Source: https://www.merics.org/fileadmin/user_upload/pic/China-Mapping/ChinaMapping_Silk_Road_DEC2015.pdf. Note: Image modified by author by adding Saudi Arabia and Gwadar for emphasis.
In May 2001 China and Pakistan announced the building of Gwadar port in southwest Pakistan. Since then Gwadar plays a pivotal role towards China's vision of making the Silk Road a reality. In fact if one takes a closer look, China's vision of the old Silk Road, now known as One Belt One Road (OBOR), was first unveiled in September 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to Kazakhstan. This project, and one needs to state this with some caution, is something that a number of countries such as India, Iran and the U.S. would rather see fail because of the economic leverage that China will gain.
For instance in January 2003, Iran and India reached an agreement to improve Iran's southeast port of Chabahar. Both Iran and India have announced their strategic plan to link this port to Afghanistan and on to landlocked Central Asian countries for their access to the Persian Gulf. Since this port is in close proximity to Gwadar, it is in obvious competition to what Pakistan and China are trying to achieve. To further complicate these developments the U.S. has openly come out in support of the Chabahar port.
Please see video clip: This is about a 3 minute recording of U.S. General John Nicholson who
is commander of all western forces in Afghanistan. On February 9, 2017, he testified to
the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee about the prevailing conditions in Afghanistan
including the challenges they face. During his Q & A with senator Lindsey Graham,
General Nicholson verified U.S. support for Chabahar port and he also labels the Taliban
as enemies of the U.S. This was an interesting contradiction to the statement of former
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden who said in a interview to Newsweek on December 19, 2011
that "the Taliban per se is not our enemy." All this shows that the U.S. narrative of its
war on terrorism is now so muddled that it is difficult to believe if the U.S. is in Afghanistan
just for terrorism or for geopolitical interests. It is increasingly clear that it is the latter that drives U.S. interests in Afghanistan. Interestingly, U.S. cooperation with Iran is not limited to Afghanistan, it is ongoing in Iraq and possibly Syria too, as was explained by Rex Tillerson during his Senate confirmation hearing on January 11, 2017, for Secretary of State. While Tillerson speaks on sanctions on other countries, he finally answers the question on Iran. All this goes back to the statement that former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has made on a number of occasions, that in foreign policy there are 'no permanent friends or permanent enemies.' One must recall that during the Cold War, especially when the Soviets marched into Afghanistan in 1980's, India was a Soviet ally against the U.S and now India is a U.S. ally in Afghanistan and it has the same vision as the U.S., which is to contain China.
Meanwhile once the Gwadar project is completed it will connect eastern China to the Atlantic ocean through the United Kingdom by land and railroad. A test run of trains has already taken place across this route. Some analysts are calling this the new Economic World Order.
In the 1997 September/October issue of Foreign Affairs journal, Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote a brilliant futuristic article, A Geostrategy for Eurasia. From 1977 to 1981, he was the U.S. National Security advisor during President Jimmy Carter’s administration. This article I assume was written for the U.S. policy makers and generally for the world at large. Since this was a 15 page article, a small portion of that is being shared here, which is most relevant in today’s world. He said:
"Eurasia accounts for 75 percent of the world's population, 60 percent of its GNP, and 75 percent of its energy resources. Collectively, Eurasia’s potential power overshadows even America's.
Eurasia is the world’s axial supercontinent. A power that dominated Eurasia would exercise decisive influence over two of the world's three most economically productive regions, Western Europe and East Asia. A glance at the map also suggests that a country dominant in Eurasia would almost automatically control the Middle East and Africa. With Eurasia now serving as the decisive geopolitical chessboard, it no longer suffices to fashion one policy for Europe and another for Asia. What happens with the distribution of power on the Eurasian landmass will be of decisive importance to America's global primacy and historical legacy.
In the western periphery of Eurasia, the key players will continue to be France and Germany, and America's central goal should be to continue to expand the democratic European bridgehead. In the Far East, China is likely to be increasingly pivotal, and the United States will not have a Eurasian strategy unless a Sino-American political consensus is nurtured. In Eurasia's center, the area between an enlarging Europe and a regionally rising China will remain a political black hole until Russia firmly redefines itself as a postimperial state. Meanwhile, to the south of Russia, Central Asia [Pakistan and Afghanistan] threatens to become a caldron of ethnic conflicts and great-power rivalries."
I argue Pakistan and Afghanistan are just those South/Central Asian countries where the U.S. continues to struggle to get it’s foreign and war policy right so that its handpicked leaders in Afghanistan along with India will continue to rule and be a source of irritant to Pakistan and keep it contained. A destabilized Pakistan will make China's project in Pakistan all the more difficult and could lead to other challenges in the region.
