Iran’s CPEC-Parallel Pipeline (E-CPEC+) Plans Could Ruin India’s Regional Vision

India’s zero-sum plans of using its reinvigorated strategic partnership with Russia to “balance” China in the region of “Greater South Asia” are at risk of being ruined if Iran goes through with its recently announced interest in building a CPEC-parallel LNG pipeline to China (E-CPEC+, with the “E” standing for “energy”) and receives Moscow’s world-class support in constructing this game-changing piece of integrational infrastructure. The Iranian Ambassador to India shocked his host nation by declaring that “Iran is now discussing an LNG pipeline to China along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as India is not expected to retain its prior interest in LNG imports from Iran”, according to The Hindu’s report about his comments made to members of the Indian Association of Foreign Affairs Correspondents on Monday. His words are especially significant for the fact that they represent his country’s first public recognition that India submitted to the US’ sanctions regime and also signify a bold endorsement of the Belt & Road Initiative’s (BRI) flagship project of CPEC that India is adamantly against because of its maximalist claims in the Kashmir Conflict.

The Meek Shall Rise 

India already humiliatingly made a fool out of Iran on the world stage by complying with the US’ sanctions demands, victimizing its partner through blowback from the Hybrid War on CPEC, and entering into informal military alliances with its hated American and “Israeli” enemies, but the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and got Iran to stop behaving as India’s “junior partner” and finally become serious about changing its approach to it was likely the brutal use of force that was inflicted earlier this week upon the Kashmiris who were commemorating the matrydom of Imam Hussein. Publicly funded Iranian international media outlet Press TV extensively covered the wanton human rights abuses committed by the occupying Indian forces during this time and specifically pointed out to anyone who was unaware that Imam Hussein was also the third Shia Imam as well as the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, which is exceptionally important because the Islamic Republic of Iran is first and foremost an ideologically driven state constitutionally beholden per Article 154 to “support the struggles of the oppressed for their rights against the oppressors anywhere in the world.”

It is therefore absolutely unacceptable for Iran to not at the very least respond in an asymmetrical way while its co-confessionals are being visibly oppressed by occupying forces while attempting to commemorate the martyrdom of such an important Islamic figure, which explains why Tehran decided to cross the Rubicon and have its Ambassador to India publicly talk about its plans to construct E-CPEC+ despite knowing that his words would indelibly alter the dynamics of the Iranian-Indian Strategic Partnership. The Ambassador wisely referenced India’s decision to discontinue purchasing his country’s resources as the reason for his government exploring such a game-changing move, thereby ensuring that it can’t be interpreted as anything “hostile” or “anti-Indian” and indirectly laying the blame for any repercussions it could have on the regional balance of power solely at the feet of India’s political leadership. This is crucial to mention because the outcome could very realistically ruin India’s regional plans if the pipeline is ever constructed.

“Energy Diplomacy”

Not only would it naturally strengthen China and Pakistan’s joint regional position, but it might also do the same for Russia’s as well if Moscow decides to get involved in this promising project by bidding to construct it and then pairing its offshore gas reserves in Iran with the rest of the Islamic Republic’s available reserves in order to ensure that the pipeline is truly transformational in the geopolitical sense. Russia already signed a $10 billion memorandum of understanding with Pakistan last October to build an undersea pipeline connecting Iran and India via that nation’s territorial waters, but with New Delhi no longer buying Tehran’s resources, it makes sense for Moscow to modify the proposed project to end in the People’s Republic instead. While India might have thought that it bought Russia’s eternal geopolitical allegiance through the multibillion-dollar deals that were struck in exchange for its full support on Kashmir during Modi’s visit as the guest of honor at the recent Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, it could very well soon find out that there are limits to its influence.

Russia and India are indeed on the same page as regards their grand strategic interest in jointly leading a new Non-Aligned Movement (Neo-NAM), which was elaborated upon by the author in his latest piece about Moscow’s “New Detente” with the West and importantly given an indirect endorsement by the Valdai Club in its latest publication about “The Eurasian Chord and the Oceanic Ring: Russia and India as the Third Force in a New World Order“, in which Moscow’s top think tank toyed with rebranding this concept as the “Peaceful Development Movement”. That said, Russia is sincere in its desire to become the supreme “balancing” force in Afro-Eurasia and isn’t hiding behind euphemisms to disguise any zero-sum ambitions like India is, so it’s entirely feasible that Moscow might seriously consider resuming the original “balancing” intentions of its “Return to South Asia” (prior to them having been offset by its partisan support of India on Kashmir).

