China’s regional trade

Chinese Economy

The celebrated revival of the Silk Road would seem to herald the return of China’s charm offensive, winning over neighbors and other countries in the region through increased trade incentives and transport connectivity. China lives in a tough neighborhood, sharing a long contiguous land border with Russia and India (with which it has unresolved land boundary disputes) and a common sea boundary with Japan (with which it has unresolved territorial and maritime disputes). As such, SREB/MSR could possibly be seen as a strategy to circumvent any encirclement or containment that a hostile power in concert with other states may undertake to harm China’s interests.

The SREB/MSR project with its land and maritime path components promises to better connect China with the Middle East, Africa and Europe through its landlocked neighbors in Central Asia and the littoral states of Southeast and South Asia. It spreads the risk by multiplying access routes, thus reducing China’s vulnerabilities. The system of ports, railways and roads, which have variously been completed, or are under construction or being proposed, will enable China to diversify the routes by which it can secure the transport of oil and gas and other essential goods needed to sustain China’s economy. It enhances the country’s energy and economic security and mitigates the risks attendant to transporting fuel and goods through unstable, unsecured or unfriendly channelsDeveloping pipelines to get oil and gas directly from Russia and Central Asia  to power western China also reduces its reliance on the volatile Middle East. Meanwhile, by linking the economies of Central Asia with western China, Beijing brings further development and stability to restive and relatively underdeveloped Xinjiang and Tibet and cuts off any potential support that Uygur dissident groups may seek from fellow Muslims in Central Asia. Hence, SREB/MSR goes far beyond simply sharing economic prosperity – it has obvious political and security underpinnings. And viewed from this vantage point, its China-centrism is very evident.