The construction of transport links along thecountry’s west, through Central Asia and West Asia into Europe, also serves asopening a more direct trade route between China’s industrial heartlands and itsmarkets. At present, nearly all of Chinese exports to its markets in the Westare shipped with container ships that travel through the Straits of Malacca.The significance of the waterway (which doubles as China’s entry point for 80%of Chinese oil imports) is so big that it has been referred to as “China’slifeline of economic development”1.The reliance on the Straits of Malacca as a single point of entry and exit forimports and exports leaves China uniquely vulnerable to internationalpressures, with the threat of a US-imposed blockade capable of crippling itseconomy always looming close.
Furthermore, the Strait is, at present, nearingovercapacity, limiting China’s future economic connectivity absent of anyinternational hostility. It has been suggested that by opening a land bridgethrough Central Asia, as well as accessing the Pakistani port of Gwadar viaKashmir, China is looking to reduce its reliance on the Straits of Malacca.This also meshes well with Beijing’s goals for rendering its economy moreefficient. Although a single train travelling between China and Western Europewould only be able to carry 200 cargo containers, as opposed to the 20,000carried by a single cargo ship, the cost and duration of each trip would besignificantly reduced, allowing for a steadier stream of products to enter andexit China2.
1 Ehteshami, Anoushiravan (ed.); Horesh, Niv (ed.). China’s Presence in the Middle East: TheImplications of the One Belt, One Road Initiative, New York: Routledge,2017, p.
692 Gramer, Robbie. All Aboard China’s ‘New Silk Road’ Express, Foreign Policy Magazine, 04-January-2017,