Andrew Korybko |
The capital of China’s southern landlocked Yunnan Province has suddenly turned into the central hub of the country’s South Eurasian connectivity initiatives.
China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) global vision of New Silk Road connectivity has revolutionized economic geography ever since its 2013 conception, and in the four short years since it was first announced, it managed to transform China’s landlocked southern Yunnan Province into a hub for South Eurasian infrastructure integration.
Long thought of by many observers as an obscure and isolated mountainous corner of China disconnected from the rest of the world, Yunnan and its capital of Kunming have jumped to the forefront of the country’s geo-strategic calculations after becoming the central location for its three southern-directed corridors.
The relevant projects that China is either actively pursuing or currently planning are the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Corridor, also known as the Kolkata-Kunming Corridor; the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) alongside the already existing oil and gas pipelines to the Indian Ocean port of Kyaukphyu; and the ASEAN Silk Road high-speed railway to Singapore via Laos, Thailand, and Malaysia.
The strategically positioned coastal country could provide Beijing with two access routes to the Bay of Bengal in the northeastern corner of the Indian Ocean, which would complement the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the northwestern part of the Arabian Sea.
Here’s how the three projects look when placed together on a map:
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The cartographic illustration depicts the central role that Kunming plays in these three projects, and it also shows the dual importance of Myanmar in China’s connectivity plans. The strategically positioned coastal country could provide Beijing with two access routes to the Bay of Bengal in the northeastern corner of the Indian Ocean, which would complement the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the northwestern part of the Arabian Sea.
Moreover, the map shows the efforts that China is taking the ASEAN Silk Road to streamline a mainland detour around the contentious South China Sea in uninhibitedly accessing the Strait of Malacca. Other than its planned terminal point in Singapore, the project holds the possibility of also linking up with the Malaysian port of Kedah near the Thai border in presenting an even shorter workaround than what was originally planned.
Taking together the three southern-directed OBOR corridors that China is either building right now (ASEAN Silk Road) or has publicly announced its eventual intention to should geopolitical circumstances allow (BCIM and CMEC), it becomes obvious that Kunming is central to Beijing’s New Silk Road strategy, and that it will continue to see its significance rise as these projects go online and the People’s Republic comes to depend on it for its long-desired non-Malacca access to the Indian Ocean.
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.
Andrew Korybko is a political analyst, journalist and a regular contributor to several online journals, as well as a member of the expert council for the Institute of Strategic Studies and Predictions at the People’s Friendship University of Russia. He specializes in Russian affairs and geopolitics, specifically the US strategy in Eurasia.The views expressed in this article are author’s own. It does not reflect Global Village Space Editorial policy.