Category: East Asia Security

The Chinese New Silk Road in East Africa

The Popular Republic of China (PRC) is building a naval base in Djibouti, which should be completed during 2017, alongside the already existing French and American military naval bases (“China’s base in Djibouti means more than an attribute of “global power”, Sputnik, 7/12/2016). This move is a crucial global development for China, for East Africa as well as for many other actors, which operations will be impacted, as we shall explain and detail further in this article.

Djibouti is a small nation, strategically located at the tip of the “Horn of Africa” on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Location DjiboutiThus, it commands access to the Red Sea, the Sea of Arabia, the Indian Ocean and the Suez Canal, hence to the Mediterranean Sea. In other terms, it commands one of the most vital naval arteries in the world (Robert M. Shelala II, “Maritime Security in the Middle East and North Africa: a strategic assessment”, CSIS, 2014).

Furthermore, since the reconstruction of the railway that connects Djibouti to Addis Ababa, financed by a Chinese bank and achieved by a Chinese company, the  economically booming Ethiopia has access to the port, which attracts ships from the eastern coast of Africa. This favours numerous Ethiopia projects of transportation infrastructures’ development that extend to Cameroon through land transport infrastructures.

However, pointing out the crucial importance of Djibouti as outlined above is not enough to fully understand the scope and strategic meaning of the Chinese base.

To completely grasp the significance of this Chinese move, we must see it through the current Chinese lenses, notably incorporating the specific Chinese understanding and use of space as developed in the new “One Belt One Road” (OBOR) also called the “New Silk Road” (NSR) initiative. The NSR is a new expression of the Chinese philosophical and strategic thought, grounded in an understanding of the spatial dimension as something that may not only be used in order to support and spread Chinese influence and power, but also to allow the Middle Kingdom to  “aspirate” or “suction” what it needs from the “outside” to the “inside”  (Quynh Delaunay, Naissance de la Chine moderne, L’Empire du Milieu dans la globalisation, 2014). That is why we qualify spaces as being “useful”, while “useful spaces” are also related to other “useful spaces”.

A faster road for trade

As a result, Djibouti, from a Chinese perspective, is not only meaningful  as an access to Africa and a strategic position on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, but also because it is “useful” at the scale of the African ambitions of the New Silk Road, a strategy devised by China in a time of worldwide competition for resources (Michael Klare, The Race for What’s Left, 2012). However, using the lenses of the paradoxical logic of strategy, we must also wonder if this Chinese strategy may not also become counter productive, because of the reliance it creates between China and a very unstable and fragile region, as we shall see in the last part.

A suction process to China: The New Silk Road integrates Djibouti

Djibouti attracts Chinese interest because it is not only a way in the transportation network of the Horn of Africa, but also and most probably foremost because, as a port, it is a complement to the maritime “use of space” as defined by the NSR (Deng Yaqing, “A shared path”, The Beijing Review, July 10, 2014).

The Chinese base integrates Djibouti to the NSR strategy. The latter became official in 2013 in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, when the Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the OBOR or NSR initiative (Michelle Witte, “Xi Jinping calls for regional cooperation via new Silk Road”, The Astana Times, 11 September 2013). This Chinese strategy is aimed at creating a planetary-wide “attraction system”, necessary to channel the mineral, energy, and food resources needed by China in order to keep developing itself while ensuring the social cohesion of its 1.400 billion strong population (Jean-Michel Valantin, “China and the New Silk Road, from oil wells to the Moon … and beyond!”, The Red Team Analysis Society, July 6, 2015.

nazarbayev xi jinping 2013

The Chinese NSR is implemented throughout Central Asia, Europe and Africa through a very specific use of space, grounded in the philosophy explained above: the different spaces where the NSR is created and located are segments of the same OBOR, upon which other segments are built (“Belt and Road Nations account for 26 per cent of China’s trade”, The Beijing Review, April 29, 2015).

In the same time, building this base, while constructing the rail link to Addis Abeba is a way for China to support the development of Djibouti and of Ethiopia, and thus to help these countries becoming sustainable, hence “sustainable useful spaces” for China: i.e. spaces that will allow China continuing using them as nodes to provide resources from the external areas towards inner China (Valantin, “China and the New Silk Road, The Pakistani Strategy”, The Red (Team) Analysis Strategy, May 18, 2015).

Djibouti, a node to construct a new segment of the New Silk Road

Djibouti, as seen, is located where the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and through it the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, on the South, and the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea, on the North, connect.

As such, this naval base defines a new segment of the OBOR through the connection it offers with the Pakistani port of Gwadar, largely renovated by China, on the opposite side of the Arabian Sea (“Pakistani PM welcomes first large Chinese shipment to Gwadar port”, Reuters, 13 November 2016). The maritime line between the two ports allows ships to sail along the coast of Oman and Yemen.

Gwadar is notably crucial to the Chinese because it is connected by sea with all the ports on Gwadar portthe south-west coast of China and because it should also allow China to partly escape the bottleneck of the Malacca Strait. Indeed, it must be remembered that the port of Gwadar is currently being connected to the Chinese Xinjiang region, through the construction of an immense north-south highway across Pakistan (“Gwadar port integral to China maritime expansion”, The Express Tribune, February 17, 2013).

In other words, building a naval base in Djibouti and rebuilding the railway that connects the port with Addis Ababa in the hinterland of Ethiopia is a way to integrate the Ethiopian market to the maritime and terrestrial Africano-Asian transport infrastructure that goes from Eastern Africa and from the Horn of Africa to the economic zones of the South China coast and to the developing Xinjiang region.

Protecting sea-lanes: International status but also ensuring the security of the Chinese supplies system

To this space strategy are aggregated other and more “classical” naval functions for the new base in Djibouti, such as the defence against pirates, coming from Yemen, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and Egypt (Jean-Michel Valantin, “Surviving the Gulf of Aden: a new strategic paradigm for the future of the region?”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, November 11, 2013).

Participating in the international effort against piracy in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden is a way to confirm the status of China as an international power. This participation is also necessary, at a very practical level, in order to protect this segment of the NSR against the disruption that is being wrought by piracy (Valantin, “Somali Piracy: a model for tomorrow’s life in the Anthropocene?”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, October 28, 2013), as well as by the international power games in the region, as “played” by Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Iran, the U.S., the Islamic State, and Al Qaeda for example in Yemen and Somalia (e.g. Hélène Lavoix, “At war against a global Islamic State – The fall into extreme Sunni Shi’ite tensions”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, 1 February 2016).

Thus, Djibouti appears as a particularly “useful space”, from the Chinese NSR perspective, because it is a strategic place to use in order to protect from the pirates and from ongoing war operations the ships and convoys, which are sailing to and from China, especially the oil tankers coming from the Arabian port of Jeddah. In the same time, it allows Chinese transportation and energy companies to have access to South Sudan and to its oil production (James Burgess, “War-torn South Sudan to resume oil production in July”, Oil Price.com, May 26, 2016).

Connecting the East African dots

This “spatial usefulness” of Djibouti is magnified by analogous Chinese moves in Africa, for example much further south in the port of Maputo, Mozambique. In April 2016, The China Harbour Engineering Company has started planning to invest more than 1 billion dollars in a new port in the Maputo province, on the coast of the Mozambique capital.

This operation is related to a South African-Swaziland project of railway linking Maputo to the mining zones in South Africa, through Swaziland, and is boosting building and renovation of transport infrastructures with Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana (“China’s CHEC involved in investment of US 1 Billion Dollars in the new port of Maputo”, Macau Hub, April 25th, 2016). The South African-Swaziland project could be used to transport coal to Maputo, and to export it to China and to India (“Bots SA coal, transport war”, The Patriot on Sunday, 10 August 2015).

location eastern africa

Thus, the Chinese Djibouti naval base, located on the north-eastern part of the continent becomes a space that opens different segments of the New Silk Road between South Asia and the Horn of Africa. In the same time, the Chinese interest in Maputo signals the Chinese interest in the southern part of East Africa and the preparation for the creation of the NSR segment necessary to connect China with resources it needs in south-east Africa (Shannon Tiezzi, “China’s “Maritime Silk Road”: don’t forget Africa”, The Diplomat, January 29, 2015).

These East Africa-China connections create a practical transport system between the Chinese hinterland and the port-cities of the Chinese south coast and the African resources, which are necessary for the economic, industrial, consumerist and urban growth of China ,for example South African ore and fish from Mozambican fisheries (Craig Simon, The Devouring Dragon, 2013). The same dynamic will most probably facilitate inter-state exchanges by land and by sea within East Africa, which will attract even more resources and products to these harbour zones, and thus literally “plug” the different Eastern African areas with natural resources, or knowing economic growth, in the Chinese economic and resource needs (Dambisa Moyo, Winner take all, China’s race for resources and what it means for us, 2012).

These so-far two East Africa segments of the OBOR is an international infrastructure through which China projects its “power of need”, i.e. the immense and permanent need for different kinds of resources and products necessary to answer to the basic and developing needs of a giant country with 1.4 billion people going through a triple cycle of economic growth, consumerism, and very rapid urbanization (Loretta Napoleoni, Maonomics, 2011).

This means that the OBOR “initiative” is not mainly aimed at expanding a “Chinese hegemon” in the world, but to acquire the means, on an intercontinental scale, to make China sustainable, because the Middle Kingdom does not have the means to support this phase of its development by itself (Giovanni Arrighi, Adam Smith in Beijing, 2007).

