ASIAENERGYOPINIONPOLITICS

China’s overseas colossal infrastructural profile: A reality check

By Ipshita Bhattacharya

Introduction

The world’s longest sea bridge, the longest gas pipeline a high speed railways, a tunnel system under the Mount Everest, the unprecedented growth of colossal China going big on infrastructural ambitions around the world, with its geostrategic purposes directed towards commercial and military dominance. The resultant infrastructural thrust is powerful, dominant and commercially appealing to the hosts. China is quiet but speedily spanning the continents through its infrastructural matrix. Webbing the land, air and water with potential innovative ideas clubbed with commercial interest probes the host nation with a win-win situation. It would not be boisterous to say that when China could not play the soft diplomacy card its cloaked military expansion theory comes into action. That means in every possible condition China must carry out the strong arm show of might. Interestingly some of the projects which apparently seems to be of bearing only commercial interest, in later phases discovered as dominant military agendas the recent one being reclamation policies in South China Sea. The fact is not hidden that China is simply following USA in most of her geostrategic schedules or carrying forward from where US left them, but rather offensively beating US on many fronts, construction of Nicaragua canal was a dropped out plan of US in the late 19th century which China took away with full vigour.

Spanning Continents

The brisk flow of capital from China to developing countries, Africa, Latin America and Western Europe opens up a great avenue for Chinese investors and opportunities for the recipient countries. At the same time raises concern over social, political and environmental issues. China’s inclusive penetration policies includes, non interference into government institutions, providing easy loans, no fiscal probity on the recipient part is required, risk handling efficiency and placing less condition before the recipients in to different and variant legal environment set ups across the world keeps her one step ahead than her western rivals. Despite being a new actor in development finance field China moves into new, big and complicated projects with ease and comfort perhaps showcasing its might to set a platform for Sino-centric international order. The launching of Asian Infrastructural Investment Bank (AIIB) in October 2014 by involving fifty seven countries led by China signed the Articles of Agreement on 29 June 2015,   proclaimed how China is all set to invest in developing countries in robust projects. These commercially illustrious projects includes expressways, high speed railways, aviation networks, bridges, natural gas pipelines, ports, airports etc, it seems for China no place will remain uncontested for her big engineering shows.

One of the most focussed and dissertated subject currently is about “One Belt, One Road”, a mega project initiated by Xi Jinping at the commencement of his tenure when he visited to Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana for a deal of $5 billion stake at Kashagan oil field 2013.[1] This combination of sea route and road across countries and continents connects Central Asia, West Asia, Middle East, Europe and Africa. What China is moving towards is connecting the dots on already existing Silk Road combined with maritime routes to make the region commercially viable for trade and security purposes. China lunged in to this project underlining its own export of production capacity. Chinese perhaps had learned lessons from the history about the economic solidarity of the kingdoms or dynasties having well established trade routes. China riveted OBOR project on Asian soil and connected three continents together the second part of OBOR includes linking up South China Sea, Indian Ocean and South Pacific making it Maritime Silk Road, perhaps underscoring the strategic dimensions to diminish the influence of USA and its pivot to Asia policy. Scouting the periphery of Indian Ocean for the surveillance purposes to monitor India and US war ship movements, limiting and restricting other countries form navigating in South China Sea and controlling all the major marine routes for commercial as well as security dynamics forms the part of Maritime Silk Road. China’s aspirations of new economic order and massive infrastructural profile with adequate logistic is targeting 81,000 kilometres (approx. 50000 miles) of high speed railways connecting Asia and Europe.

The ambitious railroads will snake down from Southeast Asia to Singapore; second one will cross through Karakorum from there it will divide into two separate lines one line will shoot to Pakistani port at Arabian Sea, leading through the Pakistan occupied Kashmir area a major concern for India’s security and the another will go through Iran to Turkey, by connecting Mediterranean, the Black sea and the South Eastern Europe and the third will connect through Kazakhstan and Russia to Western Europe.[2]

The significant centrepieces of this project are China Pakistan Economic Corridor of about $46 billion infrastructural investment in Pakistan a strategic location for China and Pakistan pertaining to India security issues, Freight railway train connectivity from China to Spain that will carry goods from China to Spain in just 20 days. The OBOR mega project includes more than 60 countries, which represents a third of the world’s economy and accounts to half of the global population.[3]  China’s state owned conglomerate China investment trust and investment corporation (CITIC) Pvt.ltd will invest more than 700 billion Yuan to OBOR project, through this project China is looking forward for policy coordination and financial integration throughout the region along with dynamics of security and    The success of the project can be accessed from the preparation level at home as the Supreme People’s Court of China is all set to open research centres to deal with the legal issues of her investors for the OBOR project, one of the centre is inaugurated recently at Shanghai University. This centre will mainly deal with the overseas legal affairs related to commercial and maritime affairs pertaining to OBOR.[4]

Source: PWC [5]
Source: PWC [5]
China back in Africa: colonialism creeping in

China is back in Africa in 21st century with a promise to develop Africa without repeating the colonialism history to her. China’s vital contribution in Africa counts, from shoe manufacturing to food processing along with a definite and obvious focus on oil and mining. The major infrastructural project includes telecommunication, transport, waste management and power plants, roads etc; China does play a part in Africa’s economic resilience and uninterrupted economic growth since the last decade but in that case how well Chinese infrastructure is defined in Africa. To exemplify genuinely, some of the concerns points out towards colonialism rule quietly creeping in, like the ghost town of Angola a desolate tale of abandoned infrastructure, influx of Chinese workers in large number, springing up of China towns in addition to segregation of Chinese neighbourhood from the locals, discrimination in pays to the local workers, poor and unsafe working conditions, wiping away of forests without abiding the conservation laws, quality of the roads and other infrastructure etc. Moreover, 70% of the investment targeted towards only Nigeria, Sudan, Ethiopia and Angola since these places are rich in natural resources, minerals and oil. Moreover, China extended an offer of $2 billion soft loan to Angola to win the rights to explore the oil blocs in Angola. Most significantly commercial frenzy China seems to be completely indifferent towards the instability and non functional government setups, of host Nations like Sudan, Congo, and Sierra Leone etc where the civil war and unstable governments have earlier driven out the Westerners. What China is certainly looking out for is business without politics especially to the states where there is instability, absence of law and order and no fiscal policies in place since these will be the places where China is likely to face less competition from her western counterparts as they are reluctant to invest in unstable places. The other pattern followed by China is to flood the markets with Chinese goods, for which South Africa (SA) brings out a good example textile export of China to SA accelerated from 40% to 80% by the end of 2004 making 75,000 Africans out of jobs. China left no design unturned to pour in capitals to fill her coffers, actively buying land in Africa to grow food for China and therefore investing in acquisitions of land and farming infrastructure. Africa striving hard for foreign capitals is more or less getting mired in Chinese investment tools. Africa should know its potential market and hence restrict it from letting into another quagmire.

References

  1. http://qz.com/415649/china-is-building-the-most-extensive-global-commercial-military-empire-in-history/
  2. http://www.mepc.org/articles-commentary/speeches/china-and-economic-integration-europe-and-asia
  3. https://www.clsa.com/special/onebeltoneroad/?utm_source=marketing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=onebeltoneroad
  4. http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/1848059/china-plans-legal-research-centres-boost-one-belt-one
  5. http://www.pwc.com/gx/en/capital-projects-infrastructure/chinas-infrastructure-investment-in-africa.jhtml

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Ipshita Bhattacharya

Ipshita Bhattacharya is Ph.D Scholar in History & International Relations (interdisciplinary) with special focus on trilateral defence relations between India, US and China.

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