Back To “Balancing”?

By doing so, not only would Russia prove its neutrality in the New Cold War, but it would also be advancing the “Golden Ring” geopolitical concept of strengthening ties between itself, Iran, Pakistan, and China, as well as preempting the possibility of becoming too strategically dependent on India (seeing as how its “Pivot to India” in Vladivostok was due in part to similar concerns vis-a-vis China). These interconnected outcomes would reassure Russia’s partners that its joint leadership of the Neo-NAM isn’t against any of them but is instead intended simply to maintain “balance” in the hemisphere. The resultant goodwill that Russia would receive from them, and especially the global pivot state of Pakistan, might even give it the edge over India in this nascent “balancing” structure that it’s jointly building with it and therefore enable Moscow to keep New Delhi’s pro-Western leanings towards the US’ so-called “Indo-Pacific” strategy of “containing” China in check.

In other words, although Russia’s leading participation in E-CPEC+ would be driven mostly by economic interests, it would nevertheless also have a strategic impact in maintaining the intra-Neo-NAM “balance” between itself and India, which would in turn allow it to avoid becoming the latter’s “junior partner” in this informal organization by providing it with the possibility of leveraging its future regional influence with other partners through this project’s successful completion in order to “re-balance” their relationship if the need ever arose. The very thought of this happening would hang over the head of Indian strategists like a Damocles’ sword in a way that’s impossible for India to ever reciprocally do to Russia even if it throws its full weight behind the US’ “Indo-Pacific” vision since that decision wouldn’t have any direct impact on Russia like its partner’s growing relations with the “Golden Ring” and the global pivot state of Pakistan would have on India.

Concluding Thoughts

The balance of power in the transregional space between West, Central, and South Asia was on the brink of being redefined had Trump not unexpectedly called off his country’s peace talks with the Taliban, but while the scenario predicted by the author in his recent analysis on the topic could still unfold if a deal is ultimately struck sometime in the future, it might have to be greatly modified to account for Iran’s abrupt change of approach towards India after its Ambassador there just announced his country’s interest in exploring the possibility of building E-CPEC+. The unforeseen timing of this development could change the grand strategic calculus at play by providing Russia with the much-needed opportunity to show the rest of Eurasia that it wasn’t “bought off” as India’s “junior partner” for “balancing” China through the jointly pursued Neo-NAM after the outcome of last week’s Eastern Economic Forum. Russia can put to rest any suspicions about its long-term intentions by actively participating in the construction of E-CPEC+ and strengthening its ties with each of the three other involved countries as a result, which could also enable it to keep India’s pro-Western leanings in check too.

Source:  Eurasiafuture 

Dated on: 19/9/2019

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How US will benefit by Cooperating with Belt & Road

China is emerging as a growing power and its rise is not limited to a certain domain. Rather, it is experiencing growth in economy, trade, political influence, soft and hard power. Above all, China’s commitment is to sustainable growth and mutual development across the world.

At present, China is engaged with around half of the countries of the world. It has built these bilateral and multilateral relations gradually.

It is incorrect to portray China’s increasing dominance as a bid to strategically encircle any country. China’s engagements with each country in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) abides by the established norms of international relations.

Whether it is Pakistan (a time tested friend of China) or any neutral State, China has focused on mutual partnerships and mutual growth.

At present, the worth of the BRI stands at US$1.2- 1.3 trillion. The BRI has converged the stakes of many countries of the world, which shows that China enjoys an edge, considering the volume of its economic input into these projects.

What does all this mean for Chinese competitors?

In finding an answer to this question, one first needs to consider who is or who are Chinese competitors?

Consider, Russia, India, and the European Union: None of these countries or entities is the loser by China’s rise, rather they are reliable partners in growth with China. The only country which might lose strategic or economic advantage is the United States.

The US and China are engaged in a trade war and have political discords. America has openly expressed reservations about the BRI as America believes it might hurt its strategic objectives.

The BRI is focused on connecting China and Europe via land and sea, with the sea link passing through the South China Sea as well. China aims at focusing on developing infrastructure along the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. These three seas hold significant strategic importance for China as well as the US. The too clash here.