Africa, the “Chinese power of need” and the  planetary crisis

However, these “East African New Silk Road segments” must also be analysed through the perspective of the paradoxical logic of strategy (Edward Luttwak, Strategy, the logic of war and peace, 2002). Indeed, developing a project, be it political, commercial, military, or of any other nature, creates the emergence of situations that are driven by a paradoxical logic:  the implementation of a given project attracts opposing forces, which threaten the very project that created or attracted them with failure (Luttwak, ibid). Understanding this attraction of the opposites and the necessity to use them in order to attain success is the very essence of the strategic approach, as we already saw in the case of the Russian Arctic (Jean-Michel Valantin, “Strategic thinking into the Russian Arctic: turning threats into opportunities, part 1 and 2”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, January 9, 2017).

In the case of the connection of the Chinese NSR with the ports of Djibouti and Maputo, the paradoxical logic of strategy is effective through the installation of the “Chinese power of need” in two regions that are alarmingly hammered by climate change, as well as by the combination of the climatic evolution with volatile political situations.

In the case of Djibouti, the whole Horn of Africa is under a growing stress because of the combination of the effects of climate change on temperatures and precipitations with the human overuse of water as well as with multiple conflicts, as in neighbouring Somalia and Yemen (Peter Woodward, Crisis in the Horn of Africa, politics, piracy and the threat of terror, 2013). Over the coming years, the disruptive effects of climate change are going to keep building up and hammering the fragile and vulnerable Ethiopian, Eritrean, North and – South Sudanese, and Kenyan societies and economies, while the large hinterland of Djibouti is afflicted by international and civil wars (Serge Michailof, Africanistan, 2015 and François Guiziou, “Les ports de la façade est africaine : dynamiques d’intégrations et d’exclusions”, ISEMAR, Mars 2010).

In the case of Mozambique, the Chinese quest for resources is reaching the African south coast of the Western Indian Ocean, where a mammoth climato-biological crisis may well be currently unfolding. A recent study shows that an alarming loss of more than 30% of the phytoplankton in the Western Indian Ocean took place over the last 16 years (Koll Roxy and al., “A reduction in marine primary productivity driven by rapid warming over the tropical Indian Ocean », 19 January 2016).

Lynx Helicopter Hovers Over Suspected Pirates MOD

This loss most certainly stems from the accelerated warming of the surface water, where the phytoplankton lives: the warming is blocking the mixing of the surface water with deeper and cooler subsurface waters, where the nutrients of the plankton – nitrates, phosphates and silicates – are located and where they remain blocked, thus depriving the plankton from its nutrients (K. S. Rajgopal, “Western Indian Ocean phytoplankton hit by warming”, The Hindu, 29 December 2015).

The problem is that plankton is the foundation of the whole ocean food chain (Callum Roberts, The Ocean of life, the fate of Man and the Sea, 2012). For example, researchers have unveiled that there is a massive decline in the shoals of fish near the Kenyan and Somali coasts. These declines are not solely the results of overfishing, but of the combination of this practice with the loss of plankton (David Michel and Russel Sticklor, “Plenty of fish in the sea? Food security in the Indian Ocean”, The Diplomat, 24 August 2012).

This negative trend is very likely to continue in the foreseeable future, because of the warming of the ocean resulting from climate change. It is highly likely to alter the whole Indian Ocean, hence transforming the biologically rich ocean into an “ecological desert” (Amantha Perera, “Warmer Indian Ocean could be “ecological desert” scientists warn”, Reuters, 19 January 2016).

This means that the decline of marine life stemming from anthropogenic climate change is a direct threat to the food security of the whole western Indian Ocean ecosystems, thus to the lives of the populations of Eastern African societies – i.e South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, as well as archipelagos, as Comoros, Maldives, Seychelles, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte – and to their economies (Johan Groeneveld, “The Western Indian Ocean as a source of food”, in WIO Regional state of coast report, UNEP, 1 May 2015). This is most likely to happen despite the rapid development of fish farming, which induces its own cascade of issues (Michel and Sticklor, ibid).

The plankton and sea food crisis is particularly worrisome given the profound economic and social inequalities known by the region, and by the political, confessional and military tensions that arise, for example in Kenya and Somalia (Hélène Lavoix, “At War against the Islamic State – A Global Theatre of War“, & “At War against a Global Islamic State – Facing a Strategic Trap in Somalia?“, The Red Team Analysis Society, 23 Nov & 14 Dec 2015).

Hence, a giant biodiversity and geophysical crisis is unfolding on such a scale that it concerns numerous countries and dozens of millions of people at the same time, while merging with political and strategic current crises.

Then, the Chinese strategy of identification of and connection to “useful spaces” leading to the creation of segments of the OBOR in East Africa begs a question: are these spaces going to be really useful to help China answering its needs? In effect, the massive investments, which underlay these connections, will need time to produce a valuable return. This time to profitability may create vulnerabilities for China, because the need to find and import food ties the “Middle Kingdom” to the climate and biological crisis and the tangled geopolitics of what is becoming a very dangerous environment.

In other words, we may wonder if China will have the necessary time to reap the benefits of these infrastructures built-in order to literally suction the resources needed for its own development or if it settles itself in a dependency on a region that could go through a massive environmental-social-political destabilization during the coming years. China does so through what appears to be a very efficient strategy, but which finally could turn against its creator. The African opportunities, which have attracted the creation of these segments of the “One Belt, One Road” could turn into dangers for the growth of China, should China not take also the adequate measures to ensure the ecological sustainability of these regions, assuming this is possible.

Analytically, this situation exemplifies the crucial need to always integrate the new parameters emerging from the environmental, social and political impacts of climate change, as we continuously exemplify at the Red (Team) Analysis Society, in order to truly understand the present, how it is likely to unfold in the future and thus to devise a successful strategy across all time horizon.

About the author: Jean-Michel Valantin (PhD Paris) is the Director of Environment and Security Analysis at The Red (Team) Analysis Society. He is specialised in strategic studies and defence sociology with a focus on environmental geostrategy.

Featured image: COSCO Africa vor Cuxhaven, 11 August 2012 By Bernhard Fuchs (Flickr: Cosco Africa) [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons.

Strategic Thinking in the Russian Arctic: When Threats Become Opportunities (1)

This series of two articles focuses on the current development of the Russian Arctic region, while explaining and demonstrating the importance of using strategic thinking for governments as well as for business actors. Indeed, the international dynamics of geopolitical and environmental changes, including their interactions, are becoming so rapid and powerful that political and business actors have to integrate them, in order to be, or to remain, successful. In this first part, using strategic thinking, we shall notably establish how threats can be – and are – turned into opportunities, while constraints become drivers and systems of challenges are transmuted into powerful attractors. This approach dramatically alters the way actors could and should handle issues and uncertainties so far perceived as mainly negative.

For that purpose, we shall study the current development of the warming Russian Arctic through the perspective of strategic thinking, i.e. by using the tools devised to understand the way strategic choices are implemented in the geopolitical arena, the opposition they meet and how the related counter-actions make them evolve (Edward Luttwak, Strategy, the Logic of War and Peace, 2002).

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Understanding what is at stake with the current massive industrial, military, infrastructural, and commercial development of the warming Russian Arctic is a particularly good example of the crucial importance of strategic thinking. In effect, nowadays, our world is changing very rapidly, because of the permanent interactions between the domestic and international political, economic, social and technological situations and planetary climate change, while furthermore natural resources are overused (Jean-Michel Valantin, “The Planetary crisis Rules, part 1 and 2”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, January 25 and February 25, 2016).

Red (Team) Analysis Society, strategic foresight, strategy, Russian Arctic, paradoxical logic
Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal: Estimates of Undiscovered Oil and Gas North of the Arctic Circle – USGS [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This change can appear as unexpected if one does not use an efficient methodology to anticipate the coming changes (Helene Lavoix, “Business and Geopolitics, Caught up in the Whirlwinds?”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, November 23, 2016). Strategic thinking allows us to understand the consequences of these new combinations to anticipate, adapt and, most importantly, to do so successfully.

Strategic thinking allows us to understand how and why the Russian political, military, industry and business authorities are turning the current and rapid warming of the Arctic ocean and land into a massive strategic opportunity for themselves and for their Asian and European industrial, financial and business partners (Jean-Michel Valantin, “The Warming Russian Arctic: Where the Russian Asian Business and Strategies Converge?fifty years of victory at North Pole, Red (Team) Analysis Society, strategic foresight, strategy, Russian Arctic, paradoxical logic”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, 21 November 2016). With these partners, the Russians are transforming Northern Siberia and the Arctic Ocean into an immense attractor for international trade as well as for energy companies, despite and thanks to the massive risks emerging from the current planetary geophysical destabilization (Jean-Michel Valantin, “The Russian Arctic Oil: a New Economic and Strategic Paradigm?”, The Red Team Analysis Society, October 12, 2016).

Given the sheer scale and complexity of this massive endeavour, it is necessary to use strategic thinking to understand what it means for governments, as well as for businesses, to be able to anticipate how the uncertainties, risks and opportunities related to the development of the Russian Arctic, are getting combined on the short and the middle term by the Russian political and business authorities, in order to achieve success. This understanding is necessary for, among others, energy, trade, shipping and trade industries and companies that are attracted by the new Russian Arctic potential, which emerges from the industrial and commercial transformation of what used to be an extreme and deeply hostile environment but is today profoundly altered by climate change, if these actors are to successfully operate.

