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Thread: The Silk Road

  1. #46
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  2. #47
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  3. #48
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  4. #49
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    Buffers

    'Road blocks' would've been better than 'buffers'. Sorry, it's the publisher in me.

    China’s Silk Road revival hits the buffers
    Par Sam Reeves, with Dessy Sagita in Walini, Indonesia, publié le 12 November 2017 à 4h41.
    5 minutes


    The 'One Belt, One Road' initiative, unveiled by Xi in 2013, envisages linking China with Africa, Asia and Europe through a network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks© AFP/File JANEK SKARZYNSKI

    From a stalled Indonesian rail project to an insurgency-threatened economic corridor in Pakistan, China‘s push to revive Silk Road trade routes is running into problems that risk tarnishing the economic crown jewel of Xi Jinping’s presidency.

    The “One Belt, One Road” initiative, unveiled by Xi in 2013, envisages linking China with Africa, Asia and Europe through a network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks.

    Xi, the most powerful Chinese leader in decades, has pushed the infrastructure drive which is central to his goal of extending Beijing’s economic and geopolitical clout.

    The initiative was enshrined in the Communist Party’s constitution at a key congress last month, and some estimates say more than $1 trillion has been pledged to it, with projects proposed in some 65 countries.


    China’s President Xi Jinping has pushed the infrastructure drive which is central to his goal of extending Beijing’s economic and geopolitical clout© POOL/AFP/File Mark Schiefelbein

    But on the ground it has run into problems. Projects traverse insurgency-hit areas, dictatorships and chaotic democracies, and face resistance from both corrupt politicians and local villagers.

    “Building infrastructure across countries like this is very complicated,” said Murray Hiebert, from Washington think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), who has studied some of the projects in Southeast Asia.

    “You’ve got land issues, you have to hammer out funding agreements, you have to hammer out technological issues.”

    Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying however insisted the initiative was “moving forward smoothly”.

    Troubled train line

    Beijing won the contract to build Indonesia’s first high-speed railway in September 2015, but more than two years later work has barely started on the route from Jakarta to the city of Bandung.

    A recent visit to Walini, where President Joko Widodo broke ground on the train line in January last year, found excavators flattening land but no track laid for the train, which is meant to start operating in 2019.

    “The first year after the ground-breaking ceremony, I did not see any progress at all,” Neng Sri, a 37-year-old food stall owner from nearby Mandala Mukti village, told AFP.


    Chinese infrastructure projects traverse insurgency-hit areas, dictatorships and chaotic democracies, and face resistance from both corrupt politicians and local villagers© AFP/File ADEK BERRY

    The central problem has been persuading villagers to leave their land on the proposed route, which is often an issue in the chaotic, freewheeling democracy.

    The Indonesian transport ministry declined to give an update on the project and the consortium of Chinese and Indonesian companies building the line did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

    On another planned high-speed line from southern China to Singapore, the Thai stretch of the railway was delayed by tussles over financing and protective labour regulations, and it was only in July that the military government finally approved $5.2 billion to start construction.

    Work is under way on the 415-kilometre (260-mile) part of the line in Laos, a staunch ally of Beijing.

    But even there the project has stoked controversy due to its huge price tag — at $5.8 billion, roughly half the country’s 2015 GDP — and the question of how much deeply poor Laos will gain from the project.

    Lopsided gains
    There have been concerns in many countries about how much they will benefit from One Belt, One Road initiatives.

    Gains for China, such as access to key markets and tackling overcapacity in domestic industries, are often more obvious than those for their partners.

    Such worries have bedevilled projects in Central Asia, part of a potential route from western China to Europe.

    These include a free trade zone at Horgos on the China-Kazakh border, notable for flashy malls on the Chinese side and relatively little on the Kazakh side, and a planned railway to Uzbekistan that has stalled in large part due to opposition in Kyrgyzstan, through which the line would run.

    “I am against this railway as it stands because the financial benefits that could accrue to Kyrgyzstan accrue to (China and Uzbekistan) instead,” said Timur Saralayev, head of the Bishkek-based New Generation movement.

    The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a $54-billion project launched in 2013 linking western China to the Indian Ocean via Pakistan, has been targeted by separatist rebels in Balochistan province, who have blown up gas pipelines and trains and attacked Chinese engineers.

