Follow the New Silk Road
July 30, 2018 10:35 AM   Subscribe

The first part of a series revealing the effects of China's Belt and Road Initiative on cities around the world.
Analysts predict that China’s online retail market will double in size in the next two years.
But in western China, Beijing is using the most modern means available to control its Uighur minority. Tens of thousands have disappeared into re-education camps. (Uighurs previously)
posted by adamvasco (24 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm glad to see this. Here in the US there's weirdly little interest in the Belt and Road.
posted by doctornemo at 10:43 AM on July 30 [2 favorites]


most of the things I hear about Belt and Road is a lot more smoke than fire. The place the chinese really want to control the infrastructure won't allow it, and the places that will allow it aren't that strategically useful.
posted by JPD at 11:25 AM on July 30


Oh really?
A new report by non-profit C4ADS suggests that China's "Belt and Road" seaport projects in the Indo-Pacific may be intended to serve strategic, military objectives. Based upon the unofficial views of Chinese academics, Beijing's "core interest" in maintaining access to sea lanes is a key part of China's Indo-Pacific development strategy, C4ADS says: these overseas ports may not be profitable, but they are a way to cultivate political influence, build infrastructure for long-range naval operations and "stealthily expand China's military presence."
When Pakistan commissioned the U.S. Geological Survey to examine its coastline. Their conclusion: Gwadar, which sits on the Arabian Sea, would be an ideal location for a deep-water port.
'Polar Silk Road' challenges existing northern power balance.
posted by adamvasco at 11:46 AM on July 30


yeah -thats essentially the consensus view, so the chinese are having a hard time getting projects done that actually have material strategic value. There are also announced projects that basically aren't going anywhere.
posted by JPD at 12:02 PM on July 30


Like yeah Gwadar - fine place for a port - but why? Its not economic to overland oil from Pakistan over the Tian Shan via train to the major demand centers on the east coast of China relative to by sea.

And the places where the projects do make sense - mostly in ASEAN - the locals have basically said thanks but no thanks.
posted by JPD at 12:06 PM on July 30


That last article...

I'm so heartbroken. I visited Kashgar, or rather I spent some weeks there between going out into and out of the field in the mountains farther west, maybe 5 years ago or so. I met so many Uighur people. We took some of their photos and sent copies to them. They gave us yogurt out in the field. Even then I knew the situation was pretty tense in Urumqi but Kashgar at least seemed far more peaceful and the interaction between very different people seemed very welcome most of the time. The people I knew tended to stay separated to a degree but I didn't get the sense of a lot of animus in the day to day and the mosques were full during prayer time. Everyone in particular seemed pretty happy to share each other's food cultures (to the extent where they could, religious food restrictions notwithstanding).

I certainly didn't get followed around by police. We had a Han Chinese driver and cook and, once out in the more sensitive areas near the border, we did have to have just one policeman in the field with us, who mostly seemed bored and cold all the time.

In the mountain regions in towns like Tashkurgan and the surrounding areas bordered by Pakistan/India/Kyrgyzstan it seemed like the Tajik and Uighur populations seemed like they were about equal in number. Islam tends to be the religion of Tajik folks also... I never hear about them in things like this, thinking about it. I'm not sure why. I'll have to look around and see if I can find anything. I've never thought about it much.

I might have to comment more later when I'm less bummed out.
posted by nogoodverybad at 12:38 PM on July 30 [12 favorites]


Why Gwadar ? - String of Pearls - With Pakistan’s two other major ports operating near capacity with no room for expansion, projects in Gwadar promise to eventually handle one million tons of cargo annually as the jewel in the crown of the China Pakistan Economic corridor , and also happens to be situated on the Arabian Sea outside of the straits of Hormuz. See also For China’s Global Ambitions, ‘Iran Is at the Center of Everything’.
posted by adamvasco at 2:04 PM on July 30


The last article was heartbreaking/frightening, and the New Yorker article by Jiayang Fan was fascinating. I've occasionally mused about how high the level of general mutual trust has to be in a society for self-service stores to make economic sense, and the increased economic efficiency that results when a society achieves that level of trust.
My mother was awed that store employees, instead of trailing our every move as they did in China, seemed indifferent to our presence. How had shoplifting not bankrupted the establishment? What sort of society would allow such a risk?
Thanks for these articles!
posted by clawsoon at 2:28 PM on July 30


Like yeah Gwadar - fine place for a port - but why? Its not economic to overland oil from Pakistan over the Tian Shan via train to the major demand centers on the east coast of China relative to by sea.

If you expect a peaceful, rules based order with free trade to last indefinitely, it makes no sense.
posted by atrazine at 2:41 PM on July 30


projects in Gwadar promise to eventually handle one million tons of cargo annually as the jewel in the crown of the China Pakistan Economic corridor

A million tons doesn't actually sound like that much, for a major port. The port of Tulsa, Oklahoma, a city I can't imagine anyone associates with maritime commerce, moves 2.7 million tons/year.
posted by Copronymus at 3:17 PM on July 30 [1 favorite]


Oppression has been in place for years, but has worsened massively in recent months.

In China, oppression has been in place for centuries. Even the shame has to be oppressed. And the word 'Autonomous' is almost always a code for it.
posted by Twang at 4:02 PM on July 30


I don't understand why China is not being called out as the new evil empire. No one should do business with them until they give their citizens free speech and rule of law. They should be constantly called out on their human rights abuses. There should be constant push back.
posted by xammerboy at 5:16 PM on July 30 [5 favorites]


Pepe Escobar writing for the Asia Times has been reporting about the new silk road for years.

posted by Mesaverdian at 5:55 PM on July 30


I don't understand why China is not being called out as the new evil empire.