This first part focuses on identifying and using the paradoxical logic necessary to assess strategic situations, thus  building upon the interactions between the main levels of strategic thinking.

Thinking strategically: turning climate change into an opportunity

First of all, to understand the Russian Arctic development from a strategic point of view, we have to realise that this development is literally immersed in the paradoxical logic of strategy. Indeed, developing a project, be it political, commercial, military, or of any other nature, creates the emergence of situations that are driven by a paradoxical logic: the implementation of a given project attracts opposing forces, which can even use violence, or difficulties, which threaten the very project that created them with failure (Luttwak, ibid). Understanding this attraction of the opposites and the necessity to use them in order to attain success is the very essence of the strategic approach.

In the case of the development of the Russian Arctic, this paradoxical logic is revealed by the fact that an immense industrial and commercial project is implemented because of, and despite, its particularly adverse environmental and economic context.

To be precise, the whole Arctic region is deeply destabilised by its rapid warming stemming from anthropogenic climate change, which is triggered by the global emissions of greenhouse gas resulting from the use of coal, oil and gas. Climate change is currently warming the whole planet and, in particular, the NASA Arctic temperature change 1981-2007, Red (Team) Analysis Society, strategic foresight, strategy, Russian Arctic, paradoxical logicArctic (Charles Emmerson, A Future History of the Arctic, 2010). The warming of that region, one of the coldest on Earth, involves the melting and breaking of the ice pack. The excess of accumulated heat in the atmosphere warms the ocean and the land during the summer months. Thus, it drives a disruption of the winter ice pack and weather patterns, hence the emergence of geophysical conditions in this region, so far unknown by humans (Joe Romm, “Arctic Death Spiral Update: What Happens in the Arctic Affects Every Where Else”, Think Progress, May 3, 2016). However, what must be very clearly understood is that this warming does not turn the Arctic into a “less” extreme region. On the contrary, it adds a new diversity and complexity to the environment and accelerates the evolution of its geophysical conditions.

Nonetheless, the current warming makes now possible to reach and exploit the enormous oil and gas reserves of the region, because of the relative retreat of the ice. Thus, the fact that the whole Arctic region could have reserves of almost 90 billion barrels of crude and a staggering 1669 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (Energy Information Agency « Russia », July 28, 2015), comes to mean that the development of the warming Arctic could add new and major reserves to the existing Russian diminishing ones. Because of the relative, but accelerating, retreat of the ice, it also opens up a new passage between the Bering Strait and Norway, along the Siberian coast: the “Northern Sea Route”.

In strategic terms, this creates a paradoxical situation, because the Russian Arctic industrial project is in fact defined by the interactions of the very Russian Arctic industrial project with extreme and changing environmental conditions, which are both at the origin of the project, while putting it under extreme pressure (Valantin, The Warming Arctic: a hyper strategic crisis, January 20, 2014).

Thinking strategically: turning economic constraints into a strategic driver

In terms of adversity, from the point of view of Russia, the geophysical change of the Arctic is combined with the fact that, since 2014, the U.S. and the European Union have imposed economic sanctions upon Russia, because of the incorporation of Crimea in the Russian federation and of the tensions in Ukraine (see our series, Hélène Lavoix, Crisis and War in UkraineThe Red (Team) Analysis Society). The sanctions also forbid technically advanced Western oil companies to develop industrial partnerships with Russian companies (Colin Chilcoat, “Is Russia the King of the Arctic by Default?”, OilPrice.com, Oct 22, 2015 and Andy Tully, “Western Sanctions Halt Exxon’s Drilling in Russia’ Arctic”, Russia Insider, 19 September, 2014) .

These sanctions combine with the simultaneous dramatic plummeting of oil prices, which results in diminishing the vital Russian oil and gas revenues (Jean-Michel Valantin, “Oil Flood (2)- Oil and Politics in a (Real) Multipolar World”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, January 12, 2015). This blend of economic adversities is impacting the Russian economic growth, when the Russian political and economic authorities decide, against these environmental and economic odds, to develop the Russian Arctic.

In other terms, one can identify, thanks to and through the use of the paradoxical logic of strategy, that the economic and political pressure exerted on Russia is, in fact, a key driver of the Russian decision to reinforce and accelerate the development of Northern Siberia and Prirazlomnoye tanker, Red (Team) Analysis Society, strategic foresight, strategy, Russian Arctic, paradoxical logicof the Arctic Ocean (Irina Slav, “Why Arctic Oil is Crucial for Russia’s Future”, OilPrice.com, September 2, 2016). By doing so, the Russian authorities may find another way to reinforce the security, power and economic attractiveness of their country. Thus appears the fully strategic nature of the Arctic project, i.e. a project decided and supported by a (geo)political will that is exerted “against a living and reactive force” (Clausewitz, On War, 1832). In our case, it means that the Russian political will is exerted to bolster its Arctic project despite, and against, the adverse political and economic forces of the sanction regime and of the “natural” difficulties inherent to a changing and extreme Arctic… as well as because of them.

In terms of strategic foresight and warning, including monitoring, this means that we have here identified crucial indicators, and how they are dynamically related, which will allow for a better anticipation and thus navigation of uncertainty.

The result of the paradoxical strengthening of this political will by the opposing forces that it encounters takes the form of a geopolitical project defined by one of the most extreme and destabilised regions of the planet’s industrial development, notably through the offshore oil and gas platforms, the opening of the Northern Sea Route along the Siberian coast, from the Asian side of the Bering Strait to Norway, and through the building of maritime infrastructures, and of the giant the LNG Yamal project (Thomas Nilsen, “Arctic Russia Warms 2.5 Times Faster Than the Rest of the Globe”, The Independent Barents Observer, November 29, 2015, Atle Staalesen, “No Pause in Arctic Exploration – Igor Sechin”, The Independent Barents Observer, July 18, 2016, Atle Staalesen, “Moscow invites Beijing to take part in Arctic sea route project”, RT, 7 December, 2015), “Aiming for Year Round Sailing on Northern Sea Route”, The Independent Barents Observer, December 14, 2015). To these must be added the new north-south railroads network that connects the various Northern Sea Route vs Southern Sea Routeindustrial projects to the railroads networks of Russia and of Central Asia, and thus to Europe and China (“Russian Railways to Complete Latitudinal Railway project to the Arctic”, Think Rail Ways, November 19, 2015, Atle Staalesen, “Grand Railway Deal for Yamal”, The Independent Barents Observer, October 20, 2016). In the same dynamic the Russian military Navy has been put in charge of the surveillance and monitoring of the whole region and its projects, and installs bases all around the Siberian coast as well as on the islands of the Russian Arctic Ocean.

As the paradoxical logic of strategy let us expect, the environmental and economic constraints outlined previously have driven the Russian authorities to facilitate the emergence of industrial and human resources’ innovations, through the recruitment of young Russian engineers in the energy sector. Those are tasked to compensate the brutal loss of western technological know-how since 2014 and the start of the sanctions regime. Those engineers are encouraged to be innovative and thus to reduce quickly the gap between the technological needs of the Russian companies and their capabilities in the Arctic (Irina Slav, ibid). Thus, the new potential for the energy exploitation of Northern and maritime Siberia, which emerges, is so attractive that, despite the sanctions regime, some western companies, such as Total and BP, have continued or reactivated their partnerships with their Russian counterparts (Jean-Michel Valantin, The Warming Russian Arctic: Where Russian and Asian Business Converge?”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, 21 November, 2016).

Thinking strategically: turning a system of constraints into power (of attraction)

Once again, the Russian political and business authorities have been able to harness the “power of attraction” of Northern Siberia, literally reinforced by the very pressure that are exerted upon them.

In other terms, analysing these dynamics in strategic terms leads us to realise that Russia is projecting a staggering amount of political, economic, industrial, military and business power in Northern Siberia and upon the Arctic Ocean. This projection of power reaches such a scale, because it is aimed at creating what we call the “Russian arctic power of attraction”, which is felt throughout Central, South and Eastern Asia.

This attraction is expressed, for example, by the multibillion dollars Chinese investments in the Yamal peninsula and in the Arkhangelsk port, or by the sales of Siberian LNG to Japan, or by the use of the Siberian ports and railroads by South Korean Tor icebreaker, Red (Team) Analysis Society, strategic foresight, strategy, Russian Arctic, paradoxical logicshipping and industry companies to export industrial machines in Kazakhstan (Jack Farchy, “Chinese Lend $12 Bn for Gas Plant in Russian Arctic”, Financial Times, April 29, 2016, (Atle Staalesen, “Grand Railway Deal for Yamal”, The Independent Barents Observer, October 20, 2016, (“First Chemical reactors shipped to Kazakhstan from South Korea”, The Astana Times, 26 July 2016).

This strategy is grounded in the political, economic and strategic history of Russia, which has built the bulk of its industrial base between the end of World War I and the 1930s, during the immensely violent period of the Soviet A battery of Katyusha during the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War, Red (Team) Analysis Society, strategic foresight, strategy, Russian Arctic, paradoxical logicrevolution and of the installation of Stalinism (Moshe Lewin, The Soviet Century, 2005). Then, during the savage German onslaught of 1941, Russia moved its western industrial capability to the Ural and Siberia, where it was reassembled, before overwhelming the Wehrmacht and the Nazi military industry with its sheer production capability and strategic sense (Adam Tooze, The Wages of Destruction, 2006).

