27 July 2018

Maritime silk road, part of the international order

Sergiu Medar

The recent international political and economic progresses that were globally registered show more and more that there is a new world’s placing, on new rules. The old liberal order is replaced with new adapted forms, more to multilateralism rules supported by the economic authoritarianism, than to globalism, where state’s intervention regulates the evolution. At this tendency takes part China, which in the last two-three years, through implementing the new program “Belt and Road Initiative”, starts to show and to be recognized as a first-class global power.

Image source: Mediafax

In the last year, since the public statements of the U.S president, Donald Trump, seemed to be against the usual procedures, discussions about a new international order started to show up.

It becomes obvious that the world is more and more estranged from the liberal international order from the Second World War period. The international policy adopted by Trump could be in this tendency too. The world is no longer unipolar, and the states must assume economic and security responsibilities. Among the first states in the world which understood this new global tendency is China.

This state, which innovatory marked the historical evolution of the social systems, assumes the global responsibilities and becomes, quickly, a global power with a different position, which in various domains can be compared to U.S. It is unknown and denied by the majority of U.S or Europe politic men, yet evaluated and remarked by the experts. China proposed, according to 19th congress directions of Chinese Communist Party, to reach a global leader position in some areas, in the next decades and actually it has all the chances to do so. This way China is one of the few states that are actively involved in “Project of Building a new Tenable International Order”, as a RAND study on this subject shows.

In U.S. there is also a lot of talk about a new international order, that not only that tries to demand this order, but also to set its functioning rules. This is precisely China’s objective. It is hard to have fully success in setting these norms, but the simple fact that is a part of this process offers China a really important role in the current world’s transformation.

China seems to be not only in a severe competition with the U.S. at a regional level, but, in some domains, at a global one. The Chinese project “Belt and Road Initiative”, composed by “Silk Road Economic Belt” and “21ST Century Silk Road” (1) are made to create and to develop that strategic upward, which could allow China to assure its economic security regional march against the U.S. and Russia.

“Maritime Silk Road” should assure the commercial and navigation route control for China’s military and commercial navies to East Mediterranean Sea. China’s interest in this area is generated by its concessions over the hydrocarbon basin exploitation from South-East Cyprus. These are the reasons why China developed in Larnaca a commercial marine base, which would allow the brut oil charging, as well as the liquified gases charging, for their transportation to China.

To assure the security on this route, which connects economic and military interest areas for other states, China built and developed naval basis with the approval of the states that were on the interest route.

The chines naval base in Djibouti is actually a logistically center opened in July 2017 by China, at some kilometers away from the U.S. military base, Champ Lemonnier, in Ambuli, south of the country, small distance away from the international airport. The new Chinese base is about to be extended on the place where the Doraleh container terminal was. The Djibouti government cancelled a contract the had with the Arabian company and offered the terminal to the Chinese government. This naval base is the first one that the Chinese military marine has outside China’s territory. Its functioning was fully financed by the Chinese government and costed around 590 million dollars.

The new Chinese base allows the naval traffic control through the Bad-el-Mandeb gut, which is placed at the entry in Red Sea, respectively Aden Gulf.

On the same silk maritime road China developed another naval base at Gwadar, a harbor situated in south of Pakistan, in Baluchistan district, the biggest in the Pakistanis district.


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This harbor is a part of the project “Silk Maritime Road”, but also of the project “China’s economic hall-Pakistan”, both a part of the big project “Belt and Road Initiative”. For the project’s Pakistanis element which had the terrestrial and the maritime part, the Chinese government spent 62 billion dollars. The Gwadar harbor has a commercial and a military component. Situated at 172 km from the Iran border, the harbor will be able to satisfy a part of the commercial necessities with this country. To assure the security of the commercial activity against the possible terrorist attacks, or the military groups of the habitants that are in a historical dispute with the Pakistanis government, in Gwadar will be implemented a military structure and some Chinese police one.

Maybe the most important Chinese naval base from this area is the one built in Sri Lanka, at Hambantota. Unable to assure the payment of the debts to China, the Sri Lankan government accepted, at its request, to offer through leasing the Hambantota harbor, for 99 years.  The commercial importance of the harbor’s location is not the major motivation that China had to build the harbor, the nearby airport and the road that connects the Colombo capital and the harbor. The geostrategic position of the harbor in the middle of the Indian Ocean, on the most populated commercial maritime road in the world, made the Chinese government to take this measure. In Hambantota harbor docks Chinese fight navies, as well as submarines. Also, there is a maintenance base for these.

The strategic importance of this base is underlined also because India has naval basis in Madagascar, Seychelles and on its western coast (3 basis), on its eastern coast and one naval base in Port Blair, in Thailand.

Considering the Indian concern for the Indian Ocean’s security, in the leasing contract signed by Sri Lankan government, China commits to never attack India from this base.

The concerns of other global powers regarding this commercial route is proved by the fact that in the area is also the air and naval base of U.S. from Diego Garcia.

In the Bengal Gulf, on Myanmar’s coast, in 2016, China Harbor Engineering Company, leaded by the Chinese government, signed two contracts with the Myanmar government to build in Kyaukpyu a special economic area and also a new commercial harbor. With this contract China has the right to use the new transit hub fares in south-east Asia.

Myanmar’s government concerns are that these Chinese military navies could dock in this harbor, which is, at least theoretically, possible.

In the foreseeable future, China wants to build another harbor in the same area, in Sitwe. The negotiations are still in process.

It is known that there is no strong state in the world which is not opened out to a sea or an ocean. All the states that can lead or influence the global situation are opened out to oceans. That Russia’s frustration reason as the Atlantic Ocean’s opening is not direct, but through some seas they do not control.

In the new global order that is nowadays building, China will have an important role. This is the reason why Beijing starts to manifest itself as a more and more first-class power. After practically conquered Africa economically, now China tries to play a strategic role in the Indian Ocean through a military presence on the most important commercial road in the world.