China is Building the World’s Longest Road, 2022-23
What do this railway line in Nigeria this highway in the Himalayas and this seaport in Sri Lanka have in common believe it or not, they’re all part of the same mega project, china’s new silk road. This massive mega project comprises 2 600 individual projects in over 100 countries, costs 4 trillion, and affects 69 of the world’s population.
It’s arguably the biggest and most expensive megaproject in human history. China is Building the World’s Longest Road
China claims it will help boost global trade, but as we’ll uncover, china might be up to something completely different. On the 17th of September 2013, president xi Jinping was in Astana in Kazakhstan.
What seemed like a straightforward visit from the Chinese president turned out to be a turning point in history. President xi Jinping unveiled the biggest mega project of the century, which later became known as one belt one road during his speech in the Kazakh capital. He referred to Chinese traders who traveled through this very country centuries ago to trade silk with the rest of the world.
They would travel along an ancient silk road, which was an integrated network of roads connecting Asia with Europe. The ancient silk road started in Xi’an in china and ended in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. For centuries it was the longest trade route in the world, but over time it was replaced by maritime travel. China is Building the World’s Longest Road
But now president xi jinping wants to bring it back to life. He envisions a silk road of the future in which China plays a key role. This statement caused ripples throughout the entire world. Everyone knew that china wanted to become the world’s biggest economy, but now they meant business and a month later, xi Jinping even upped. China is Building the World’s Longest Road
The ante on the 4th of October 2013, president xi jinping, was now in Jakarta, Indonesia. It was here where he announced that he was not only revamping the ancient silk road but also the maritime silk road that replaced it suddenly, a project which seemingly only concerned central Asia now involved southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the middle east, and Africa.
The sheer size and scale were something the world had never seen before. Xi. Jinping’s announcements were met with cheering across the silk road countries, but with suspicion across the west. China was building and upgrading roads, railways, ports, airports, power plants, and much more, but for what purpose the official line from china is that building these transport routes would boost international trade and benefit the global economy? China is Building the World’s Longest Road
But many western countries have doubts about this. Let’s take a closer look at two examples that will help us to understand this. The case of Pakistan clearly illustrates the risk that is involved with accepting Chinese investment. China is Building the World’s Longest Road
Pakistan desperately needs to develop its transport infrastructure, as the country is still sitting on a 150-year-old rail network that needs replacing many of the railroads are dilapidated and pose a significant danger to those passing through, and this is where the one belt one road initiative is incredibly advantageous to Pakistan, the country is situated between china and the Arabian sea.
Therefore, it’s in china’s interest to invest in Pakistan and open up a brand new trade route. So when xi Jinping visited Pakistan in 2015, he announced an initial 46 billion dollar investment, hoping to connect Xinjiang in west china with the southern seaside area of Gwadar in Pakistan.
Central to this investment is a major railway project which consists of four railway lines across Pakistan, it involves upgrading the current infrastructure and doubling its length, but with every investment, there is a risk, and this railway mega-project currently faces many problems. China is Building the World’s Longest Road
The project has been severely delayed due to design faults and lack of capacity, but even worse, the current economic situation in Pakistan has raised doubts about their ability to pay back the money to china. The project is already four years behind schedule and Pakistan, a country facing a huge economic crisis, now owes china over six billion dollars for Pakistan.
This looks like a very unfortunate set of circumstances, but many critics of the project believe that the huge debts racked up by Pakistan were not unfortunate but deliberate. Many contend. China intentionally wanted Pakistan to go into debt to strengthen its influence on the country, as this is exactly what china did in Sri Lanka in the past as part of one belt. China is Building the World’s Longest Road
One road china also invested in Sri Lanka’s second biggest port Hambantota. China had been providing loans for this port as far back as 2008, but by 2016 the port had been incurring losses while still having to pay back 1.5 billion dollars in loans to china, the Sri Lankan government decided to privatize the port and give 100-year ownership to a company owned by the Chinese government.
It’s essentially now owned by china and the u.s department of defense is worried that china could even set up a naval base there. For this reason, many critics have referred to the one belt, one road as debt-trap diplomacy, where they exercise power over countries by racking up debts. Sri Lanka and Pakistan serve as cautionary tales for countries that take part. China is Building the World’s Longest Road
But why do these countries even take loans from china instead of western countries? The reason why these countries take out loans with china is that there are allegedly no strings attached. Normally, when a country tries to get a loan from western countries, they will loan the money on the condition that the country commits to social or democratic reforms. China is Building the World’s Longest Road
China, meanwhile, provides judgment-free loans, but the real power that china gains is not in ports, railway systems, and highways. But on the voting floor of the united nations, china can use its investment in mega projects to win friends and influence countries through these major investments, countries that would not normally take their side in u.
can suddenly become their closest allies in the united nations general assembly. Each country gets to only cast one vote, and this does not matter how big the country is. The USA gets one vote, while Vatican city gets one vote too. So this is a situation where china needs other countries on its side and hopes they will vote in their favor. China is Building the World’s Longest Road
In 2020, the un human rights council in geneva held a vote on china’s harsh national security law in hong kong. The unrealized that 25 African countries backed china on this matter later that year, a rebuke was signed by western nations of china’s human rights violations. No signatures from African countries could be found as time went on one belt.
One road no longer resembled the original trade routes but became a catch-all term for Chinese foreign investment and in 2021 things got even more bizarre. President Xi proposed a new silk road. The arctic silk road- the melting ice caps mean that new shipping routes are becoming available on this continent and there’s an abundance of unexplored oil and gas. China is Building the World’s Longest Road
This is another huge and highly interesting project on its own. So let us know if you’d like us to cover this for another video, but nine years on from that historic announcement in Kazakhstan, china has finally come across some competition. In July 2022 the g7 announced the partnership for global infrastructure, which is a 600 billion dollar investment into development projects in poorer countries.
The tensions between china and us during the 21st century have often been referred to as the second cold war. It looks like this time around the battlefield will be on financing projects and winning friends across the world.
The sad irony is that the silk road’s initial aim to bring the east and west closer together has possibly made them drift even further apart. What do you think of one belt, one road? Let us know in the comments below if you want to see more about similar projects, you can watch our video about the biggest mega projects in the world. China is Building the World’s Longest Road