    But the Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua insisted the One Belt, One Road initiative enjoyed broad support.

    “We have seen more and more support and approval of our projects. Many projects have delivered tangible benefits to the people in these countries,” she said.

    The view from the ground, however, is not always so positive.

    “The high-speed train… is only for super busy people who think time is money,” said the villager Sri, who lives next to the Indonesian rail project.

    “We are not rushing to go anywhere.”
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    Greg Brundage continues his Silk Road quest. READ The Silk Road Kung Fu Friendship Tour Part 22: The Noble Martial Art Legacy of Qatar Continued by Greg Brundage

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  6. #51
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    A half decade already...

    China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’: after five years, is the bloom off the rose?
    A strategic environment much changed since Xi Jinping unveiled the massive infrastructure plan in 2013 has the country’s top leaders wondering how far this grand enterprise can go
    PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 October, 2018, 8:32pm
    UPDATED : Monday, 08 October, 2018, 4:41pm
    Kristin Huang
    Laura Zhou



    China credits President Xi Jinping’s massive infrastructure plan, the “Belt and Road Initiative”, with sparking a surge in the construction of railways, roads, bridges and ports across more than 65 countries and regions.

    Five years after its launch, however, a litany of risks and criticism and a changing strategic environment have the country’s top leaders wondering just how far this grand and ambitious enterprise can go.

    A new sense of urgency was palpable when Xi asked belt and road officials for their reports on the risks facing various projects, a source with knowledge of the gathering early this year told the South China Morning Post.

    When officials attempted to impress Xi with descriptions of the progress being made on his pet programme, the president interrupted them, insisting they level with him about the risks and difficulties increasingly dogging it, the source said.

    When first unveiled in September and October 2013 during the president’s visits to Kazakhstan and Indonesia, the strategy – initially known as the “One Belt, One Road” initiative – was promoted as “a bid to enhance regional connectivity and embrace a brighter future”.

    China watchers wary of Beijing, however, termed the proposal a push by the government to seize a larger role in global affairs via a China-centred trading network.

    Encompassing 65 countries with a combined gross domestic product of US$23 trillion and total population of 4.4 billion, the belt and road strategy was introduced as a way to advance China’s political interests abroad while reducing its overcapacity problems at home.

    Focused on infrastructure, it was to be a model not only for developing countries, but also industrialised nations in Europe and North America that needed to replace ageing facilities and systems.


    China’s belt and road plan aims to revive and extend trading routes connecting China with Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe via networks of upgraded or new railways, ports, pipelines, power grids and motorways. Photo: Bloomberg

    Major projects include a US$5 billion China-Belarus industrial estate, a US$3.1 billion bridge and railway project in Bangladesh and a US$5.8 billion China-Laos railway.

    Other China-funded work in the initiative includes building a US$10 billion refinery in Saudi Arabia; a new city next to the Port of Colombo, the largest and busiest port in Sri Lanka with a total investment of US$13 billion over the next 25 years; and a freight route linking China’s eastern coast with London.

    But Beijing has many barriers to overcome at home and abroad before it can realise its belt and road ambitions.

    At home, doubt has been voiced publicly about whether the belt and road can tangibly improve China’s domestic welfare system. Outside the country, the initiative has been portrayed as Beijing’s attempt to lay a debt trap for smaller nations to increase their reliance on China.


    The Multan-Sukkur motorway in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province is the largest transport infrastructure project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Photo: Xinhua

    “When the Belt and Road Initiative was launched five years ago, it mainly targeted the Eurasia region,” said Wang Yiwei, an international affairs professor at Renmin University in Beijing. “There was no expectation that it would expand to wider regions that also cover Africa.”


    The Luang Prabang railway bridge being built by the China Railway No 8 Engineering Group on the Mekong in Laos. Photo: Xinhua

    As the initiative grows in scope, Chinese companies and even some local Chinese governments have increasingly branded their projects as part of the belt and road strategy. This trend has sometimes hurt the stature of the overall endeavour.

    “The reputation of the initiative is damaged as some people and organisations are trying to export bad assets outside China, and said they are doing it for the initiative,” Wang said.