Then, came the long years of reconstruction. Finally, during the 1990s, the end of the Soviet Union saw the terribly destructive economic crisis that ravaged entire sectors (Stephen Kotkin, Armageddon Averted – The Soviet Collapse 1970-2000, 2008) of the Russian industry, before the beginning of the 2000s witnessed the starting of the Russian industrial rebuilding.

The current Russian Arctic endeavour seems to be a new phase in the industrial development of Russia, led by a strategy that is aimed at renewing the status of Russia as an international economic power at the time of climate change, which combines itself with the energetic needs of Asia and the tensions with Europe and the U.S. (Anna Andriovana, Elena Mazneva, “Japan makes Arctic gas Move with $400 million Yamal LNG Loan”, Bloomberg, September 2, 2016).

This capability to implement a project despite the fact that it attracts and trigger opposite political and environmental forces is the very essence of the paradoxical logic of strategy.

Continuing building upon and using strategic thinking, we shall turn to the inner workings of the Russian Arctic development with the next article. We shall notably see how the latter’s different aspects, mainly the industrial operations and the changing environment, are interacting, creating a certain level of “friction”, an essential dimension of strategy. This level of friction is a crucial element for the successful dynamics of this mammoth project. Then, we shall study how the Russian authorities identify and use the current phase of climate change as an industrial window of opportunity and how they behave accordingly, in order to make this project profitable for domestic and international investors.

About the author: Jean-Michel Valantin (PhD Paris) is the Director of Environment and Security Analysis at The Red (Team) Analysis Society. He is specialised in strategic studies and defence sociology with a focus on environmental geostrategy.

Featured image: МЛСП «Приразломная» на карте российской Арктики, 2014 by By Krichevsky (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Warming Russian Arctic: Where Russian and Asian Business and Strategies Converge?

In this new article about the current development of the warming Russian Arctic, The Red (Team) Analysis Society studies how Russia is currently devising an industrial and business grand strategy. This strategy is created through new oil and gas exploitations and the constant opening of the Siberian Northern Sea Route. These new activities are made possible by the rapidly intensifying climate change, which is transforming the Arctic into a continental attractor for energy, business, shipping, land transport, from everywhere in Asia (Jean-Michel Valantin, “The Russian Arctic meets the Chinese New Silk Road”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, 31 October, 2016).

Arctic mapThe Russian Arctic power of attraction can be identified from the fact that numerous Asian countries are attracted by the Russian Northern Sea Route and by the exploitation of the oil and gas deposits of the Arctic Ocean and of the Siberian ground. The production of liquefied natural gas (LNG), notably, acts as a magnet for the industrial, financial and strategic interest not only of China, India, Japan, South Korea, but also Viet Nam, Singapore and Thailand (US Energy Information Administration, (“Chapter 3. Natural Gas”, International Energy Outlook 2016”). In effect, the Asian countries’ consumption of LNG knows a regular growth, considering their will to enlarge their energy sources while diminishing their coal use (Jean-Michel Valantin, “The Arctic, Russia, and China’s Energy transition“, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, 2 February, 2015).

The massive Russian Arctic maritime and coastal development supports the deployment of an immense industrial, transportation and trade land infrastructure, through the building of railroads and the renewed use of Siberian rivers, from the Siberian coast towards Norway and Central Asia. Some of these new railways are built from Kazakhstan and Mongolia, to connect with the new railroad network that connects western China with Europe through gigantic supply chains, which are deeply interlocking the Russian and Chinese developments (Jean-Michel Valantin, “China, Russia and The New Silk Road in Central Asia: the Great Co-Empowerment”, The Red Team Analysis Society, March 7, 2016).

In other words, the warming Russian Arctic and its industrial and trade development are supporting the development of the Central, Eastern and South Asia countries, by attracting the actors of these Asian developments.

Here, we are going to focus upon the way the warming Russian Arctic is thus becoming the driver of a deep reorganisation of the Asian energy and industrial markets. We will also see how this entails the emergence of continental size maritime and land new supply-chain, while connecting it to China and “arcticised” Asian actors and interests.  At the end of the article we shall present a new feature: a brief summary of some of the major impacts foreseen.

The emerging Russian continental supply-chain: from the Siberian Coast to Kazakhstan … and beyond

The warming of the Russian Arctic is having gigantic geopolitical and business consequences, because the very effects of climate change are turned into an engine of the Russian power of attraction (Joe Romm, “Arctic Death Spiral Update: What Happens in the Arctic Affects Everywhere Else“, Think Progress, May 3, 2016).

In effect, the Russian political, economic and business authorities are turning this immense region into a new energy and minerals development area. Furthermore, the warming of the atmosphere and of the ocnorthernsearouteean stemming from climate change, and the relative retreat of the sea ice it entails, are used to open the Northern Sea Route, which goes from the Bering Strait to Norway along the Siberian coast, with considerable impacts on logistics and trade (Jean-Michel Valantin, “The Russian Arctic: a new Economic and Strategic Paradigm?”,The Red (Team) Analysis Society, October 12, 2016).

A first element of the Arctic Russian attractor is the building of the strong inter-connections between the off- and onshore oil and gas operations and the Northern Sea Route, through the creation of maritime and land industrial and transport infrastructures. Meanwhile, as we have seen “Russian Arctic Oil” and “The Russian Arctic Meets the Chinese New Silk Road”, there is a strong link between the energy, maritime and military offshore development of the Russian Arctic, which are the different drivers of the “Russian attractor”.

This energy and industrial development also takes place onshore, and is pivotal in the intensification of the Russian Arctic power of attraction.

gulf_of_obNotably, in order to turn the Russian Arctic into a sustainable attractor for energy and business partners, the glacial and desolated Yamal Peninsula is industrially developed and transformed into the hub where the energy interests, the Northern Sea Route and the land network of Russian infrastructures are interlocked.

In effect, the Russian energy company Novatek is building the enormous Yamal LNG plant, aiming at producing more than 16,5 millions of tons of LNG annually (Oksana Kobzeva, “Russia’s Yamal LNG is on track and on budget, says Novatek”, Reuters, September 5, 2016). This mammoth project, developed in a glacial region, except during the short summer, is an industrial challenge: it necessitates partnerships with French Total, Chinese National Petroleum Company and the Silk Road Fund. The project has already benefited of more than 12 billions dollars from Russian Banks and 12 billions dollars from Chinese banks (Jack Farchy, “Chinese Lend $12 Bn for Gas Plant in Russian Arctic”, Financial Times, April 29, 2016). Thanks to it, Russia will become one of the main producers of LNG on the international market.

Sabetta, Russia, Arctic, LNG
From “Arctic – Russia’s perspective” – 2014 by Andrey Bondarev, Deputy Head of Economic Office, Embassy of the Russian Federation

This project goes with the rapid development of the Sabetta port on the Yamal coast, located on the Ob river bay, from where LNG carriers will transport the anticipated 16,5 millions annual tons of gas, produced by the Yamal LNG plant, to their destinations in China, India, Japan, and Viet Nam, among others (Atle Staalesen, “This could soon be the world’s biggest Arctic”, The Independent Barents Observer, February 16, 2016). Furthermore, Sabetta will have to be able to handle at least a yearly 30 million tons traffic.

In the same time, Rosneft and Gazprom develop oil and gas projects in the Peninsula, especially the “Novy Port oil field” (Atle Staalesen, “Preparing the Ground for Second LNG Plant in Yamal”, The Independent Barents Observer, November 02, 2016). More than 13000 people have worked for it during the 2015-2016 winter and more than 18000 during the 2016 summer (Atle Staalesen, “Sabetta on Schedule”, The Independent Barents Observer, April 28 2016).

The Novy Port, installed at the mouth of the Ob River, complements the Sabetta port to load and unload the tankers, which navigate this giant river and its affluent throughout the Russian hinterland (Atle Staalesen, “Government opens Ob Bay for foreign vessels”, The yamal_and_other_russian_icebreakers_19593040886Independent Barents Observer, January 8, 2016). The Gulf of Ob and its opening on the Kara Sea and thus on the Northern Sea Route will be kept open in winter thanks to the two icebreakers ordered by Rosneft to the Finnish company Aker Yards. These vessels will be dedicated to the constant opening of the Ob Bay, in order to ensure the permanent continuity between the Northern Sea Route and the river (Atle Staalesen, “First Icebreaker for New Arctic Oil Field”, The Independent Barents Observer, November 03, 2015).

The strategy that consists in making the Yamal project one of the drivers of the Russian Arctic attraction on the rest of the country and on Asian countries goes with the creation of a rail line between the LNG plant, the Gazprom gas hub of Bovanenkovo and Sabetta (Atle Staalesen, “Railway for Sabetta”, The Independent Barents Observer, December 22, 2015).

This railroad is conceived as a part of the planned 707 km long “Northern latitudinal passage” (see map below), which will connect the Yamal Peninsula with the Ural and Western Siberia (“Russian Railways to Complete Latitudinal Railway project to the Arctic”, Think Rail Ways, November 19, 2015). In other words, these new railroads will connect the Yamal LNG plant with the Sabetta port, and with existing railroad networks, which connect the Ural and Western Siberia with the rest of Russia, Kazakhstan, China and Europe, meanwhile also linking these regions and countries with Russia’s Northern Sea Route (Atle Staalesen, “Grand Railway Deal for Yamal”, The Independent Barents Observer, October 20, 2016). As a result, the Northern Sea Route becomes joined with the Russian and Asian hinterland, and thus acquires a continental scale.