In brief, what Dr. Brzezinski envisioned in his article twenty years ago, is now becoming a reality. China is the country that is leading the way in the connectivity of Eurasia as recent developments show.
It is important to point out the thinking of strategists such as Dr. Brzezinski whose prism is narrow, only willing to see, how the U.S., or a small group of countries may dominate the world without going to war against each other. I say this with the utmost respect for Dr. Brzezinski, who truly has been an inspiration for researchers. If he had not opened the window for people like me, I seriously doubt if I could have written this book. Dr. Brzezinski passed away on May 26, 2017, leaving behind a legacy that has historical consequences. He was the architect that helped China and the U.S. establish diplomatic relations in January 1979 when the Soviet Union was making preparations to march into Afghanistan. But the fact remains he was born in an era where the choices were not many. It was dominate or be dominated by the mighty Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union, and now Russia, holds a similar outlook. The current war in Iraq and Syria is case and point. According to some accounts, since the U.S. war began in 2003, (under false premises) 2 million people, mostly civilians, have died and well over 10 million have become refugees in neighboring countries and as far away as Europe. Both the U.S. and Russia are in the Middle East for self-interest - which is primarily to control the flow of oil. The placement of puppet regimes wherever possible who will then promote their policies is also a chief aim; and finally if the Middle East can be carved into new nation(s), as was the case after World War I, then that too is a goal in pursuing their future interests. The main actors in this carnage are the U.S., Russia and Iran. The terrorist organization ISIS came along later.
It will be decades before a new group of civilian and military thinkers in the U.S. and Russia will come along who will view the world as a place where co-existence will be a preferred policy, rather than one which requires domination.
That said one can only hope that China ignores Dr. Brzezinski’s vocabulary of “domination” and “control.” Because once upon a time the Soviets too were of this mindset and they are now a vanquished power. By most accounts the influence of the U.S. is no longer the same as it once was after the collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1989. The U.S. could have had it all. But then the neo-colonialists came along during President George H. W. Bush’s term – meaning people like Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz.
Today’s world at large is tired of great powers or rising mid-size powers aspiring for domination of the smaller countries. Hence a more inclusive world is a policy that seems sustainable and must be adopted by China if it intends to see the fulfillment of its aspirations of becoming an important member of the world community.
Someone like me who has tracked these developments sees that China is not looking to be the dominant power that was the hallmark of the Soviet and U.S. policy after World War II. Pakistan is one glaring example with whom China has not only shared game changing military technologies so that Pakistan not only can defend itself against aggressive countries, but also protect China’s interests. Towards this vision China has made Pakistan a pivotal country in its Eurasia policy. Port Gwadar and its land route connection to China’s Xinjiang province in western China are prime examples. Unless the economic benefits are shared amongst all those countries that are part of China’s Eurasia policy, it will be difficult for China to succeed.
It is in this context that one needs to see the significance of Pakistan to China, particularly its Gwadar port that connects China in the far east to the rest of the Middle East and East Africa. If Pakistan had been denuclearized by the U.S. and India in December 2001, as my book The End of the Great Game argues, then China's unhindered flow of oil from the Middle East may well have come under threat from the U.S. navy, which is the largest in the world.
According to most analysts, after the U.S., China is the second largest consumer of oil in the world at about 11 million barrels a day. Over half of China's oil needs come from the Middle East with over a million barrels coming from Saudi Arabia alone. In just the last two years China has publicly announced to committing over $46 billion to build a alternative land route from Gwadar to its Xiniang province in the west, known as CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor). This gives China a alternative route if it faces problems with the U.S. in the South China Sea.
As explained earlier, since this is a long term project to be completed overs years, CPEC is
also seen by the U.S. and India as a impediment to their own hegemony in the region. The U.S.
supports the Chabahar port, as stated by U.S. General John Nicholson, the commanding officer of
western forces in Afghanistan, who said "We welcome the recent economic treaty between Iran, Afghanistan and India on the Chabahar port."
Therefore to secure the CPEC project from terrorist threats and hostile forces from across the border in Afghanistan, the Pakistan army has raised a separate group of 15,000 troops. With competing interests among regional and global powers such as China and the United States, it remains to be seen if this project triggers great power conflict, which will undoubtedly involve Pakistan, India, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
As Pakistan was part of British India Empire, there was always a desire among a group of Muslims to one day create Pakistan once the British left India. That vision was laid out on March 23, 1940 when the founders of Pakistan announced their desire to create Pakistan. Since then March 23 is celebrated each year in Pakistan with a military parade.