    In its effort to advance a development strategy focused on connectivity and cooperation, China also now faces competition from the United States and the European Union, both of which have been pursuing their own plans to counter China’s expanding influence.
    continued next post
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  7. #52
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    Continued from previous post


    The proposed Beilun River Bridge at the Sino-Vietnamese border is part of the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’. Photo: He Huifeng

    In late July, the US expanded its infrastructure drive in the Asia-Pacific region with new investment programmes that doubled the global spending cap for a proposed merged agency, the US International Development Finance Corporation, to US$60 billion.

    The European Union also put forward its own connectivity programme with Asia last month. The EU programme emphasises sustainability and transparency – two features that the belt and road strategy has been accused of lacking.

    Critics have warned that poor countries could be mired in huge debt by failing to resist the lure of Chinese money.

    “It is obvious for all concerned that sustainable borrowing ratios have far exceeded the norm,” said Abourahman Boreh, a former head of the Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority.

    “My view is that a diversified portfolio of foreign investors, as well as the continued development and sharing of benefit for the local population, is the only sustainable pathway for developing countries such as Djibouti.”

    Sri Lanka borrowed heavily from China to build the seaport of Hambantota, which is still struggling to attract ships. In December, Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena handed over control of the port and 15,000 acres around it to Beijing on a 99-year lease.

    Developing countries along the belt and road are often vulnerable because of uncertainties in their legal, political and commercial systems. Problems are likely after any transition of power.

    Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, for example, cancelled two China-financed mega projects in late August: the US$20 billion East Coast Rail Link and two gas pipeline projects worth US$2.3 billion. Mahathir said his country could not afford those projects and they were not needed.

    The recent change in leadership in Pakistan could also see a potential pullback on agreements for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship, multibillion-dollar belt and road project.


    Sri Lanka's government agreed to lease a 70 per cent stake in the port facilities at Hambantota to China for 99 years. Photo: AFP

    But China will not give up the initiative. In a speech that opened the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing in September, Xi said China would offer US$60 billion in financial support for Africa, and would cancel unpaid debts for some poor African nations.

    Earlier this year, in a seminar to mark the initiative’s anniversary, Xi said China was not seeking a geopolitical and military alliance through the belt and road. He also said Beijing needed to fine-tune the initiative to focus on high-quality projects that would benefit local people.

    Analysts said China would adjust the initiatives, with its foreign and commerce ministries offering policy guidance and the National Development and Reform Commission focusing on risk assessment.

    Authorities have already been boosting risk assessment and creating a set of data against which to evaluate the projects’ effectiveness. In 2016, a group of Peking University academics began to publish a “Five Connectivity Index” to evaluate China’s overseas investment under the initiative. The effort was sponsored by the National Social Science Fund.


    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US would expand its infrastructure drive in the Asia-Pacific region with new investment programmes. Photo: AFP

    Feng Zhongping, vice-president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations and one of co-creators of the index, said it could offer “a scientific way to better understand progress in the connectivity process”.

    The frequency of mutual visits to each other’s countries by leaders of China and belt and road nations, as well as political stability, the legal system, trade figures, currency swaps and tourist numbers are taken into consideration to measure the effectiveness of belt and road investment.

    For example, Russia, Singapore and Malaysia, as well as United Arab Emirates and central Asia’s Kazakhstan are listed as destinations that are best connected to the belt and road. Meanwhile, war-torn Yemen in the Middle East and Bhutan were ranked at the bottom, owing to weak policy communications.


    A man walks by a government propaganda billboard promoting Xi Jinping’s signature belt and road plan in Beijing. Photo: AP

    Zhixing Zhang, senior East Asia analyst with Stratfor, a US-based intelligence group, said China had to learn to surmount various obstacles to advance its overseas practices via the belt and road.

    “The suspicions and strategic competitions as a result [of it] are also part of the strategic realities Beijing will inevitably face,” he said. “How well Beijing works to adjust its approach and to adapt to the changing strategic environment will ultimately shape the initiative in the future.”

    Huong Le Thu, a senior analyst from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra, said Beijing needed to address such issues to avoid further damaging China’s reputation as it pursued projects related to the initiative.

