

… and Russia

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Map 9: The ties that bind Russia to China.(Reuters)

Two years ago, Russia announced a pivot towards China. The centerpiece of the shift is two natural-gas pipelines (the larger of the two is the dotted red line in map 9) through which a fifth of China’s gas imports would flow. The deal had some snags, but they reportedly have been worked out, and construction is to begin soon. In addition, China is to build a $242 billion, 4,300-mile high-speed railway from Beijing to Moscow, a two-day trip compared with the current six-day Trans-Mongolian Express.
China is speeding up how fast goods get to Europe …

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Map 10: The Maritime Silk Road(China Daily)

The Maritime Silk Road (the solid blue line in map 10) will enter Europe through a $260 million Chinese-funded upgrade of the Greek port of Piraeus. From there, rail service will continue into the Balkans. Ships from China will also make port in Lisbon, Portugal, and Duisburg, Germany. To take the network into the heart of Europe, Beijing has agreed to finance a 250-mile bullet train, costing up to $3 billion, from Belgrade to Budapest. Separately, China’s new 8,011-mile cargo railroad from Yiwu to Madrid is taking away business from far more time-consuming truck shipping.

… and has piled into US real estate

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(Real Capital Analytics)

For now, the Chinese web of infrastructure does not extend to the US. Instead, what has been built elsewhere is serving as a jumping-off point to the gigantic US market. High-speed trains are only now starting to be planned in the US, and Chinese firms are front-runners to win contracts, including a $1 billion contest for the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles route, expected to be worth $68 billion. China’s CNR Corp. is already providing 284 passenger cars worth $566 million to the Boston subway system.
Another big splash: the United States is China’s favored destination for real estate investment (see chart above). This has included commercial jewels such as New York’s Waldorf Astoria ($1.95 billion to Angbang Insurance) and the Chase Manhattan Plaza ($725 million to Fosun). But the bigger sums have been spent in all-cash deals by wealthy Chinese for residential properties (pdf, page 12).
Last but not least, China has polar ambitions

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A general view shows Chinese ice breaker ship "Xuelong", also called "Snow Dragon", docking at Tianjin November 3, 2011.The Chinese icebreaker “Snow Dragon.”(Reuters/China Daily)

Though the closest Chinese territory gets to the Arctic Circle is a thousand miles away, China nonetheless calls itself a “near-Arctic state.” Chinese oil company Cnooc has a majority share in Iceland’s Dreki oil and natural gas field, and Beijing established the Arctic Yellow River Station, a permanent research facility on Norway’s Spitsbergen Island. In Antarctica, China has four research stations, structures that allow nations to stake a claim to the continent. Plans for a fifth station at a place called Inexpressible Island are under way. It is positioning itself to move for the continent’s resources when a 1959 treaty guaranteeing its wilderness status expires in 2048.

Some of the infrastructure China is creating around the world will align with Western economic interests. But to the extent that it does, that will be inadvertent. Some of the most modern transportation infrastructure going up not only in China, but around the developing world, is deliberately linked to China. It is meant to make the global economy a friendly place for Chinese commerce.
That does not make China’s ambitions necessarily menacing or pernicious. But it does make them China-centric. It’s worth remembering that this way of doing economic development is not a Chinese invention. As Michael Pillsbury, author of “The Hundred Year Marathon,” tells Quartz, China’s ambitions are rooted in “a fierce sense of competitiveness which they claim they learned from the America of the 1800s.”


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