In 2017 the same day was celebrated with its normal fanfare of military parades. Except in 2017 for the first time Pakistan had invited military contingents from China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. If the intent of these four nations was to send a symbolic message to its friends and foes of the growing bond between these nations, then indeed that was achieved. Below are military contingents from China and Saudi Arabia.
Above: The following day on March 16, 2017 in a interesting coincidence, Pakistan's army chief, General Qamar Jawed Bajwa also arrived in Beijing for a three day visit. After meeting China's top military leadership, General Bajwa met China's foreign minister Wang Yi.
One Belt, One Road (OBOR)
The China-Pakistan economic corridor has tied into the other initiative also led by China. This is known as the One Belt, One Road (OBOR).
After the April 6, 2017 three day visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to meet U.S. President Donald Trump, a number of analysts around the world gave their impressions of the competing issues between the U.S. and China. Once such view was of former U.S. treasury secretary Lawrence Summers, which was published by the Washington Post on April 9, 2017. According to Summers:
"Of course there is Xi’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, which envisions infrastructure investment and foreign aid to connect China and Europe. In a little-noticed development, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a Chinese-sponsored competitor to the World Bank, has announced that it will invest all over the world. Already, Chinese investment in Latin America and Africa significantly exceeds that by the United States, the World Bank and relevant regional development banks. And China will soon be the leading exporter of clean energy technologies.
This investment will, over time, secure Chinese access to raw materials, allow Chinese firms to gain economies of scale and help China to win friends. The United States has chosen not to join the Asian infrastructure bank, to undermine rather than lead global cooperation on climate change and, if the president gets his way, to sharply cut back foreign aid. In doing so, it is accelerating a loss of its preeminence in the global competition for prestige and influence. Perhaps this development is inevitable, but it is a mistake to accelerate it."
While Summers may have his own reasons to warm the Chinese that "it is a mistake to accelerate it," the Chinese, it seems have their own schedule and they are moving fast on this project. Bottom line it seems, that OBOR is in full notice of the western world and it is likely to cause discomfort to those who were hoping that the 21st century will be the "American century." One can only hope that the 21st century and beyond will be centuries that will include all mankind and not be viewed myopically as "American Century" or "Asian Century." The ongoing slaughter of humans in Iraq and Syria, is testament that those under the administration of President George W. Bush, who once had a dream of the "21st American century" have been proved so bloody wrong. That it was under false pretext of invading Iraq in 2003 because Iraq, according to the Bush administration had weapons of mass destruction, a U.S. war was imposed upon a country where hundreds of thousands of innocent people have now died. Later that war was expanded into Syria. One hopes that the world will simply not forget this period.
Since 2013, OBOR is being widely discussed among other western capitals of the world. One interesting take on OBOR comes from Australia, a country that is closer to China in proximity. The article that is being posted below was taken from the Parliament of Australia website intended for its parliament members reading. Since the article was found on a government website, it is assumed that this article was placed here with the intention of educating the public at large. In places where italics are used by me, it is done for emphasis purpose only particularly in connection to Pakistan and Gwadar. No copyright infringement is intended.
Beginning of article.....
China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative
Geoff Wade, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security
The ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) initiative is a Chinese economic and strategic agenda by which the two ends of Eurasia, as well as Africa and Oceania, are being more closely tied along two routes–one overland and one maritime. Supporters suggest that the initiative permits new infrastructure and economic aid to be provided to needy economies. Critics claim that it facilitates Chinese economic and strategic domination of the countries along these routes. OBOR provides a global context for China’s growing economic links with Australia.
The ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) initiative is a foreign policy and economic strategy of the People’s Republic of China. The term derives from the overland ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ and the ‘21st-Century Maritime Silk Road’, concepts introduced by PRC President Xi Jinping in 2013. These are the two major axes along which China proposes to economically link Europe to China through countries across Eurasia and the Indian Ocean. The OBOR initiative also links to Africa and Oceania. In March 2015, the PRC issued an action plan for realising this initiative. While the OBOR initiative is being coordinated by China’s National Development and Reform Commission, it also heavily involves the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Commerce.
The initiative envisages the building of six major economic cooperation corridors and several key maritime pivot points across Eurasia:
On land, the plan is to build a new Eurasian land bridge and develop the economic corridors of: China-Mongolia-Russia; China-Central Asia-West Asia; the China-Indochina peninsula; China-Pakistan; and Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar ... On the seas, the initiative will focus on jointly building smooth, secure and efficient transport routes connecting major sea ports along the belt and road.
Formally, OBOR emphasises five key areas of cooperation:
But it is infrastructure such as railways, roads, ports, energy systems and telecommunications networks which is receiving most attention.
