China’s New Silk Road Must Pass Through Middle East

JERUSALEM — Three hundred kilometers by high-speed rail between the cities of Eilat and Ashdod, connecting the Red Sea coast to the Mediterranean: They call it the “Red-Med” Project.

Financed by Beijing and launched from Jerusalem, China has revealed its strategy for “West Asia” — the term that the China Shipping Container Lines company uses to delineate the area of operations between Hormuz, Suez and Haifa.

The use of the term West Asia rather than Middle East is no accident — this gives precedence to the size of the economic link with China rather than the ever troublesome geopolitics of the region.

Such is the framework that explains the activism of China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who has come on a flurry of trips over the past 90 days to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Saudi Arabian crown prince, the Iranian Foreign Minister, as well as a multitude of players from the Gulf and North Africa.

West Asia is the region where more than 30 ports of various sizes and functions allow China to both import 60% of its annual requirements of oil, and export goods destined for Europe, the premier market for “Made in China;” as well as transport to and from Africa, with the presence of some one million Chinese workers and an import-export trade of $120 billion that capitalizes on every type of natural resource from agriculture to mining.

“West Asia is a region of strategic importance for China,” notes Robert Lawrence Kuhn, an international banker with extensive experience in Beijing. “It allows you to import energy from the Gulf, while trading with Europe and Africa at the same time.”

By land, if necessary

This is the strategy of the “New Silk Road.” It also includes the Chinese military pouring money into in high-speed lines inside the country, Beijing inking an agreement in 2010 with Tehran for an intended route through Central Asia that envisions a futuristic Orient Express within 10 years — capable of traveling from the Chinese capital to the English Channel in just two nights.

This railway will pass through at least 28 countries in Asia and Europe, extending along 81,000 kilometers from Shanghai to Nanjing at more than 350 kilometers per hour, connecting China to the commercial hub of West Asia. The Luxor-Alexandria railway is, in this context, additional infrastructure to ensure that the “Made in China” goods can access Africa, like the Eilat and Ashdod ports in the Mediterranean.

This also explains the determination with which Netanyahu wants to fast track the construction through the Negev desert, with a bill of $2 billion over five years, with work slated to begin within the next 12 months.

Full article: China’s New Silk Road Must Pass Through Middle East (World Crunch)

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