    “If Beijing doesn’t revise its model of the debt-driven project, it risks the ‘Sri Lanka effect’ – that is, the Hambantota port will become the belt and road’s negative poster child,” Le Thu said.

    This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: five years on, xi’s massive project faces barriers
    Easier to build a wall than a road.

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    THREADS
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    “One Belt, One Road” The Chinese Taiji Culture World Workshop

    I need to post this here because this is are 'One Belt, One Road' thread.

    “One Belt, One Road” The Chinese Taiji Culture World Workshop
    The Tiger Claw Foundation is supporting the “One Belt, One Road” The Chinese Taiji Culture World Workshop on Friday February 8th, 2019 at the Royal Palace, 6058 Stevenson Blvd., Fremont CA 94538, and Saturday 9th, 2019 at the Redemption Church, 105 Nortech Pkwy, San Jose CA. The “One Belt, One Road” Taiji Ambassadors include Grandmaster Chen Zhenlei, Grandmaster Wang Zhanhai, Grandmaster Yang Jun, Professor Huang Kanhui, Master Wu Dong, and Master Qiu Huifang. Contact Gigi Oh for tuition rates at 408-209-8150 gigitcmedia@hotmail.com.

    In cooperation with nccaf.org and KungFuMagazine.com.
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  11. #56
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    Italy

    In the tradition of Marco Polo, I suppose.

    Italy joins China's New Silk Road project
    23 March 2019


    REUTERS
    There was long applause as the two leaders met to witness the signature of the deals

    Italy has become the first developed economy to sign up to China's global investment programme which has raised concerns among Italy's Western allies.

    A total of 29 deals amounting to €2.5bn ($2.8bn) were signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Rome.

    The project is seen as a new Silk Road which, just like the ancient trade route, aims to link China to Europe.

    Italy's European Union allies and the United States have expressed concern at China's growing influence.

    What is the Chinese project about?

    The new Silk Road has another name - the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) - and it involves a wave of Chinese funding for major infrastructure projects around the world, in a bid to speed Chinese goods to markets further afield. Critics see it as also representing a bold bid for geo-political and strategic influence.

    It has already funded trains, roads, and ports, with Chinese construction firms given lucrative contracts to connect ports and cities - funded by loans from Chinese banks.



    The levels of debt owed by African and South Asian nations to China have raised concerns in the West and among citizens - but roads and railways have been built that would not exist otherwise:

    In Uganda, Chinese millions built a 50km (30 mile) road to the international airport

    In Tanzania, a small coastal town may become the continent's largest port

    In Europe too, Chinese firms managed to buy 51% of the port authority in Piraeus port near Athens in 2016, after years of economic crisis in Greece

    What projects were signed in Rome?

    On behalf of Italy, Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, leader of the populist Five Star Movement, signed the umbrella deal (memorandum of intent) making Italy formally part of the Economic Silk Road and The Initiative for a Maritime Silk Road for the 21st Century.

    Ministers then signed deals over energy, finance, and agricultural produce, followed by the heads of big Italian gas and energy, and engineering firms - which will be offered entry into the Chinese market.

    China's Communications and Construction Company will be given access to the port of Trieste to enable links to central and eastern Europe. The Chinese will also be involved in developing the port of Genoa.

    What's in it for Italy?

    Italy is the first member of the G7 group of developed world economies to take money offered by China.

    It is one of the world's top 10 largest economies - yet Rome finds itself in a curious situation.

    The collapse of the Genoa bridge in August killed dozens of people and made Italy's crumbling infrastructure a major political issue for the first time in decades.

    And Italy's economy is far from booming.

    The country slipped into recession at the end of 2018, and its national debt levels are among the highest in the eurozone. Italy's populist government came to power in June 2018 with high-spending plans but had to peg them back after a stand-off with the EU.

    Mr Di Maio told a news conference: "Italy has arrived first on the Silk Road and therefore other European countries at this moment have taken a stance on our trade decisions.

    "They have taken a critical view and they have the right to this opinion."

    "We do not want to override our European partners. We firmly remain in the Euro-Atlantic alliance and we remain allies of the United States in Nato," he added.