Because every country either has blood on their own hands or are oppressed themselves?
posted by saucysault at 6:40 PM on July 30 [1 favorite]


Because every country either has blood on their own hands or are oppressed themselves?

I see this opinion repeated here often, but in all honesty I'm baffled by it. I'm aware of the horrible things democratic governments have done, but do people seriously believe they are as bad as the dictatorships that imprison and torture their citizens without trials or access to a free press?
posted by xammerboy at 11:03 PM on July 30 [3 favorites]


The answer is depressingly simple, because confronting China in any meaningful sense would be inconvenient-to-economically-disastrous; has a genuine possibility of making things much worse, if it wasn't just futile (look at the twentieth century history of China), and would have geopolitical ramifications that could be quite bad.

See Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Myanmar etc for other "bad" countries we're pally with.

The world presents a smorgasboard of truly terrible regimes. Our focus at any one time on a certain few has nothing to do with the level of badness, and is apt to change over the years as well (Iraq, Libya, for eg)
posted by smoke at 12:00 AM on July 31 [5 favorites]


I would note, also, they "the do it too!" defense is the CCP's favourite rebuttal to the catalogue of abuses they carry out on thousands if not millions.

It's very weak sauce, grossly understating the severity and pervasiveness of their crimes, and its depressing to see western leftward leaning folk buying into to its ignorance. One doesn't cancel the other.
posted by smoke at 12:04 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


Malaysia's new government was making hue and cry about cancelling a number of high-profile China-backed infrastructure projects, but now with an upcoming visit to China due and at most a reduction in projected costs, I'm genuinely not holding my breath. For ASEAN countries anyway, there seems to be no easy route around China. Especially not with a USA that's drunk at the wheel.
posted by cendawanita at 1:36 AM on July 31


I don't understand why China is not being called out as the new evil empire. No one should do business with them until they give their citizens free speech and rule of law. They should be constantly called out on their human rights abuses. There should be constant push back.

I kind of feel that if "western" nations do this, it could end up having an inverse effect, especially within China and also regions close to it (in proximity and also culturally). The previous century of colonialism and imperialism has made most Asians very sensitive towards condemnations by their former masters/oppressors. Constant push back from the "West" would stir up nationalistic fervor and indignation. Many governments in the region would take the opportunity to paint everything "western" as evil and oppressive, which would conveniently include civil and human rights activism. Activists would be labelled as traitors corrupted by "western" influence.
posted by destrius at 7:31 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


xammerboy: I don't understand why China is not being called out as the new evil empire.

I'd suggest that it's because China has gone mostly capitalist. Anglo-American governments have consistently called Communist governments "evil", and they have consistently lauded capitalist dictatorships as beacons of freedom and hope.

Pinochet, Batista, Lee Kwan Yew, General Park, Suharto, the Shah - none of them were "evil" in the eyes of capitalism.

And even if they were only questionably capitalist, an anti-communist stance was enough, for decades, to erase the evil of Ferdinand Marcos, Samuel Doe and Mobutu in the eyes of the Anglo-American establishment.
posted by clawsoon at 7:49 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


I don't understand why China is not being called out as the new evil empire.

I'm a little surprised at phrase being used. Because I'm reminded of Reagan's "Evil Empire" speech, and also George W. Bush and the "Axis of Evil" speech. I would think being informed about the history of those presidencies, there would be at least a pause before applying this to the People's Republic of China.
posted by FJT at 1:22 PM on July 31 [2 favorites]


Continuation of The Guardian series: Germany's 'China City': how Duisburg became Xi Jinping's gateway to Europe. Every week, around 30 Chinese trains arrive at a vast terminal in Duisburg’s inland port.
posted by adamvasco at 5:11 AM on August 1


I'm sad to see it's gotten worse since I was in Xinjiang in 2004-06. Back then I was asked for my passport to access the internet (everyone was logged) and I was followed by secret police that intimidated hotel owners so that I could only stay at state approved (Han owned) hotels. One day I was sitting outside the Urumqi train station eating ice cream and watching the pick pockets when two Chinese 20-somethings approached me for help. They were from the East and worried about being in the region—it was "exotic and dangerous" and they felt more comfortable around me than locals, who they've been told are savages their whole lives. We spent the day together and I showed them around. It was pretty shocking to see their world view, their literally had never heard that Tibet was ever it's own country and refused to even entertain the thought. The next day I was invited into a Uighur household and the man of the house showed me his passport. He was so proud of it, and told me it took 10+ years to be granted it as most Uighurs are not allowed to leave the country. I have a close friend who was caught up in the 2014 attack and it's a shame the world doesn't know what China is doing out there.

China has been planning road systems for a long time. Back in 2004 I ran into a Chines road Myanmar near Mandalay. My motorbike driver told me that they like having nice roads but once it was done China started charging tolls and now they just have to pay. In 2006 I ran into a group of road builders in rural Ethiopia. Most of the workers looked to be locals, using hammer and picks to break rocks wearing almost no clothes while a Chinese man stood over them watching. This is not new, they have been setting up shop around the world (often in developing countries) for more than a decade. I asked some locals if they prefer Chinese business people coming in instead of Americans and they told me that at least the Americans were friendly and pretended to get to know them, whereas the Chinese businessmen and builders just came in, took their resources and left.
posted by Bunglegirl at 9:26 AM on August 1 [4 favorites]


A UN human rights committee has heard there are credible reports that China is holding a million Uighurs in "counter-extremism centres".
posted by adamvasco at 7:34 AM on August 11


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