Northern Latitudinal Route, railway, Russia, NSR
Northern Latitudinal Route railway ‐ expanded access for Russian regions to the NSR – From “Arctic – Russia’s perspective” – 2014 by Andrey Bondarev, Deputy Head of Economic Office, Embassy of the Russian Federation

The company Russian Railways is already committed to this project, besides the giant national Gazprom, and numerous Russian investors. The Prime Minister and the President oversee those deals themselves, because they are considered strategic projects for Russian national development, as well as for the many partners it attracts (Atle Staalesen, “These are Russia’s top Arctic Investments”, The Independent Barents Observer, March 22, 2016).

The Warming Russian Arctic power of attraction (on Asian business)

The powerful attraction exerted by the Russian strategic combination of the Arctic oil and gas extraction operations and of the development of the Northern Sea Route with its continental integration is felt throughout Asia.

In effect, the combination of access to new energy resources with the Northern Sea Route is turning the Russian Arctic into an immense attractor for energy, shipping, railroad and other business actors, and among them investors from China, India, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam.

president_putin_and_pm_modi_in_goa_indiaFor example, during the eighth BRIC’s summit, hosted by India in Goa, more than 20 bilateral deals were signed, among them the acquisition by Oil India Ltd of 23,2 per cent of Vankor Neft, the Rosneft controlled company in charge of the exploitation of the Vankor oil field in Siberia.

At this occasion, the two heads of state talked about the opportunities opened by the exploitation of the Arctic oil and gas, summed up in a common declaration stating that:

“In order to further strengthen our bilateral cooperation in the oil and gas industry, the Russian side expressed its interest in attracting Indian companies to participate in joint projects on the development of the Arctic shelf » (Atle Staalesen, “A Role for India in Russian Arctic”, The Independent Barents Observer, October 18, 2016 and  President of Russia, Russian- Indian Talks).

This Indian interest in and attraction for Northern Russia and the Russian Arctic is no less than the one felt by South Korean government and business. The South

Amanzholov

Korean involvement in the Russian Arctic is expressed, among others, by the shipping of two chemical reactors ordered by the Pavlodar oil plant in Kazakhstan to Hyundai Industries (“First Chemical reactors shipped to Kazakhstan from South Korea”, The Astana Times, 26 July 2016). The supply-chain has been organized by shipping the two reactors from South Korea to Sabetta through the Northern Sea Route, then loaded on barges navigating the transcontinental Ob River to Pavlodar, in Kazakhstan.

South Korea has also officially asserted its interest in an Arctic cooperation with Russia during the first bilateral summit on Arctic issues. 320px-kola_bay_in_murmanskThis summit took place in Murmansk, the home harbour of the Russian icebreakers fleet, on 17 June 2016. Indeed, South Korean industrial, shipping and business actors are most interested in the access offered by the Russian Arctic to Central Asia as well as by the much shorter trip to Europe than through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal (Lee Haye-Ah, “South Korea turns to Arctic for new biz opportunities”, Yonhap News Agency, 17 June 2016).

Prior to South Korea’s moves, Vietnam and Russia agreed to develop partnerships between Petrovietnam and Gazprom Neft to explore together the Arctic Pechora sea to find oil and gas, while the Russian company “tentatively agreed to buy 49%” of Vietnam only refinery (Andy Tully, “Russia reaches oil and gas agreement with Vietnam”, Oil Price.com, April 07, 2015).

As we can see, the Russian Arctic is attracting different Asian powers, and none wants to be left behind the current Arctic race for resources (Michael Klare, The Race for What’s Left, 2012).

Indeed, the Russian Arctic attractiveness is also felt by Japan. For example, the Japanese ambassador for the Arctic stated in March 2016 in Moscow, the interest of its country for an economic, as well as scientific cooperation with Russia, especially about research on climate change and for the Yamal LNG project. At this occasion, the Russian 240px-northern_sea_route_vs_southern_sea_routegas company Novatek, owner of the Yamal LNG plant, has suggested to Japan investors to explore the possibilities offered by its new Yamal project, named “Arctic LNG”, in the Gydan Peninsula (Anna Andriovana, Elena Mazneva, “Japan makes Arctic gas Move with $400 million Yamal LNG Loan”, Bloomberg, September 2, 2016). This takes place in a context defined by growing Japanese imports of Russian oil and LNG (Wrenn Yennie Lindgre, “Energising Russia’s Asia Pivot: Japan-Russia Relations, Post Fukushima, Post-Ukraine“, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, 4/2015).

However, as we have seen in “The Russian Arctic meets the Chinese New Silk Road” it must be noted that China has taken a significant lead on the other Asian countries in the Russian Arctic.

Chinese companies and financial actors are heavily committed in the Yamal LNG operation and other projects (Atle Staalesen, “More Chinese money for Yamal”, The Independent Barents Observer, 7 January, 2016). This involvement keeps on deepening, through massive Chinese investment in the development of the new Archangelsk deep water port, in order to make it a major maritime hub of the Northern Sea Route (Atle Staalesen, “Chinese money for Arkhangelsk rail and port”, The Independent Barents Observer, December 10, 2015 and “Chinese mega-deals in Yamal LNG”, The Independent Barents Observer, May 02, 2016).

The building of the port will be accompanied by the construction of the Belkomur railway line, which will link the harbour to the mining areas of the south of the Ural, as well as to the existing railway network including the trans-Siberian that connects Russia to China and Europe (Thomas Nilsen, “New mega port in Arkhangelsk with Chinese investments”, The Independent Barents Observer, October 21, 2016).

Hence, it appears that it will soon be easier for Russian oil, gas and mining companies to transport their products to Archangelsk, and from there, to, for example, China. Meanwhile, Chinese trade, as well as other countries shipping and trade companies, will be able to use the Russian maritime and railways infrastructures to reach the Russian, Central Asia and Europe markets (Atle Staalesen, “New tankers for Arctic field”, The Independent Barents Observer, December 23, 2015).

The exponential “Russian Arctic power of attraction”

ice-chart-11-2016-300
Charts of ice conditions – 13 to 15 Nov 2016 by Russia Federation – Northern Sea Route Administration – click to access original

As we have shown, the development of the “Russian Arctic power of attraction” is largely based on the geophysical changes wrought in the Arctic by anthropogenic climate change (Jean-Michel Valantin, “The Planetary Crisis Rules (1)“, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, 25 January 2016). This “power of attraction” is grounded in the Russian capability to exploit not only its oil and gas deposits in the Arctic region, but also to combine it with the implementation of the Northern Sea Route infrastructures with transcontinental land linkages. It goes with a strategic vision that turns the immense Russian continental situation into a space needed by its Asian Partners to access Russia as well as to each other, while answering their growing needs in energy and commerce.

Furthermore, Russia thus obtains to be identified as such a solid and reliable partner that  developing and securing deals with it becomes worthwhile. For example, we have the LNG deals, which are signed for long periods of times (Michael Klare, Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet, 2008 and The Race for What’s Left, 2012). In other words, Russia positions itself as “the necessary partner” for Asian countries in search of energy, commercial, and political stability, in a period of wide geopolitical and geophysical instability (Charles Emmerson, The Future History of the Arctic, 2010). In effect, the way Russia industrially develops the current geophysical changes happening in the Arctic literally creates the need of its Asian partners to access the Arctic, or, as Central Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, to be accessed from the Arctic.

In other terms, the development of its Arctic region helps the Russian political authorities and business community to become “the necessary partner” at a continental scale. This creates a “business partnerships positive feedback loop” because the more investors are attracted to the Russian Arctic, the more the Russian Arctic becomes attractive for business and investment actors, reinforcing the “Russian Arctic power of attraction” on businesses, notably but not only shipping and land transportation companies.

It now remains to be seen how the combination of the intensifying climate change and of the “Russian Arctic power of attraction” is perceived in Northern Europe countries, in the Arctic Council and in Canada, and how the links between these new geophysics and geoeconomics are currently developing.

To be (soon) continued.

Some Foreseen Impacts (short and medium term)

Countries
  • Egypt, because of the very likely competition between the Suez Canal and the Northern Sea Route to attract Asian shipping convoys.
  • Singapore, for the same reasons, knowing that the Malacca Strait could lose part of its traffic due to the use of the Northern Sea Route.
  • Central Asia, connected to the Russian Arctic.
Some business sectors likely to be impacted
  • Shipping companies (including river): among others, they are going to observe if their competitors gain or lose by using the Northern Sea Route, especially the Chinese ones (COSCO has already announced its intent to raise its Arctic traffic).
  • Natural resources extraction and processing
  • Oil and gas field services companies, because of the gigantic challenges related with development of that extreme region.
  • Nuclear sector, because of the development of floating nuclear devices in order to power the new on and off shore energy and maritime infrastructures, as well as the rapid growth in nuclear icebreakers, built by Russia, Finland, South Korea, for Russia and China.
  • Port and logistical infrastructure
  • Railways
  • Sea, air and space companies specialized in observation and navigation services.
  • Agriculture
  • Logistics and transportation
  • Accommodations and Hotels
  • Banking and loans
  • Scientific research

About the author: Jean-Michel Valantin (PhD Paris) is the Director of Environment and Security Analysis at The Red (Team) Analysis Society. He is specialised in strategic studies and defence sociology with a focus on environmental geostrategy.