However, Congressional hearings about the BRI and Security and Economic review of US-China relations, have not been held in the recent past, despite Congressional concerns over monitoring developments in US-China relations. This shows that the US, to a minimal extent, considers the developments benefiting its agenda of cooperative development.

The US has ignored China’s mega plans of development, as it believes that the BRI can offer opportunities to American allies if not the America itself.

Despite having reservations about China’s trade initiatives, bilateral trade between the US and China stands at billions of dollars. When it comes to competing in building critical infrastructure, rails and roadways, the US is lagging behind. This is where the US can benefit from Chinese experience. China has shown willingness to share its experience with the US in this field.

With President Trump’s arrival, bilateral competition has become more stringent; coupled with the ongoing trade war things have gotten worse. They have ended the leverages which they had been offering to each other for decades.

President Trump’s vision of ‘America First’ has taken the US far from China. But Trump’s isolationist strategy has not proved to be prudent in financing and executing America’s projects. The history of China suggests that its development was based initially on isolationism. But it has benefited from it and also come out of it. This is also an area in which Chinese experience can benefit America.

Considering such developments, the Atlantic Council strategy paper about ‘Silk Road and US strategy’ says that the US should reconsider its approach toward China, since, confronting China is becoming counterproductive.

The paper also highlights many areas where the United States can be a beneficiary of Chinese development; specially by expanding bilateral economic relations and use China’s influence over South Asian politics, where America is confronting challenges.

American experts believe that while posing a tough challenge to China, America must focus on converging its efforts with China’s, to participate in Eurasian growth since it Eurasia is a strong export market for US products. The Chinese believe that a collaborative approach could serve the interests of both China and America in Europe.

But at present China want America to maintain a distance. This is because of the on-going trade war which it believes can disrupt the idea of cooperative development.

On the other hand, the Chinese idea of mutual development is considered flawed by Americans. But the Chinese believe that the US should benefit in terms of expanding inter-regional and extra-regional growth. The Chinese have always rejected the idea that the BRI means strategic encirclement of any specific country.

American experts who have long studied Chinese growth and development argue that the US must adopt the strategy of constructive development. They condemn the cherry-picking approach. They believe that the US can participate in energy-related projects, and asses the growth prospects of building new regional connections.

The cherry-picking formula might also conflict with the American geopolitical interests as well. America should not insist that every Chinese project must meet its ideological worldview and abjure projects which abridge its strategic interests.

Constructive participation needs complete manifestation of will and power to uplift bilateral partnerships.

The present century is witnessing immense growth and development. Each sector is witnessing new trends. But trade and economic interests have remained the classic reason for conflict. China and the US have a totally different history. One has a protectionist approach, while the other calls itself the champion of profuse development.

China’s growth is the new mechanism in place and the world is adjusting itself with the plans offered by China. Its soft and gradual growth is attracting the outer world, which has left the US with no other alternative but to witness the new trends.

In contrast to China’s economic developmental approach, the US spells nothing but conflict, destruction and diffidence. The Chinese model aims at building partnerships for mutual benefit and not conflict.

China is the only state in the present century placing in front of the world a creative and meaningful way for coming out of economic stagnation. The US cannot protect itself from the impact of BRI or China’s growth.

There is no dearth of International relations scholars who argue that the Chinese model deserves a look by the US.

Source: Belt and Road NEWS  

Dated on: 19/9/2019


China signals veto in standoff over UN Afghanistan mission

China and the United States are deadlocked over a United Nations Security Council resolution to extend the world body’s political mission in Afghanistan, with Beijing signalling it will cast a veto because there is no reference to its global Belt and Road infrastructure project, diplomats said on Monday.

A planned vote by the 15-member Security Council to renew the mission, known as UNAMA, was delayed from Monday to Tuesday to allow for further negotiations. The mission’s mandate expires on Tuesday. To pass, a resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by the US, France, China, Russia and Britain.

Ahead of the postponement, diplomats said China was expected to veto a resolution – drafted by Germany and Indonesia – that did not reference the Belt and Road project. China’s UN mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

China was then planning to propose a vote on a short draft resolution, known as a technical rollover, to allow the mission to keep operating, diplomats said. But they added that it could fail to get the nine votes needed to pass because several council members were considering abstaining.

