It’s a bit hard to believe that I have posted about 35 of these “open source,” available to “everyman” surveys, but there is an interesting article in the New Yorker which begins by saying “The Silk Road was established during the Han dynasty, beginning around 130 B.C. Markets and trading posts were strung along a loose skein of thoroughfares that ran from the Greco-Roman metropolis of Antioch, across the Syrian desert, through modern-day Iraq and Iran, to the former Chinese capital of Xian, streamlining the transport of livestock and grain, medicine and science … [but, after over 1,000 years of stagnation, since the fall of the Tang dynasty] … In 2013, President Xi Jinping announced that the Silk Road would be reborn as the Belt and Road Initiative, the most ambitious infrastructure project the world has ever known—and the most expensive. Its expected cost is more than a trillion dollars. When complete, the Belt and Road will connect, by China’s accounting, sixty-five per cent of the world’s population and thirty per cent of global G.D.P. So far, sixty-eight countries have signed on.” That’s a a matter of strategic import.
“If bridges, pipelines, and railroads are the arteries of the modern world,” the article says, “then China is positioning itself as the beating heart. Since 2013, it has loaned about forty billion dollars a year to developing countries, according to David Dollar, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Some analysts worry that China is delivering the money without the World Bank’s required protections for the environment and for people uprooted by major infrastructure projects. Nevertheless, Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister of Singapore, said that he and other leaders in the region embrace the benefits. “The Chinese are going to grow their influence,” he said, at a recent session of the Council on Foreign Relations. “And this is one coherent framework within which the Asian countries—Central Asian, Southeast Asian, South Asian—can participate in this.”” The World Bank, the IMF, the whole Breton Woods framework of institutions which gave America, supported by Western Europe and a few others, like Australia, Canada and japan, global dominance, is being systematically dismantled by the Chinese for their advantage and, concomitantly, to the detriment of the US led West.
“Like most Chinese official-speak, the phrase “Belt and Road” obscures more than it clarifies,” says Jiayang Fan, a New Yorker staff writer, “the “belt” will be composed of land routes running from China to Scandinavia, the Iberian Peninsula, and the Middle East; the “road” refers to shipping lanes connecting China to Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.” In fact one of the keys is to bypass Russia, and, concomitantly, strengthen Chinese influence all along Russia’s Southern borders, in the “Stans” and in Iran and Turkey, and, as I have suggested before, shift the economic centre of gravity father to the East …
… the graphic shows “spikes” of economic activity and it shows why the Kazakh desert town of Khorgos is being developed into the world’s biggest “dry port” ~ it may be linked, eventually, to Europe, to the West, Russia to the North and India to the South. The Chinese aim, of course, is to “marry” those two spikes and, in the process, grow both … to China’s advantage.
The media is full of articles that express one constant idea: while America dithers, rather aimlessly, looking for ways to regain the “global dominance” it enjoyed in the Eisenhower years, China moves, sometimes using bullying tactics, to cement its hold on Asia and to expand its influence into Africa, Europe and even into Latin America, America’s “back yard.”
How far will China go while President Tump’s America occupies itself with its own culture wars? Will the (currently in limbo) Nicaragua Canal project ever come to fruition? What might be its impact on global trade?Will China try to muscle in to Latin America in an even bigger way? What about the Kra Canal project what would obviate the need to transit the crowded, pirate infested Malacca Straits and do serious damage to Singapore’s strategic-economic position? There are certainly limits to China’s reach and grasp; the trick is to determine what they are.
The goal of the US led West should be to integrate China into a global, rules based, free(er) trading economy; that’s tough when the USA is led by a protectionist buffoon.