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BW Businessworld

New Rail-Road Line Provides China With Direct Access To The Indian Ocean

The new line links Yangon in Myanmar to Chengdu in China. It is the first project that will link western China to the Indian Ocean. A shipment via the new route arrived in Chengdu from Singapore last week.

Photo Credit : pixabay

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The trade route is expected to become a part of BRI initiative

A new rail-road line was opened for trade by China with the first shipment arriving from Singapore to Chengdu port of the Sichuan Province last week. The line will provide China with access to the Indian Ocean via Myanmar.

The trade route is a combination of road and rail lines. The cargo will arrive at the Yangon Port in South Myanmar. From there it will be transported, by road, to the border town of Chin Shwe Haw in Northeast Myanmar. Then the goods will be transported to Lincang city in China. And finally, the newly inaugurated rail line will take the goods from Lincang to Chengdu. This is the first time the western part of China will be connected to the Indian Ocean for trade.

The link will help both countries to increase cross-border trade. Myanmar usually imports jades and gems along with marine products to the neighbouring countries. With the military coup on 1st February 2021 and ousting of Aung Sang Suu Kyi, the military regime has been consistently looking for ways to earn money. The newly inaugurated trade route will provide them with a consistent source of income.

May be used by future Burmese governments to bargain

Talking to BW Businessworld, Nitin Pai, Director, Takshashila Institute, said that the trade routes are bidirectional and can be used by India to gain some negotiating power amidst Beijing’s growing geopolitical footprint. He said, “Whatever assets China is building in other countries are also liabilities. To the extent that such projects create a Chinese hegemony over Myanmar's society, it will trigger a Bamar nationalist backlash. Furthermore, any future Myanmarese government can well use the infrastructure as a bargaining chip with Beijing.”

The trade route is expected to become a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Pai continued, “New Delhi should exploit both the asset and liability side of such projects.”

Other Chinese projects in the area

China has been developing the Gwadar Port in Pakistan under their China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) scheme to bypass the Strait of Malacca in the Indian Ocean. Gwadar Port will provide China with easy access to the Indian Ocean via the Xinjiang region.   

According to The Irrawaddy, “China has also been working to develop a deep seaport in Kyaukphyu Township in Rakhine.” Rakhine state gained prominence during the sectarian violence between the Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhist communities. In 2017, over 1,00,000 Rohingyas fled the state amidst the military operations. The exodus created a large refugee crisis in the neighbouring countries, including India.

The website further stated, “The Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone and Deep Seaport Project, which is part of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, is expected to allow Chinese trade to bypass the congested Strait of Malacca near Singapore while boosting development in landlocked Yunnan Province.”

The Indian government has, so far, stayed silent on the new Chengdu-Yangon project.


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china myanmar international trade