The UN mission, which was established in 2002, is helping Afghanistan prepare for September 28 elections and is pushing for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Talks between the US and the Taliban on a US military withdrawal fell apart earlier this month.

Election commission workers secure ballot boxes for Afghanistan’s forthcoming presidential election. The UN mission in the country is helping with the preparations [Rahmat Gul/AP Photo]

There are 14,000 US troops and thousands of others from NATO in the country, 18 years after a US-led coalition invaded following the September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda attacks on the US.

The UNAMA mandate is renewed annually by the Security Council. The resolutions in 2016, 2017 and 2018 all included a reference welcoming and urging efforts like China’s Belt and Road initiative to facilitate trade and transit.

But when it came time to extend the mandate again in March, the US and other Western council members wanted the language removed, sparking a standoff with China. The council ended up adopting a six-month technical rollover to allow the mission to keep operating.

At the time, acting US Ambassador Jonathan Cohen slammed China for holding “the resolution hostage” by insisting “on making it about Chinese national political priorities rather than the people of Afghanistan.”

He criticised Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative – to link China by sea and land through an infrastructure network with southeast and central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa – for “known problems with corruption, debt distress, environmental damage, and lack of transparency.”

At a Security Council meeting on Afghanistan last week, Cohen referred to the continuing impasse with China.

“We strongly believe this mandate is too important at this moment to have one Security Council member deny consensus for reasons having nothing to do with UNAMA,” Cohen said.

China’s UN ambassador, Zhang Jun, did not specifically mention the negotiations on the UNAMA resolution, but said Beijing was working with Afghanistan to advance “the Belt and Road construction to actively support the Afghan rebuilding and its reintegration into the regional economic development.

Source: Aljazeera 

Dated on: 18/9/2019

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Iran’s interest in CPEC strengthens regional integration

Iranian Ambassador to India, Ali Chegeni, was reported by India’s The Hindu newspaper on September 10 as telling members of the Indian Association of Foreign Affairs Correspondents that “Iran is now discussing an Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) pipeline to China along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as India is not expected to retain its prior interest in LNG imports from Iran.” This remark hasn’t received the attention that it deserves, however, despite it being a visionary proposal for strengthening regional integration.

First things first, it’s important to explain the context in which it was made. Ambassador Chegeni was talking about the consequences of India’s decision to comply with the U.S. unilateral sanctions against his country’s energy industry, which he was understandably displeased with. Still, he remained very professional when addressing this issue, even saying that “We love the Indian people. But we cannot force somebody to love us. The government of India has to decide according to its national interest. Just as the Chinese have.”

It’s here where one can better understand why the diplomat decided to reveal the existence of hitherto unreported discussions between his country and China over the proposal to build an LNG pipeline to the latter via CPEC. China, unlike India, only complies with international law and not the dictates of any individual country like the U.S. whose demands run contrary to the aforesaid, which is rightly respected by Iran. Furthermore, there has previously been news about connecting the Iranian port of Chabahar with CPEC’s terminal one of Gwadar.

It therefore makes sense for Iran to consider how it could take ties with China to the next level by including an energy dimension into its plans to integrate with CPEC, which is the flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), after India is no longer regarded as a reliable customer of its resources. A CPEC-parallel pipeline (E-CPEC+, with the “E” referring to “energy”) would be the natural outcome of the unfortunate situation that Iran has found itself forced into and thus help turn a regrettable situation into a positive one for all.

The South Pars gas field in the southern port of Assaluyeh, Iran, July 19, 2010. /VCG Photo

Strengthening regional integration is the embodiment of the win-win outlook on international relations, yet doing so in the manner proposed by the Iranian Ambassador to India might cause some concern among his hosts who remain opposed to CPEC because of their claims to the Kashmir conflict that have resulted in them holding the official position that the project transits through disputed territory that they consider to be their own.

Being aware of this backdrop, it’s more newsworthy that it was Ambassador Chegeni who revealed the existence these pipeline discussions and not any other Iranian official because it shows how seriously the country is considering this, but also that it cares about not offending India’s sensitivities too. That’s why it was Iran’s top representative to India who broke the news and explained why his country was pursuing that possible course of action, chiefly in response to India’s voluntary compliance with the U.S. sanctions regime.