The overland ‘Belt’ involves the creation of an economic and trade corridor extending from China’s west through Central Asia, and finally to Europe. The first step is to further link Central Asian states to the Chinese economy, while the longer-distance initiatives include railway connections between China and Europe. The ‘Belt’ initiative calls for the integration of the Eurasian land mass into a cohesive economic area.
For the maritime ‘Road’, China’s development of ports and hubs across the Indo-Pacific is a key aspect of the initiative. Purchase and construction of port facilities and associated economic zones in Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, SriLanka, Myanmar, Pakistan, Kenya, Tanzania, Oman and Djibouti are intended to provide China with maritime access and economic benefit across the Indian Ocean. These will connect to Piraeus, Greece’s major port, which has been bought by Chinese shipping group COSCO and which will allow direct access to the markets of Europe.
Foremost among the key projects which have been promoted as focal parts of the OBOR initiative are the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which provides China’s western provinces with access to the Indian Ocean through the Pakistani port of Gwadar, and the Bangladesh China India Myanmar Corridor, which will give Yunnan Province access to the Bay of Bengal.
Funding for the initiative is a key issue. China’s policy banks are providing massive funds for Chinese enterprises to operate along these axes, while further funding will be provided through the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), funded by countries globally. The AIIB was created precisely to service projects under OBOR. The projects funded by the first loans issued by AIIB were in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Tajikistan, all countries which China is trying to include within its OBOR initiative.
Hong Kong is also being tapped. In his policy address in January 2016, the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, CY Leung, underlined that Hong Kong would play an active financial role in OBOR and would facilitate educational exchanges between Hong Kong and ‘OBOR countries’. A ‘Hong Kong Belt and Road Summit’ was also convened in May 2016 to allow Zhang Dejiang, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, to outline ‘Hong Kong's Four Unique Advantages’ as a hub for OBOR projects. Then in July 2016, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority launched the Infrastructure Financing Facilitation Office, a new entity to facilitate fundraising for projects related to the OBOR initiative. The Hong Kong Trade Development Council has also arranged visits to Thailand for Chinese investors to promote OBOR investment.
Singapore is also essential to promoting offshore economic activities by Chinese entities. The China Construction Bank signed an MOU with International Enterprise Singapore in April 2016, providing S$30 billion in financial support to Singaporean and Chinese companies jointly investing in OBOR projects. A new centre in Singapore to provide project financing and related services to projects is also being planned.
While China claims that OBOR will ‘include 65 countries, 4.4 billion people and about 40 percent of global GDP’, the current realities are much more pedestrian. China has reportedly established 75 overseas economic and trade cooperation zones in 35 countries as part of the OBOR initiative. OBOR, however, remains inchoate and still strives for external endorsement and support.
China’s other OBOR interests
It is clear that China has broader uses for the increased influence it hopes to enjoy through the OBOR initiative.
The Bank of China has clearly noted that OBOR is intended to make the Renminbi the main trading and investment currency in the countries involved. The expansion of Chinese banks into new OBOR markets to serve the globalisation of the Chinese economy is also being promoted. OBOR is further intended to facilitate online retailing and the collection and use of big data across OBOR countries. China has also been stressing the role of Overseas Chinese in promoting OBOR projects.
The expansion of China-controlled telecommunications networks is an important aspect of OBOR. CITIC Telecom CPC recently acquired Linx Telecommunications, which services Russia, Kazakhstan and the ‘Stan’ region, the Baltic Sea and Eastern Europe. This will provide China with telecommunications services across much of its targeted ‘Belt’ region. Visits by journalists from OBOR countries to China, and publishing arrangements with newspapers abroad are intended to promote China’s views over a broader sphere.
Mining and energy projects are also central to this endeavour, with China widely purchasing mines as well as generation and transmission projects across OBOR states. Chinese companies now own almost a quarter of Kazakhstan’s oil production, while over $15 billion of oil, gas and uranium deals have recently been signed with Uzbekistan.
And in this year’s white paper on its satellite navigation and location service, China says that it plans to launch another 30 Beidou satellite navigation system satellites over the next five years, with the first 18 satellites being launched before 2018 to cover OBOR countries.
Reactions to the OBOR proposal have varied globally. Ethnic Chinese business figures in Southeast Asia and their political representatives have generally been enthusiastic about the business possibilities. Malaysia has been active in accepting and promoting the idea, with a 162-member Malaysian delegation heading to Beijing in July 2015 to participate in an OBOR dialogue.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka have also been particularly welcoming of Chinese capital and infrastructure projects, as have the various Central Asian states. Vietnam, meanwhile, has expressed grave doubts about the initiative. With few exceptions, India has been stridently suspicious of the overall OBOR initiative and has repeatedly expressed its concerns about China’s growing economic and strategic power being pursued through OBOR. Russia needs funding assistance for developing its resources and appears to see OBOR as an avenue for this.
