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The construction of transport links along the
country’s west, through Central Asia and West Asia into Europe, also serves as
opening a more direct trade route between China’s industrial heartlands and its
markets. At present, nearly all of Chinese exports to its markets in the West
are 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’s
lifeline of economic development”1.
The reliance on the Straits of Malacca as a single point of entry and exit for
imports and exports leaves China uniquely vulnerable to international
pressures, with the threat of a US-imposed blockade capable of crippling its
economy always looming close. Furthermore, the Strait is, at present, nearing
overcapacity, limiting China’s future economic connectivity absent of any
international hostility. It has been suggested that by opening a land bridge
through Central Asia, as well as accessing the Pakistani port of Gwadar via
Kashmir, China is looking to reduce its reliance on the Straits of Malacca.
This also meshes well with Beijing’s goals for rendering its economy more
efficient. Although a single train travelling between China and Western Europe
would only be able to carry 200 cargo containers, as opposed to the 20,000
carried by a single cargo ship, the cost and duration of each trip would be
significantly reduced, allowing for a steadier stream of products to enter and
exit China2.

1 Ehteshami, Anoushiravan (ed.); Horesh, Niv (ed.). China’s Presence in the Middle East: The
Implications of the One Belt, One Road Initiative, New York: Routledge,
2017, p. 69

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2 Gramer, Robbie. All Aboard China’s ‘New Silk Road’ Express, Foreign Policy Magazine, 04-January-2017,
Accessed 03-January-2018

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