In the event that the negotiations are a success and eventually lead to E-CPEC+ entering into activity sometime in the future, then it would represent a pragmatically reliable form of indefinite sanctions relief for Iran, the strengthening of regional integration processes, and ultimately an exemplary form of South-South cooperation between the three countries involved. In addition, these positive outcomes might convince India to moderate its uncompromising position against both CPEC and BRI and therefore accept that both of them are here to stay.

Even if it remains opposed to them, Iran nevertheless has the sovereign right to participate in any regional integration projects that it wants to, especially those such as E-CPEC+ which could ensure its long-term economic security amidst the U.S. ever-tightening sanctions pressure that already compelled India into discontinuing its import of its historic partner’s resources. It would be best for everyone if India supported Iran’s pipeline plans, but its lack of support wouldn’t have any influence on stopping this proposal in that case.

Editor’s note: Andrew Korybko is a Moscow-based American political analyst. The article reflects the author’s opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Source: CGTN 

Dated on: 17/9/2019

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Belt & Road Trains drive Chinese & European Industries Closer

In the plant of the world’s top auto glass manufacturer Fuyao Group in Changchun, capital of Northeast China’s Jilin Province, forklifts are busy transporting windshields into standard containers.

These windshields, designed for the medium and high-end models of Audi, will be transported to Heilbronn, Germany by the Changchun-Manzhouli-Europe cargo trains before arriving at Audi’s assembly plants there.

The return trip of the train will carry auto components from Germany to Volvo’s Daqing factory in Heilongjiang Province, which neighbours Jilin.

The China-Europe cargo trains have closely linked the old industrial base in northeastern China to the manufacturing bases in Europe and led to increasing industrial cooperation which is mutually beneficial and has contributed to the economy for both.

Advantaged Cooperation

A cargo train loaded with containers carrying windshields, wooden flooring, activated carbon and auto components left Changchun on Thursday night to deliver the cargo to Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany along the Changchun-Manzhouli-Europe route.

As an important project for Jilin to join the construction of the Belt & Road, the Changchun-Manzhouli-Europe cargo train line was launched in 2015

The route starts from Changchun, exits China via Manzhouli, the largest land port on the China-Russia border, and passes through Russia, Belarus and Poland before arriving at the terminus of Nuremberg, Germany.

It measures about 9,800 km, and a single trip usually takes 14 days, saving more than 20 days compared with sea transportation, said Wang Yue, Chairman of the Changchun International Land Port Development Co., Ltd. (CCILP), which operates the cargo trains on the route.

The inbound trains carry imports of engines, gearboxes and steering shafts from Europe and outbound trains have exports of goods like windshields, brake pads and bearings made by Chinese companies.

Since the Changchun-Manzhouli-Europe cargo train service was launched in August 2015, it has transported over 43,000 standard containers with the value of over 13.8 billion yuan (1.94 billion U.S. dollars).

Demi Ben, Managing Director of the CCILP GMBH, said, Changchun and some other northeastern Chinese cities are home to a number of top auto manufacturers and auto components enterprises, while Bavaria, where Nuremberg is located, is a major German automotive manufacturing base.

The similar structure of the industrial clusters in northeastern China and the European country has paved the way for further cooperation.

The Nuremberg warehouse for the Changchun-Manzhouli-Europe railway has been very busy since it was put into use in June 2018, said Demi Ben, who is also in charge of the warehouse.

The auto components such as windshields and bearings from northeastern China are usually put into the warehouse for short-term storage and then sent to the appointed places required by the local business customers via the “door-to-door” service.

Source: Belt and Road News 

Dated on: 9/9/2019

Belt & Road Forges Unique Path Rolling out High Quality Infrastructure

cooperation under the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) is ensuring that the construction of high-quality infrastructure continues at pace in many countries, including Laos.

Speaking at a recent meeting in China’s Guizhou province, project experts said implementing the BRI was an extension of the nation’s development experience, which opened the door to the outside world and prioritised infrastructure and financing.

In rolling out this development, China has not studied western principles but instead adopted its own unique work ethic to deal effectively with any problems that arise during the megaproject rollout.

With investment and assistance to foreign countries, China values the principle of equality and benefits for all and does not interfere with other countries’ internal affairs.