Western reactions have been mixed. Business people are generally positive, while strategists have been less sanguine. In Europe, China has talked up OBOR’s possible integration with the EU’s €315 billion investment plan (the Juncker plan). China is simultaneously pushing for an EU-China FTA that would make it easier for PRC companies to invest in European markets. Central and Eastern Europe are a major focus for OBOR programs, with the Czech Republic, Serbia and Poland receiving major financial inputs.
Australia and OBOR
Within Australia, enterprises, banks and law firms are promoting the OBOR initiative as an economic opportunity for the country and, with Chinese endorsement, an Australia-China OBOR Initiative has been established to promote Chinese engagement in the Australian economy. China is also utilising the concept to promote its growing economic engagement with northern Australia. Another avenue for encouraging Australia’s further engagement with OBOR is China’s funding and support of various related local academic conferences and seminars.
Not all reactions to OBOR have been enthusiastic. Former World Trade Organization chief, Supachai Panitchpakdi, has stated that the OBOR initiative and, specifically, its projects along the Mekong River, all serve China’s own interests.
On the economic front, China has been criticised for using its massive financial assets to dominate smaller economies through long-term control of infrastructure, natural resources and associated land assets, and through offering less than desirable credit terms for infrastructure loans. Further, the ‘production capacity cooperation’ which China lauds as an integral aspect of OBOR, often involves the simple transfer of Chinese-owned production capacity to countries where production is cheaper and markets are closer. Such processes can also result in China exerting some control over local markets, labour and export policies.
Despite the claimed economic nature of the OBOR agenda, critics see the initiative as being simultaneously a strategic program. China clearly portrays OBOR as both being premised on and further validating China’s claims to the islands of the South China Sea, while on the other side of the Indian Ocean, Djibouti is providing China with both a trade port as well as its first overseas military base. It has been repeatedly noted in China that OBOR is also intended as a regional security mechanism, and the future role of the People’s Liberation Army in protecting China’s OBOR facilities abroad has been widely discussed. The two ‘economic corridors’ now being developed provide China with direct access to the Indian Ocean.
Broader concerns relate to the longer-term aims of China, with the possibility that the OBOR agenda is aimed at creating a Eurasia-wide, China-led bloc to counter the US. At the June 2016 Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, Professor Xiang Lanxin, director of the Centre of One Belt and One Road Studies at the China National Institute for SCO International Exchange and Judicial Cooperation, spoke of OBOR as being an avenue to a ‘post-Westphalian world’. As such, some see this initiative as a profound challenge to the current global political and economic status quo.
China’s wielding of this economic statecraft strategy derives from several collocations. On the political front, since late 2012, President Xi has been promoting the ‘Chinese dream’ (中国梦), involving the ‘great revival of the Chinese nation’. Such revival requires a restored global position and identity for China. Earlier iterations of OBOR involved the catch-phrases ‘common development’ and ‘win-win cooperation’ to characterise the relations between China’s development and that of its neighbours. China also promoted a ‘China-ASEAN community of shared destiny’ (中国-东盟命运共同体). But these smaller initiatives have burgeoned into the Eurasia-wide OBOR, bringing into play the PRC’s massive capital reserves—both state and private—achieved through 40 years of rapid economic growth, and offering an outlet for the vast excess production capacities which exist today in China.
Regardless of the credence which one assigns to the various interpretations of the OBOR initiative, progress thus far makes it clear that as Australia becomes increasingly tied economically with China, there is a need to maintain a close watch on the progress of the OBOR initiative globally. It also suggests that Australia needs to adopt a more economically and strategically prudent attitude in determining how the Australia-China economic relationship is to further develop.
http://www.aph.gov.au/ Parliament of Australia - downloaded on March 18, 2017
End of Article.......
Conclusion: Some of those who are following OBOR are taking it for granted in some way that India and Iran will join China's initiative. This remains inconclusive as currently India is in the U.S. camp and Iran is cooperating with the U.S. in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. As mentioned earlier, this was pointed out by the U.S. General in Afghanistan John Nicholson. Therefore the story on OBOR is far from being concluded.
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To read: Full Article of Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
Above: On March 15, 2017 Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, arrived in Beijing on a three day visit to China. During this visit China's President Xi Jinping met the Saudi King and according to reports, economic deals worth $65 billion were signed.