Featured image: Fair Use – © Sputnik/ Anna Yudina  from article “Finland Equips Arctic Rescue Teams Based on Russian Experience“, Sputnik, 8 Nov 2016.

The Russian Arctic meets the Chinese New Silk Road

In this article on the development of the energy, business and military nexus of the Arctic by Russia, the Red (Team) Analysis Society studies how the Russian Arctic is becoming a new crucial business and strategic “centre” in the world, through the creation of numerous energy and infrastructure projects and operations, which attract Chinese companies (Jean-Michel Valantin, “Russian Arctic Oil: a New Economic and Security Paradigm?”,The Red (Team) Analysis Society, October 12, 2016).

In effect, the Russian political, industrial and business authorities turn this immense extreme scenario, warning, anticipation, Russia, Arctic, Red (Team) Analysis Society, uncertainty, geopolitics, China, Norwayregion into an international attractor, thanks to the combination of the consequences of climate change and of the natural resources, which become accessible because of the warming of the region and thus relative retreat of ice (see below in part 1, the 28 Oct 2016 NASA video visualising the retreat of the Arctic ice since 1984).

The Russian strategy is efficient with, among others, the Chinese and Norwegian business and strategic actors, as well as interests. The Russian Arctic attractor is deeply dominated by Russia’s understanding and strategic vision of a quickly and massively changing planet (Jean-Michel Valantin, “The Arctic, Russia and China’s Energy Transition“, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, 2 February, 2015) and “The Planetary Crisis Rules (Part 1)”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, 27 January 2016).

China is sharing with Russia the understanding of the very practical consequences of the current planetary change upon politics and the economy. Consequently, the Chinese political and business authorities take action to turn these changes to their advantage (Valantin, “The Chinese Shaping of the North”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, 9 June 2014). This goes with the development of commercial and strategic negotiations and partnerships with Russia, the dominant power of the Eurasian Arctic region.

This phenomenon is typical of the new convergence between the current economy, geopolitics, and the emergent “Anthropocene” geological era. (Jean-Michel Valantin, “The Anthropocene Era and economic (in)security”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, 19 September 2016). The international geophysics community thus qualified this new era because humankind has become the main geological and biological force on the planet, and this immense force is driving a planetary change that affects the atmosphere, the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, the cryosphere and the biosphere (J. R. Mac Neill, Something New Under the Sun, 2000).

In this article, we shall more particularly focus upon the way the current energy, industrial and military development of the Russian changing Arctic is attracting public and private Chinese sectors, meanwhile becoming the new and long-term giant support of economic, business and security development for these two countries. We shall thus see the resulting interlocking of the Russian Arctic strategy with the Chinese “New Silk Road” initiative.

Creating a Russian Eurasian corridor on an extreme planet

Over the last few years, Russia has been accelerating and intensifying the energy, commercial and military development of its land and sea Arctic region. The Russian political, industrial and trade authorities are creating an energy, industry and maritime trade corridor, which connects Asia to Europe. By the same operation, they are turning their Arctic zone into a new oil and gas Eldorado (Charles Emerson, The Future History of the Arctic, 2010).

scenario, warning, anticipation, Russia, Arctic, Red (Team) Analysis Society, uncertainty, geopolitics, China, Norway

What makes this extreme endeavour possible is the fact that this immense region is profoundly affected by the warming wrought by anthropogenic climate change. In effect, during the last fifty years, the Arctic region has known the most rapidly warming on the planet, with a 3° to 4° degrees increase in average temperatures (Thomas Nilsen, “Arctic Russia Warms 2.5 Times Faster Than the Rest of the Globe”, The Independent Barents Observer, November 29, 2015).

The disappearance of the Arctic sea ice is most strikingly shown in this 28 October 2016 animation gathering latest research by NASA below, where “Dr. Walt Meier of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center also describes how the sea ice has undergone fundamental changes during the era of satellite measurements.” (NASA, “See How Arctic Sea Ice Is Losing Its Bulwark Against Warming Summers “, 28 Oct 216).

This mammoth change is profoundly altering the geophysics of the region, and goes with a decrease of the time, extent and thickness of the sea ice and of the land glacial conditions. In thirty years, between the half and two-thirds of the summer Arctic sea ice have disappeared, setting up the conditions for a thermal feed back loop that keeps the ice increasingly melting, while the Arctic ocean absorbs more and more solar radiation, and heats up. This feed back loop is now qualified as “the Arctic death spiral”(Joe Romm, “Arctic Death Spiral Update: What Happens in the Arctic Affects Every Where Else”, Think Progress, May 3, 2016; see also video above).

The Russians translate into geoeconomic and geopolitical opportunities those geophysical changes. Consequently, this extreme region becomes accessible for industrial development, and, as we have seen in “Russian Arctic Oil: a New Economic and Security Paradigm?” (The Red (Team) Analysis Society, October 12, 2016), the Russian oil and gas companies have started to implement onshore and offshore operations for extracting oil in the extreme conditions resulting from the meeting of cold and extreme weather, sea ice and the warming effects of climate change.

Among many examples, a subsidiary the National oil company Rosneft, has started drilling in the Okhotsk Sea, while scenario, warning, anticipation, Russia, Arctic, Red (Team) Analysis Society, uncertainty, geopolitics, China, Norway, Sechin, Rosneft, KremlinRosneft keeps on exploring the area (Atle Staalesen, “No Pause in Arctic Exploration – Igor Sechin”, The Independent Barents Observer, July 18, 2016). Meanwhile, Rosneft continues to buy exploitation licenses. The last to date, but not the least, is the Lisiansky one, which should be operated through a partnership with the Norwegian Statoil, while the drilling itself is done by the Chinese rig “Nanhai 9” (Staalesen, ibid).

If the warming of the Arctic makes the latter more accessible, the summer disaggregation of the ice cap gives birth to numerous icebergs, which are a vital danger to the oil rigs operating in the Russian economic exclusive zone. In order to prevent this risk, Rosneft is investing in systems of protection, while developing systems to “move away” the icebergs from the oil rigs. During the summer 2016, an expedition led to create a scientific basis in the Laptev Sea allowed experimenting with 18 different ways to tug icebergs ( Atle Staalesen, “Rosneft Builds Base on Laptev Sea Coast”, The Independent Barents Observer, August 10, 2016). A one million tons iceberg was moved at one occasion (Atle Staalesen, “Rosneft Moves 1 Million Ton Big Iceberg”, The Independent Barents Observer, October 11, 2016). This operational approach aims at guaranteeing the technical sustainability of the Russian Arctic strategy.

The current relative retreat of the sea ice also incites Russian shipping companies to build a whole new generation of diesel and nuclear giant icebreakers. Those are devoted to the constant opening of the Northern Sea Route (RT, “Russia Floats Out Arktika Icebreaker, set to be world’s largest”, 16 June, 2016).

scenario, warning, anticipation, Russia, Arctic, Red (Team) Analysis Society, uncertainty, geopolitics, China, Norway, claim, border
Latest map (5/8/2015) of Russian claims in the Arctic, as maintained by IBRU: Centre for Borders Research of Durham University.Click here (pdf) to access large map with details and here to access IBRU Center.

However, the Arctic remains an extreme region, with a fragile environment, necessitating the capability to coordinate shipping convoys, harbours and infrastructure security in the context of extreme weather. In order to achieve maximum security and coordination in this extreme environment, the Kremlin decided to put the Russian ministry of Defence in charge of the whole Arctic shipping operations in the Russian Arctic economic exclusive zone. This decision is fully involving the military in the development of the region. To implement this decision, the Ministry of Defence notably created the Oboronlogitika Company in 2011. The company is owned by the Russian ministry of Defence and is in charge of all the civilian and military shipping operations in the area (Atle Staalesen, “Ministry of Defence Takes Charge of Arctic Shipping”, The Independent Barents Observer, July 07, 2016).

scenario, warning, anticipation, Russia, Arctic, Red (Team) Analysis Society, uncertainty, geopolitics, China, Norway, northern fleet, bases

The Arctic space is also developed by the Russian military through the creation of new bases on the Wrangel Island, North of the Bering Strait at the extreme east of the Northern Sea Route as well as on the archipelago of the Franz Joseph Land – north of the Barents Sea – on the north-west coast of Siberia and thus of the Northern sea route (Atle Staalesen, “Arctic Brigade Advances on Franz Joseph Land”, The Independent Barents Observer, October 03, 2016 and (Mathew Bodner, Alexey “Russia Starts Building Military Bases in the ArcticThe Moscow Times, 8 Sept 2014). Meanwhile, the Russian political and economic authorities are using the military in order to push for the creation of new land and sea infrastructures along the Siberian coast, on the islands and on the coasts of the Siberian Archipelago in the Barents Sea, the Kara Sea, the Laptev Sea, the terribly cold and dangerous Chukchi Sea, the Eastern Siberian Sea and the Strait of Bering (Atle Staalesen, “Rosneft Prepares Seismic Mapping of eastern Arctic Waters”, The Independent Barents Observer, April 15, 2016).