Most countries involved with the BRI are in Asia and Africa, and many are underdeveloped, so China is stepping forward to rollout high-quality construction projects

BRI projects are being implemented in accordance with regulations to ensure environmental protection, worker safety, and compensation for resident relocations, with active anti-corruption measures in place.

Improving the quality of each project and making sure the general public in the host country feel they have received benefits are also important priorities of the BRI.

In April, the second Belt & Road International Cooperation Forum was held in Beijing which opened a new era for high-quality co-construction.

During the event’s opening ceremony, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that cooperation was at the heart of building a high-quality BRI.

He highlighted the need to adhere to common principles with promoting dialogue and co-construction, as well as sharing benefits. This would open the door to the outside to achieve high standard development and benefit all people.

However, for some time, countries in the west have raised doubts and criticised the BRI, falsely claiming that it does not respect internationally accepted rules or its workers.

To the contrary, China today is offering another viable option to developing countries, and they think that the BRI is successful. This also means the Chinese model is successful and greatly influencing countries around the world.

The Belt & Road (Yidaiyilu) Initiative dates back to 2013 when President Xi visited Kazakhstan. During his visit, he called for countries in the region to work together to create the Silk Road Economic Belt.

Yidaiyilu means the One Belt, One Road Initiative. President Xi discussed it at length and was impressed by the thought that the scheme would involve so many countries developing together with no one left behind.

Laos is a country along the Belt & Road Initiative and the Laos-China Railway project is now about 65 percent complete after construction began in December 2016.

When operational, passenger trains will run at 160km per hour from Vientiane to the Boten-Mohan border crossing between Laos and China, through the four provinces of Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Oudomxay and Luang Namtha. This section of the vast rail network covers 414.3 kilometres.

The railway is scheduled for completion at the end of 2021 and will be the first rail route linking Laos to China’s network.

In future, the railway will run south from Vientiane through Thailand and Malaysia, ending at Singapore, which has a large port where sea freight can be unloaded and dispatched.

Source: Belt and Road News

Dated on: 17/9/2019

China sees expanding China-Europe Freight Rail Services

China-Europe Freight Rail Services have expanded in the first eight months of the year with 5,266 trips made during the period, according to the China State Railway Group Co., Ltd.

The number of trips from China to Europe reached 2,845 with a total of 250,000 standard-sized shipping containers, while figures from Europe to China stood at 2,421 with 210,000 containers, data from the company showed.

As China-Europe freight trains are three times faster than shipping by sea and cost just one-fifth of air transportation, the service is widely favoured in the International Market, said an official with the company.

Since the debut of the China-Europe Freight Rail Service in 2011, the number of trips made between the two regions skyrocketed from 17 to 6,300 in 2018.

The China-Europe rail service is considered a significant part of the Belt & Road Initiative, and is expected to boost trade between China and Europe, China’s largest trading partner.

Source: Belt and Road News

Dated on: 16/9/2019


Belt & Road charm keeps Expanding

China’s “circle of friends” under the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) has been expanding over the past six years. Under the scheme, a slew of projects have taken root in participating countries, delivering not only development opportunities to these countries, but also a stronger sense of happiness to ordinary people.

China’s trade volume with BRI countries surpassed $6 trillion, and the country has invested more than $80 billion in co-construction of the BRI. The 82 overseas cooperative parks jointly built by China and countries along the route have created nearly 300,000 jobs for local communities.

The success of the BRI lies in the fact that the initiative provides a pragmatic solution to the ever-changing world.

In March 2019, Italy became the first G7 power to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China to join the BRI. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte believes that the Belt & Road Initiative is an excellent opportunity for Italy.

In fact, more countries have expressed their hope to take part in the co-construction of the Belt & Road. The reason is that development has become a shared aspiration of all nations as global governance faces difficulties.

The BRI will not be a solo project for China but a real chorus comprising of all countries along the routes. This is the reason it has become the most welcomed public product that China offers the world.

The construction of the Belt & Road focuses on economic development and doesn’t seek political goals; it is based on opening up and cooperation and is above protectionism. The Belt & Road construction is dedicated to achieving mutually-beneficial cooperation and win-win results, not zero-sum outcomes. In addition, it upholds international rules and doesn’t aim to start a new model.

The China-Europe freight trains are a concrete outcome of the BRI.

