China’s new route to the Middle East?

China-Beijing-to-Persian-Gulf-sea-route-vs-Kashgar-Gwadar-CPEC

China and Pakistan have announced a new $46 billion project called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor-Route-Map

Click to enlarge.  Source: Express-Tribune, Pakistan

It will include a new railroad connecting the Chinese city of Kashgar with Pakistan’s port of Gwadar, extensive development of the port and construction of new oil and gas lines connecting China, Pakistan and Iran.

Other benefits to Pakistan are highway construction projects, improvements to the Gwadar airport, and a number of coal, wind, solar and hydro-electric plants.  China in return gets to control Gwadar port for 43 years.  Pakistan gets highway construction and energy  reportedly is negotiating with China for purchase of eight attack submarines.

I think this is a good example of how China uses infrastructure investment to expand its power.  Instead of trying to bend countries to its will by economic sanctions and threats of military force, as the USA is now trying to do, China offers projects of mutual benefit but under Chinese control.

CPEC20150606_ASM987

Click to enlarge.

The benefit to China is that it gets access to Iranian oil without having to transport it through the Strait of Malacca and the South China Sea, where it would be vulnerable to disruption by India, Japan or the United States.  The new route is 6,000 miles shorter.  Ultimately China may have a direct pipeline connection to Iran, without having to go to sea at all.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor passes along areas controlled by the Pakistan Taliban.  This gives the Pakistan government a strong incentive to bring its wing of the Taliban under control.

WO-AW155A_PAKCH_9U_20150416170335

Click to enlarge

The corridor goes through the portion of the disputed territory of Kashmir occupied by Pakistan, which means China thinks this project is important enough to take sides against India.

Previously Pakistan covertly supported the Taliban, and Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai allied with Pakistan’s enemy, India.  But the new President, Ashraf Ghani, has aligned with China and Pakistan, which, I think, is bad news for the Taliban and a good reason to think the corridor plan is feasible.

I’ve posted a number of maps on this web log showing China’s ambitious plans to expand into the Eurasian heartland, an area out of reach of U.S. air and sea power.  The fact that something is drawn on a map does not guarantee that it will come to exist in reality.   But based on my admittedly limited knowledge, I see no reason why China’s grand strategy cannot work.

SOURCES AND LINKS

A Path to the Sea: China’s Pakistan Plan by Claude Rakisits for World Affairs Journal.

A Miracle on the Indus River by Ahmad Rashid Malik for The Diplomat.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor – Lines of development, not lines of divide by Shahbaz Rana for The Express-Tribune of Pakistan.

Pakistan happy to aid in China’s quest for land route to the west; India, not so much by Dabasish Roy Chowdhury for the South China Morning Post (2013)

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