    There is, however, dissent within the Italian government. Mr Di Maio's coalition partner, the other Deputy Prime Minister, Matteo Salvini, who heads the right-wing League, was conspicuously absent from all official ceremonies.

    Mr Salvini has warned that he does not want to see foreign businesses "colonising" Italy.

    "Before allowing someone to invest in the ports of Trieste or Genoa, I would think about it not once but a hundred times," Mr Salvini warned.

    What's in it for China?

    Italy's move is "largely symbolic", according to Peter Frankopan, professor of Global History at Oxford University and a writer on The Silk Roads.

    But even Rome admitting the BRI is worth exploring "has a value for Beijing", he said.

    What China's One Belt, One Road really means

    "It adds gloss to the existing scheme and also shows that China has an important global role."

    "The seemingly innocuous move comes at a sensitive time for Europe and the European Union, where there is suddenly a great deal of trepidation not only about China, but about working out how Europe or the EU should adapt and react to a changing world," Prof Frankopan told the BBC.

    "But there is more at stake here too," he added. "If investment does not come from China to build ports, refineries, railway lines and so on, then where will it come from?"

    Grappling with China's growing power


    OXFORD SCIENCE ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAG
    Explorer Marco Polo's travels along the Silk Road were immortalised in the "Book of Marvels"

    The "made in Italy" label carries a reputation for quality worldwide, and is legally protected for products items processed "mainly" in Italy.

    In recent years, Chinese factories based in Italy using Chinese labour have been challenging that mark of quality.

    Better connections for cheap raw materials from China - and the return of finished products from Italy - could exaggerate that practice.

    'Predatory' investment

    The agreements signed in Rome come amid questions over whether Chinese firm Huawei should be permitted to build essential communications networks - after the United States expressed concern they could help Beijing spy on the West.

    That was not part of the negotiations in Italy.

    But a little over a week before the deal was due to be signed, the European Commission released a joint statement on "China's growing economic power and political influence" and the need to "review" relations.

    As President Xi toured Rome, EU leaders in Brussels considered their approach for relations with China.

    "Our aim is to focus on achieving a balanced relation, which ensures fair competition and equal market access," Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, said.

    In March, US National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis pointed out that Italy was a major economy and did not need to "lend legitimacy to China's vanity infrastructure project".
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  12. #57
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    HuaHua

    I'm not going to even try to pretend that I understand what's happening here. It just amuses me that China is so invested in Godzilla.

    MAY 9, 2019 7:29AM PT
    China to Remake Classic Balkan Films as Part of Diplomatic Charm Offensive

    By REBECCA DAVIS


    CREDIT: COURTESY OF WARNER BROS.

    China’s Huahua Media has signed on to remake two classic war films from the Balkans as part of a push to improve diplomatic ties between the Middle Kingdom and countries taking part in its “Belt and Road” global infrastructure project, Chinese reports said. The news follows Huahua’s return to the spotlight as an investor on the upcoming “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” franchise film, though the company was better-known in the past for a short-lived slate financing deal with Paramount in 2017.

    The ambassadors to China from Serbia and from Bosnia and Herzegovina were present as Huahua inked a deal with the Sarajevo Film Center and a Serbian production company to remake two Serbo-Croatian-language films: 1969’s “The Bridge,” about the defense of a span against the Nazis in World War II, and 1972’s “Walter Defends Sarajevo,” helmed by the Bosnian director Hajrudin Krvavac.

    “The remake is not only a tribute to the classics; it will also further promote deep cultural exchange between the three countries,” the website Sohu Film said. It cited Huahua CEO Wang Kefei as saying that the partnership “responds to the call of the state by bearing the important weight of strengthening ‘Belt and Road’ cultural exchange.”

    Last week, China signed a major infrastructure deal and numerous other agreements with Serbia, the most significant of which will see cooperation between the two countries on the construction of a new metro system in Belgrade. Critics of the Belt and Road Initiative in the Balkans cite fears that such projects might create untenable debt.

    China-Kazakhstan co-production “The Composer,” the first to be made from a co-production treaty to bring the mainland closer to another Belt and Road nation, was selected as the opening film for the Beijing International Film Festival last month and is set for nationwide theatrical release in China next Friday.
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