By August 2019, the China-Europe freight trains dubbed Yixin’ou in Chinese (Yiwu-Xinjiang-Europe) had opened ten routes, covering 35 countries, and had transported a total of 63,000 TEUs of goods.

Infrastructure connectivity is another highlight of the BRI. In Uzbekistan, Chinese builders and local people cut through a railway tunnel in 900 days.

Africa’s first electrified railway, the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway, has been operational for more than one year. The railway reduces travel time from a week by land transportation to just over ten hours.

The success of the BRI also lies in the fact that the initiative advocates openness, cooperation and win-win outcomes.

The cooperation between China’s Three Gorges Corp and Portuguese power company, EDP, Energias de Portugal, is a typical example of win-win partnerships.

By the end of 2011, there were only two Chinese enterprises in Portugal: ZTE and Huawei. After the Three Gorges Corp became the largest shareholder of the Portuguese power company, cooperation between banking systems in both countries started to improve.

So far, nearly 20 Chinese companies have set up businesses in Portugal. Statistics indicated that they had invested a total of 8.3 billion euros in Portugal by the end of September 2018.

“Our cooperation with the Portugal power company enables us to learn advanced technologies, and develop third-party markets,” said Wu Shengliang, the Executive Vice President of China Three Gorges International.

Crayfish, a popular delicacy in China, is not as sought after in Egypt. Thanks to the BRI, catching crayfish has become an essential source of income for local fishermen.

From 2014 to 2018, China imported 80 percent of crayfish from Egypt. A fisherman who earns a living this way said he bought three cars with the money generated by crayfish fishing.

China attaches importance to building closer people-to-people bonds in the process of Belt & Road co-construction. In fact, numerous stories about people-to-people relationships have come out in the past few years.

In 2017, Laotian musician Vilayphone Vongphachanh wrote a song about the BRI. In the same year, a 55 year-old taxi driver decorated her taxi with several Belt & Road slogans and used her car as a publicity tool.

The Belt & Road Initiative, if implemented fully, could lift 32 million people out of moderate poverty – those who live on less than $3.20 a day, World Bank analysis found.

It could boost global trade by up to 6.2 percent, and up to 9.7 percent for corridor economies. Global income could increase by as much as 2.9 percent.

Source: Belt and Road News 

Dated on: 13/9/2019


China, ASEAN to further Trade, Economic Relations

Economic Ministers from the 10 Member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China agreed on Monday to strengthen their trade and economic relations and dovetail the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) and the Chinese Belt & Road Initiative.

The Economic Ministers met at the 18th AEM (ASEAN Economic Ministers) MOFCOM (China’s Ministry of Commerce) Consultations, which was co-chaired by Thai Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Commerce Jurin Laksanawisit and Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen.

During the consultation, the Ministers had several discussions, mainly focusing on the opening of more commodity markets, rules for original products and a more open and free environment for investment and trade.

In a Joint Statement, the Ministers reaffirmed the ASEAN and China’s strong commitment to strengthening the robust trade and economic relations between both sides.

The Ministers particularly welcomed the increase in total merchandise trade between the ASEAN and China, which, according to preliminary ASEAN data, reached 479.4 billion U.S. dollars in 2018, accounting for 17.1 percent of the ASEAN’s total merchandise trade.

“China is the ASEAN’s largest trading partner, accounting for 17 percent of its global market share. The ASEAN and China will continue their cooperation in trade and free trade agreement,” said Jurin Laksanawisit.

The Statement also noted that the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows from China to the ASEAN amounted to 10.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2018, accounting for 6.6 percent of the organisation’s total FDI.

It also said that China has maintained its position as the ASEAN’s largest trading partner since 2009, and in 2018 China was the third external source of FDI among the ASEAN’s dialog partners.

According to statistics from the Chinese side, the ASEAN has overtaken the United States as China’s second-largest trading partner for the first half of 2019.

In the first six months of this year, the two-way trade between China and the ASEAN reached 291.85 billion U.S. dollars, and the trade volume is expected to exceed 600 billion U.S. dollars by the end of the year.

The ministers also noted the progress of the ASEAN-China FTA (ACFTA) implementation and they welcomed the entry into force of the Protocol to Amend the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Certain Agreements there under between the ASEAN and China (ACFTA Upgrading Protocol) for all Parties.

