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November 15, 2018

“One Belt-One Road Initiative and MYANMAR” Connectivity: Synergy Issue and Potentialities

  • THAN ZAW OO

In September 2013 at Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan, Chinese president Xi Jin ping announced that China would fund a New Silk Road Economic Belt across Eurasia to connect China with Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia. Chinese officials subsequently revealed ambitious plans to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in new infrastructure investments and upgrades including highways, pipelines, railroads, and power grids, along with related port and logistics upgrades in maritime partner countries. Together, the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and the New Silk Road Economic Belt, both of which were proposed in 2013.One Belt, One Road (OBOR) or the “Belt and Road.” Media estimates investment in OBOR at between $800 billion and $1 trillion, covering 890 projects in over 60 partner countries.
The ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI) or ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) is a project launched by China to develop countries and improve global connectivity. The initiative is focused on creating networks that will allow for a more efficient and productive free flow of trade as well as further integration of international markets both physically and digitally.
Silk Road economic belt is the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt begins in Xi’an, China, and linking up with the rest of Central Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Russia. The Silk Road Economic Belt focuses on connecting China to Europe through Central Asia and Russia, the Persian Gulf through Central Asia and South East Asia, South Asia and the Indian Ocean.
21st Century Maritime Silk Road 
 is the Maritime Silk Road will complement the Silk Road Economic Belt, focusing on utilizing sea routes and Chinese coastal ports to link China with Europe via the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, and the South Pacific Ocean through the South China Sea. Inside China: The “Silk Road Economic Belt” includes 12 provinces and one municipality, namely Xinjiang, Shaanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai, Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, Guangxi, Yunnan, Tibet and Chongqing.
The “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” includes four provinces and one municipality, namely Fujian, Guangdong, Zhejiang, Hainan and Shanghai.
Outside of China, over 50 countries are along the “belt” and the “road.” They include:
Asia: Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Maldives, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, the Sultanate of Oman, Qatar, Israel and Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan.
Africa: Kenya, Sudan, Egypt and Djibouti.
Europe: Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Serbia,
Romania, Moldova, Germany, the Netherlands. BIR (One belt One road Initiative) Key Port Cities are
I. Kuantan (Malaysia)
II. Kyaukpyu (Myanmar)
III. Jakarta and Batam Island (Indonesia)
IV. Colombo and Hambantota (Sri Lanka)
V. Gwadar (Pakistan)
VI. Djibouti (near red sea)
VII. Mombasa (Kenya)
VIII. Piraeus (Greece)
BRI is comprised of the ‘21st Century Maritime Silk Road’ and the ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ together they will connect more than 65 countries making up over 62% of the world’s population, around 35% of the world’s trade and over 31% of the world’s GDP. It will take the form of a series of highways, railways and ports as well as facilities for energy, telecommunications, healthcare and education.
The initiative includes 6 international ‘corridors’. These include; (1) ‘The new Eurasia land Bridge’, (2) ‘The China-Mongolia-Russia economic corridor’, (3) ‘China-Central Asia-West Asia economic corridor’, (4) ‘China-Indochina Peninsular Economic Corridor’, (5) ‘China- Pakistan Economic Corridor’, (6) ‘Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor’(BCIM), this corridor is a hybrid (BCIM) or amphibious route.
Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor is the economic link connecting the Ganges River of India, the Ayerwaddy River of Myanmar, and the Mekong River of Indo-China. It is the lead bridge connecting the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean. It is a market focus point for China, South and South East Asia. Therefore, building of the BCIM Economic Corridor conforms to the common interest requirements of the sub regional countries’ economic and social development.