The infrastructures, especially harbours, coast guards, and environmental survey, among others, which are needed on the Siberian coast in order to develop the Northern Sea route, also necessitate to bring much more power to the cities, harbours and industries on these northern zones, which were so far quite isolated.

scenario, warning, anticipation, Russia, Arctic, Red (Team) Analysis Society, uncertainty, geopolitics, China, Norway, PevekFor example, the harbour city of Pevek, on the East Siberia Sea, the northernmost Russian city, is preparing the infrastructures that are going to host the first floating nuclear reactor (Atle Staalesen, “Russia’s Northernmost Town Prepares for Nuclear Future”, The Independent Barents Observer, October 04, 2016). This reactor is being built at the Baltic Yards in St. Petersburg, by Rosernergoatom, a subsidiary of the mammoth national company Rosatom (Nick Cunningham, “Russia to Power Arctic Drilling with Floating Nuclear reactors”, OilPrice.com, April 27, 2015). After a whole year of test, the nuclear reactor, the “Akademik Lomonossov” will be transported to Pevek, where it is expected to power the city (Staalesen, ibid).

This floating nuclear reactor, the first of a series, is meant to have the capability to power a 200.000 people city, when Pevek hosts less than 5000 inhabitants. This discrepancy shows the strategic importance given to this city close to the Bering Strait. In effect, Pevek is destined to grow with the increasing number of the international shipping convoys, which will be using the Route (Atle Staalesen, “Aiming for Year Round Sailing on Northern Sea Route”, The Independent Barents Observer, December 14, 2015). Other floating nuclear reactors are meant to be built and used in order to power the numerous onshore and offshore new Russian infrastructures, which are rapidly structuring the Russian Arctic space (Staalesen, ibid).

In other terms, with the development of the Arctic, Russia installs itself into a long game of business and strategy (Emerson, ibid). This goes with the rapidly developing Russo-Chinese cooperation in the Arctic.

The Russo-Chinese energy, industrial and business partnerships in the Arctic

In effect, over the last few years, China has started becoming an important Arctic actor, through its membership as permanent observer at the Arctic Council as a “near-Arctic nation”. China is signing bilateral agreements with all the members of the Arctic council and is particularly interested by the energy and trade potential of the Russian Arctic (Valantin, “Arctic China (2) – The Chinese shaping of the North“, 9 June 2014”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, 9 June 2014). China is projecting its gigantic influence in the Arctic, through scientific expedition, cargo convoys, trade and science partnerships, as well as financial investments, and has built its first own nuclear icebreaker, the Snow Dragon.

An illustration of this strong dynamic is the fact that, during the summer 2016, the Chinese streamer seismic vessel Hysy 720 has completed an undersea seismic mapping operation, after having been chosen for this task by the Russian giant oil company Rosneft. This operation maps in 3-D images the underground formations through the use of sound waves, in order to identify their geological content, and thus their oil and gas potential. The marine underground is divided into blocks, which are then bought by the energy companies that wish to explore and exploit them. The Chinese ship Hysy 720 is the first grand deepwater seismic vessel not only built in China, but also owned by Chinese oilfield Services Ltd. Rosneft decided to hire this company in April 2016 in order to accomplish the mapping operation of two blocks during the summer 2016, before the return of the winter night and cold. (Atle Staalesen, “Russians Choose Chinese Explorers for Arctic Oil”, The Independent Observer, April 27, 2016). In order to prepare its campaign, the Chinese ship docked in Kirkenes, i.e. the northernmost Norwegian harbour city, and signed a docking agreement with the local Henriksen shipping company.

We should note that the mapping of the second block was done in partnership and close cooperation with the Norwegian Statoil Company for the Norwegian side of the Barents Sea (Atle Staalesen, “First Arctic Summer for Chinese Oil men“, The Independent Observer, September 05, 2016). This shows, as other binational partnerships, the good Arctic relations between Norway, Russia and their companies, regarding the combination of energy development with changes in the Arctic environment.

The Arctic Russian-Chinese partnership of the summer 2016 is just one among many others energy partnerships between Russia and China, as, shows the example of the Yamal LNG plant where the Chinese invested a massive 12 billion dollars along Russian banks which input another 12 billion dollars  (Valantin, “Russian Arctic Oil”, ibid). These partnerships reveal how the energy, shipping, industrial, business and strategic interests of Russia and China are converging in the Arctic.

These operations are only one example of the way Russia, in the current Anthropocene Era, is developing its Arctic region, changed by anthropogenic global warming, while developing partnerships with China as well as Norway and many other countries. scenario, warning, anticipation, Russia, Arctic, Red (Team) Analysis Society, uncertainty, geopolitics, China, Norway, 50 years victory, North PoleAs we observed previously, China’s business operators are gearing towards the Arctic, (See “Jean-Michel Valantin, “Arctic China (1)- The Dragon and the Vikings and Arctic China (2) ibid ”), while Russia is becoming a critical actor in a time when climate change is deeply altering the trade, energy and strategic status balance of the whole Arctic region (Marc Lanteigne, “Policy Brief-One of the Three Roads: The Role of the Northern Sea Road in the Evolving Sino-Russian Strategic Relations”, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, 2/ 2015).

The Chinese New Silk Road meets the Russian Arctic Long Game

The partnerships between Chinese and Russian businesses are encouraged at the highest level by Russian political authorities, as shown by Russian Deputy Prime minister Dmitri Rogozin 7 December 2015 statement, given in Beijing, when he invited Chinese involvement in the Northern Sea Route (“Moscow invites Beijing to take part in Arctic sea route project”, RT, 7 December, 2015). This invitation is rooted in the nexus of Russo-Chinese political, logistical and business partnerships, heightened by the Chinese “New Silk Road” strategy (Lanteigne, ibid).

The “New Silk Road” is an immense process for the development of land and maritime transportation, as well as energy, mineral and cyber infrastructures, officially launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013. It is accompanied by legions of commercial contracts and political deals between the Chinese public and private sectors and their counterparts in the different countries and continents belted by the “One Belt, One Road” initiative (Shannon Tiezzi, “China’s New Silk Road” vision revealed – a new series in Xinhua offers the clearest vision yet of China’s ambitious “New Silk Road””, The Diplomat, May 09, 2014). The New Silk Road is conceived as being a gigantic “loop” spanning from the centre of the “Middle Kingdom” to Rotterdam and from the port of Quanzhou in Fujian to Kenya, Egypt and Europe (Tiezzi, ibid). It goes with massive investments made by the Chinese-led Asian Investment and Infrastructures Bank (AIIB).

An example of the involvement of the actors of the maritime New Silk Road in the Russian Arctic is the way the China Shipping Ocean Company (COSCO) has sent more than five of its ships on several voyages along the Northern Sea Route in 2016. Mr Ding Nong, CEO of COSCO, one of the biggest shipping company in the world, announced in October 2016, at the Arctic Circle conference in Reykjavik, capital city of Iceland, that

“As the climate becomes warmer and polar ice melts faster, the Northeast Passage has appeared as a new trunk route connecting Asia and Europe” … “COSCO Shipping is optimistic about the future of the NSR and Arctic shipping” (Atle Staalesen, “COSCO Sends 5 Vessels Through Northern Sea Route”, The Independent Barents Observer, October 10, 2016, and Jean-Michel Valantin, “Arctic China (1)- The Dragon and the Vikings”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, 24 May, 2014).

scenario, warning, anticipation, Russia, Arctic, Red (Team) Analysis Society, uncertainty, geopolitics, China, Norway

It is interesting to note that, for such an important business actor, climate change is fully recognized and turned into an opportunity, and that climate disruption is in fact turned into a massive commercial advantage.

In other terms, Chinese interests and needs meet the Russian Arctic strategy, and are turning this warming region into a continental-wide hub of commerce, energy and natural resources development, while reinforcing each other: the Russian Arctic becomes the basis for a long game energy, business and military strategy, while the Eurasian corridor it creates becomes a new and essential segment of the New Silk Road.

The strategic convergence of these two Eurasiatic giants is based on the new alliance of the oil, gas, nuclear and finance sectors, and on the will to turn the potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change into a large spectrum support. This shows that potential threats, if understood and anticipated early enough, can be transformed into strategic opportunities (Helene Lavoix, “Business and Geopolitics: Caught Up in the Whirlwinds?”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, 19 October, 2016).

This convergence has deeply transformative consequences, because it is starting to attract other actors, for example in East Asia, such as Viet Nam, South Korea and Japan to the Arctic, besides historical Arctic actors such as European Norway. Furthermore, railroads are built, through investments and development, to link Russian Arctic harbours to Central Asia (Atle Staalesen, “Chinese money for Archangelsk rail and port”, The Independent Barents Observer, December 10, 2015 and “This Arctic Shipping makes it into the history books: From South Korea to Kazakhstan through the Northern Sea Route”, The Independent Barents Observer, July 25, 2016).

Is the warming Arctic becoming the “centre” of an emerging Eurasian market with related security shift, while the Arctic keeps on warming?

It is the issue the Red (Team) Analysis Society will study in the next part of this series, by continuing to underline how geopolitical and environmental changes are of importance to the business and security communities.

To be (soon) continued.

About the author: Jean-Michel Valantin (PhD Paris) is the Director of Environment and Security Analysis at The Red (Team) Analysis Society. He is specialised in strategic studies and defence sociology with a focus on environmental geostrategy.

Featured image: 50 Years of Victory at North Pole by Christopher Michel 50 Years of Victory North Pole Icebreakers, 12 July 2015, CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), via Wikimedia Commons and Flickr.