They welcomed the implementation of the enhanced rules on trade in goods under the protocol in August 2019. The Ministers also welcomed the ACFTA Joint Committee’s decision to commence discussions on the further liberalisation of trade in goods at the ACFTA Joint Committee Meeting next year.

According to the statement, the ASEAN ministers expressed their appreciation for China’s support in enhancing the ASEAN connectivity and integration through various projects in finance, transportation and infrastructure.

The ministers welcomed and encouraged the continuous effort to dovetail the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity and the Belt & Road Initiative to strengthen the ASEAN Community building, as well as to create win-win cooperation through the utilisation of local resources.

While the two sides’ cooperation in the fields of digital economy, e-commerce, smart city and 5G have embarked on a fast lane of development, China will provide 50 million yuan (about seven million U.S. dollars) to the ASEAN in support of the construction of its economic integration in less developed countries and surrounding Nations.

Source: Belt and Road News

Dated on: 11/9/2019


Peshawar-Kabul motorway paves way for Afghanistan’s entry to CPEC

ISLAMABAD: In a major breakthrough, China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan have agreed to expand road connectivity as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) enters its second phase.

The agreement was made at the third round of the third Trilateral Dialogue between the three neighbours, where they agreed to the construction of the Peshawar-Kabul motorway.

Diplomatic sources told Pakistan Today that foreign ministers of the three countries discussed the future regional scenario as US forces plan their withdrawal from war-torn Afghanistan, observing that the Peshawar-Kabul motorway may provide the foundation for Afghanistan’s formal joining of the CPEC as Peshawar is already linked with the route.

“So when Kabul and Peshawar are linked through road, it would automatically connect Kabul to CPEC – the pilot project of a multi-continental connectivity project launched by China called the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The formal announcement may be made at some later stage,” the source added.

“The construction of this motorway would not only link Afghanistan with Pakistan and China, it would also link landlocked Afghanistan with Pakistan’s strategic port of Gwadar which would alleviate Kabul’s trade issues,” the source further said.

“However, due to some diplomatic hitches, the three friendly neighbours have decided that the motorway would be named ‘China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Plus Cooperation’ (CAPPC). The initiative aims at jointly working towards promoting trade and connectivity projects between the three countries,” the sources stated, adding that a document was also signed at the moot.

It merits mention here that CPEC is being constructed in Pakistan under a mega investment initiative of around $62 billion by China. Out of the total portfolio, projects worth $20 billion have already been completed while the remaining projects are being executed.

BRI was launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping in late 2013. Since then, around 165 countries and international organisations have joined the initiative while 86 countries, including Afghanistan, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China so far.

It is self-evident that the BRI mega project carries much significance for Afghanistan, which intends to regain its historical position as an “Asian transit and trade roundabout” connecting South Asia to Central Asia, and East Asia to West Asia.

Afghanistan also became a permanent member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in 2017.

“It seems that Afghan President Dr Ashraf Ghani has a change of heart on joining the CPEC. China had initially floated the idea to include Afghanistan into CPEC in 2017 but Dr Ghani was reluctant so he did not take up the offer,” the diplomatic source said.

The source revealed that the offer was again put forth in the second Trilateral Dialogue held in 2018 but Kabul regime did not respond. China had also hinted on the offer publicly when Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing in November 2018 had said that Kabul can also act as a bridge to help expand connectivity between east, south and central Asian regions.

“Under the BRI, China wants peaceful development of all its neighbours and would take all necessary measures to achieve peaceful development in Afghanistan,” the source quoted Yao.

Further, the Joint Declaration issued after the third Trilateral Dialogue in Islamabad again hinted on the development.

“The three sides reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthening their relations, exploring new ways of deepening cooperation, including advancing connectivity under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) and other regional economic initiatives,” the declaation stated.

“The three sides welcomed the progress made on implementation of projects agreed under the China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Practical Cooperation Dialogue (CAPPCD). They agreed to continue cooperation in the fields of economic development, capacity building, improving livelihood and people-to-people exchanges,” the declaration added.

Another important development includes the decision to jointly wage counter terrorism operations against terrorist forces present inside Afghanistan and bordering areas including Islamic State (Da’ish), Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).

Source: Pakistan Today

Dated on: 08/9/2019

Author: Mian Abrar