Construction of Key Myanmar Link on the New Silk Road To Begin

Construction on two key portions of the high-speed rail link between China and Myanmar, and ultimately to India, begins this June, China Daily reported. The route passes through some of the world’s most difficult country.

“The Gaoligong Mountain Rail Tunnel will be more than 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) long and will help link Yunnan province to Myanmar,” said Wang Mengshu, a tunnel and railway expert at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, on Thursday.

See China’s Policy: “The Silk Road — From Past to the Future”

The tunnel will be the longest of its kind in Asia, with engineering difficulties equivalent to those found in the construction of rail lines on the permafrost in Tibet, he said.

“Another important project, the Nujiang River Rail Bridge, will also be launched soon,” Wang added, noting that both the bridge and the tunnel are elements of the Dali-Ruili Railway, which will extend 330 kilometers to link China with its neighbor Myanmar.

Some sections of the railway suitable for high-speed operation will allow trains to run at 250 kilometers (155 miles) per hour. Other sections will hold speeds to a maximum of 180 kph (112 mph), Wang said.

Wang also spoke on the larger issue. Three rail lines that link China to Southeast Asian nations are included in the central government’s medium- and long-term railway network plan, and some preliminary work has begun, according to sources close to China Railway Corp.

Under the plan, the lines will start in Kunming, Yunnan province, and will connect Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. They constitute the southern part of the Trans-Asian Railway. The huge rail network aims to provide a continuous 14,000-km (8,700-mile) rail link between Singapore and Istanbul, with possible onward connections to Europe and Africa.
See also: Beijing Review: Bringing Asia Together Around Silk Road

While Obama is trying to build a NATO alliance on his Asia “pivot” foray, now better characterized as his “Asia stumble,” China is moving forward on its New Silk Road development policy. A signal piece in this week’s Beijing Review entitled “The New Asian Fusion” by Lu Xin from the Center for Russian and Asian Studies at the Shanghai Institute of International Studies, underlines the importance of the Silk Road Initiatives for countering the Obama offensive. Discussing the upcoming Shanghai summit next month of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building in Asia (CICA), an initiative of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev to secure peace and security in Asia, he notes that the CICA can become an important focus for furthering the New Silk Road policy of President Xi Jinping….
“The initiatives of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road of the 21st Century proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping will become an important driving force for economic cooperation among CICA member states. The two initiatives have formed a new pattern for China’s all-round opening up and a new framework for its neighborhood diplomacy, marking a substantial change in its opening-up strategy. The country is moving away from its strict focus on attracting foreign investment, seeking equilibrium between foreign investment and investment overseas. As it reaches out to countries to its west, China will speed up the development of its western region.”

He then refers to the new transportation links through Central Asia and the development of a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as well as a Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor. The Maritime Silk Road, Li notes, can also be extended to the north, to Vladivostok and northern Siberia,
“connecting with Russia’s Arctic Sea routes and strengthening cooperation on the construction of infrastructure such as ports between China and Russia…. The current Western sanctioning triggered by the Ukrainian crisis,” Li continues, “has further forced Moscow to shift its strategic focus eastward, urging Russia’s eastern region to join the Asia-Pacific’s political and economic integration process. The further development of the region including the reconstruction of the Trans-Siberian Railway, energy resource exploitation, infrastructure construction as well as agricultural development, calls for in-depth international financial and technological collaboration. Against this backdrop, China and Russia need to renew their regional development cooperation plan for China’s northeast and Russia’s Far East reached in 2009 to further facilitate their cooperation.”

While the blueprint for the three lines has been in the works for some time, survey and construction work has dragged on because of funding and disputes over speed-related issues. “Now we have finished the survey work, and as far as I know, the government is negotiating with foreign nations over the funding methods,”

Wang said that “They have reached a preliminary conclusion that China will be responsible for investing in infrastructure, equipment and technical research, while other countries will repay their share with local resources.”

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