Economic Corridor (BCIM) is one of the 6 International corridors of Belt and road Initiative. The Bangladesh- China- India- Myanmar corridor is a multi-modal corridor made up of both land routes mainly via the Kolkata and Kunming (K2K) highway passing through Bangladesh and Myanmar, spans 2,800km, and is almost ready to operate. The sea routes start from Mandalay (In land water way) and end in Kolkata, India. The land routes begin from Kunming, China’s Yunnan regional capital, passing through Myanmar cities such as Mandalay and then Bangladesh through to Kolkata.
The maritime side of routes, connecting Myanmar to India, is a transport loop which aims to provide maritime access of goods from Kolkata, via Myanmar’s port of Sittwe, to Paletwa by inland water transport along the Myanmar River, Kaladan, and back via highway to Mizoram in northeast India.
This sea route in which Myanmar plays an essential part is in fact highly competitive: compared with the land route, access via sea from Sittwe to Kolkata reduces the distance covered by land by 1,328km to a 539km.
This corridor will cover 9% of the planets land mass and 440 million people. The main part of the corridor is a 2,800-km route running as follows; Kolkata-Dhaka-Mandalay-Kunming. It will take the form of a series of railways, motorways, airways, waterways and telecom networks. Myanmar has a key strategic role in terms of energy supply, in maritime access to the Bay of Bengal, as a land connector to the Road, and in development plans for the underdeveloped Yunnan province.
Myanmar
Here there is a large twin gas and oil pipeline project from the port of Kyaukpyu to Guangxi and Yunnan. The gas pipeline is already in use and the oil pipeline opened in April 2017. China is highly invested in Kyaukpyu and has developed the ‘Kyaukpyu Special Economic Zone’ including a deep-sea port at Kyaukpyu which is under development led by Chinese CITI Group
Corporation. China led power and energy projects across
Myanmar are already in action as is demonstrated by the £2.4 billion refinery in the South East which was granted approval in 2016.
Kyaukphyu Deep Sea Port could be taken as to circumvent the Malacca Straits, while the Kyaukphyu Economic Zone could be a key to the Myanmar, Bangladesh and North East India Economic Corridor.
It is good that through the Kaladan River one could easily reach North East India via Mizoram. As at now, the Chinese Province of Yunnan is connected to the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean and also North East India using Kyaukphyu as a transport centre.
Myanmar occupies a rather unique position in the Belt and Road Initiative. Most notably, Myanmar is seen as a link that connects both the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and the Silk Road Economic Belt, making it an integral component of both. Form a strategic perspective, Myanmar is one of the two direct access points to the Indian Ocean for China. Theoretically, Myanmar should be a priority country in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, given its unique location.
Therefore Myanmar Become a key BRI terrestrial-maritime corridor connector, has allowed China to diversify its energy import over land and has found itself in a complex, simultaneous political transition and peace process, where China has a key but shifting role. Since 1988, China becomes a major investor and in the wake of Myanmar’s isolation from rest of the world, China and Myanmar came closer to each other.
In conclusion, the concrete implementation of BRI projects has raised the stakes for China in Myanmar, translating into multi-level engagement, including infrastructure and industrial cooperation, support for the government’s peace process. Regarding the core issue of achieving sustainable agreements between the government and the multiple ethnic armed groups (EAGs), China is the key external actor and BRI engagements are currently contributing to China’s active role. For Myanmar, the BRI holds the promise of much needed connectivity and industrial development.

References:

Chanda, Nayan (2015). “The Silk Road –Old and New”. Global Asia, Yale Global Online. MacMillan Center, October 26
Clover and Lucy Hornby (2015). “China’s Great Game: Road to a new empire”. The Financial Times, October 12.
Ghiselli, Andrea (2015). “The Belt, the Road and the PLA”. China Brief, XV(20): 14-17.
http://www.mizzima.com/news-opinion/construction-bcim-economic-corridor-vs-myanmar
Lanjian and Zhang Wei (2015). “China OBOR in Perspective of High-speed Railway (HSR) – Research onOBOR Economic Expansion Strategy of China”. Advances in Economics and Business, 3(8): 303-321.
Minghao, Zhao (2015). “China’s New Silk Road Initiative”. Paper prepared for the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI), October, 1-12.
Minnick, Wendell (2015). “China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ Strategy”. Defense News, April 12.
Yunling, Zhang (2012).
“China’s regional and global power”. East Asia Forum, 6 February, Available at http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2012/02/06/chinas-regional-and-global-power/
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