China, Russia and the New Silk Road in Central Asia: the Great Co-Empowerment (1)

On 9 May 2015 took place an impressive military parade in Moscow to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. The parade was presided by the Russian President Vladimir Putin, and by its guests, dozens of heads of state and government. At his right hand were seated Xi Jinping, President of the Popular Republic of China, and Pranab Mukherjee, President of India (“Russia stages massive WW2 parade despite Western boycott”, BBC News, 9 May 2015).

Парад_в_честь_70-летия_Великой_Победы, New Silk Road, One Belt One Road, Central Asia, China, Russia

Western governments were not represented during the parade itself, because of the tensions about the situation in Ukraine.

Two months later, President Xi Jinping, the Indian Prime Minister Rajendra Modi and President Putin held talks about the development of the relations during the 7 July 2015 Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and BRICS Summit in Ufa, Russia (“After BRICs, Putin hosts Shanghai Cooperation organization summit in Ufa”, Radio Free Europe, Radio liberty, July 10 2015).

On 2 September 2015, in Beijing, President Xi Jinping attended the Chinese military parade of the Victory, also to commemorate the end of the Second World War. More than thirty heNew Silk Road, One Belt One Road, Central Asia, China, Russiaads of state and government attended the ceremony, and, chiefly among them President Vladimir Putin, as well as the presidents of Central Asian governments (Jonathan Kaiman, “Who’s who (and who isn’t) at China’s big parade”, Los Angeles Times, September 2, 2015).

These meetings are only the most prominent in an uninterrupted series of multiple talks between the leaders of China and Russia over the last few years (Alexander Gabuev, “Eurasian Silk Road Union: towards a Russia-China consensus?”, The Diplomat, June 05, 2015). The density of their relations is related to the multiplying projects and deals of an Eurasian scale between the two countries, creating a power nexus around the Chinese “New Silk Road” initiative in Central Asia.

This concept of nexus comes from the way China and Russia are reactivating in Central Asia the complex geopolitical and economic dynamics, known as “the Silk Roads”, which have been knitting together the countries spanning the Eurasian continents from China to the Europeans Balkans, from the Antiquity to the modern days (Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads, a new history of the world, 2015).

In this article, we shall focus on the meaning of the deployment of the New Silk Road in Central Asia for China and examine how it revivifies a geopolitical reality rooted both in the history of Eurasia and in the project of China to suit its own interests for the 21st century.

This will allow us to understand how the nexus of “New Silk Roads”, combined with Russian politics, transforms the strategic landscape of Central Asia.

Furthermore, we shall study how this very powerful dynamic articulates itself through the mutual empowerment of China and Russia via the New Silk Road nexus.

The nexus of 21st century Silk Roads

In 2013 in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, the Chinese President Xi Jinping officially launched the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, also called the “New Silk Road” initiative (Michelle Witte, “Xi Jinping calls for regional cooperation via new Silk Road”, The Astana Times, 11 September 2013).

New Silk Road, One Belt One Road, Central Asia, Xi JinpingThis Chinese strategy is aimed at creating a planetary wide “attraction system”, necessary to channel the mineral, energy, and food resources needed by China in order to keep developing while ensuring the social cohesion of its 1400 billion strong population (Jean-Michel Valantin, “China and the New Silk Road, from oil wells to the Moon … and beyond!”, The Red Team Analysis Society, July 6, 2015.

The “New Silk Road” is an immense process for the development of land and maritime transportation, as well as energy, mineral and cyber infrastructures. It is accompanied by legions of commercial contracts and political deals between the Chinese public and private sector and its counterparts in the different countries and continents crossed by the “One Belt, One Road” (Shannon Tiezzi, “China’s New Silk Road” vision revealed – a new series in Xinhua offers the clearest vision yet of China’s ambitious “New Silk Road””, The Diplomat, May 09, 2014). The New Silk Road is conceived as being a gigantic “loop” spanning from the centre of the “Middle Kingdom” to Rotterdam and from the port of Quanzhou in Fujian to Kenya and to Egypt and Europe (Tiezzi, ibid).

The choice of Astana to launch this “initiative” is composed of multiple layers of political significance. In effect, since the 2nd century BC, the system of land and maritime roads between western Europe and China has been dubbed “the Silk Road” because of the weight taken by silk in the exchanges between the European and the Mediterranean world and China and India (Peter Frankopan ibid). Silk was not only extremely appreciated in Europe and in Central Asia, but it was also used as a product for standardized forms of barter for other precious products, such as spices, jewels, weapons, etc. Thus, this Chinese product became the support of a continental system of exchanges, of which China was the centre during hundreds of years (Peter Frankopan, ibid).

The system composeNew Silk Road, One Belt One Road, Central Asiad of these continental long roads has been the medium of exchanges between the East and the West in Eurasia, and thus has been the cradle out of which the Eurasian civilization emerged, through the permanent circulation and exchanges of goods, ideas, faiths, cultures, technologies, armies, and political power, between Eastern and Western countries, empires and spheres of influence (Etiemble, L’Europe Chinoise, T.1, 1988 and Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads, 2015).

For the Chinese political authorities and their Kazakh counterparts, this seminal speech in Kazakhstan has been a way to inscribe the “New Silk Road Initiative” in the multi-millenary history of the Silk Roads.

By choosing Astana, capital of a country that links China, Russia, Central Asia, and the Caspian Sea by land, as well as Iran and the Middle East and the “Far East” of Europe by this interior Sea, Xi Jinping expresses the fact that China needs the countries concerned to adhere to the immense Chinese geopolitical initiative, through the offer of a common interest (Witte, ibid). This understanding of an international Asian common interest becomes the political basis for this multi-continental strategy. Reciprocally, China becomes a support of the development of the countries home to the Belt and Road (Deng Yaqing, “A Shared Path”, The Beijing Review, July 10, 2014). In fact, the New Silk Road is conceived as being a loop, or even a continental wide “virtuous circle”, composed of national interests that support each other. This approach is deeply rooted in the Chinese philosophy that integrally permeates the New Silk Road project: the finality of the Initiative is to ensure Chinese development by supporting the development of its partners, which become the supports of China.

New Silk Road, One Belt One Road, Central Asia

This philosophy is the under-current that links the New Silk Road initiative with the new 2015 Five Years plan (“Highlights of proposals for China’s 5 years plan”, Xinhuanet), a roadmap some observers call the “third industrial revolution” because it aims at recreating a healthy balance between the pace of the economy, social development, and a better environmental management (Sidney Leng “How the next five-year plan will change China: blueprint for nation’s development explained”, South China Morning Post, 03 November, 2015).

Thus, it is intrinsically linked to the fundamental Chinese concept of harmony (Marcel Granet, La Pensée Chinoise, 1934), as well as to the project of enriching the Chinese people. For the Chinese political authorities, this is a necessary step to achieve social cohesion, and the modernisation of China. In the same time, it renews the legitimacy of the Chinese communist party and of the government (Loretta Napoleoni, Maonomics, 2011).

So, the New Silk Road is becoming a very important process to ensure the stability and the politically desired evolution of this great power, while answering to the material and immaterial needs of its giant population (Dambisa Moyo, Winner take all, China’s Race for resources and what it means for us, 2012).

The New Silk Road goes to Central Asia … and Russia

In accordance with this major political project, and over the last few years, the building of the different segments of the “One Belt, One Road” has started, following both south-west and north-west directions (starting from China).

As we have seen in “China and the New Silk Road: the Pakistani strategy” and “Iran, China and the New Silk road”, (The Red Team Analysis, 18 May 2015 and January 4, 2016), the south and south-west part of “the Road” are deployed through a series of transportation and energy infrastructure, which not only connect Pakistan and Iran to China but also Pakistan to Iran and Iran to Pakistan. These infrastructures are developed in order to support Iran’s and Pakistan’s development, which, by feedback, supports China’ s.

As for the north-west direction, the segments of the New Silk Road are built through the adhesion of Central Asia countries to the development of major projects of transportation infrastructures. Chief among them is the launching by Kazakhstan of a China-Europe railroad, which transports goods from western China throughout immense Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, and Poland, before arriving in Berlin, Germany. It is a 10.800 km and two weeks journey from Chongqing, in south-west China, to the Ruhr (Raushan Nurshayeva, “Kazakhs launch “silk road” China-Europe rail route”, Reuters, 10 June 2013).

320px-Kazakhstan_World_Wind_blank

This first line is connected to other Kazakh and Chinese ones in order to multiply connections with inner China. The transported annual freight in 2013 was 2.2 million tons and is expected to reach 15 million tons in 2020. A new railway segment is to be built to link to the Russian Trans-Siberian line. (Pepe Escobar, “Go West, young Han, As Washington “pivots” to Asia, China does the Eurasian pirouette”, TomDispatch, December 16, 2014 and John C. K. Daly, “Why Kazakhstan is key to China’s Central Asia Strategy”, Silk Road reporters, July 14, 2015).

This dynamic of rapid development also affects the mining sector, given the richness of the Kazakh sub-soil. For example, Kazakhstan has 12% of the world uranium resources and, since 2009, has become the first world producer (“Uranium and nuclear power in Kazakhstan”, The World Nuclear Association, updated January 2016). Since 2006, the national company Kazatomprom has signed a fifty/fifty joint venture with the Russian company Atomoyexport.

Since then, Kazatomprom has created privileged relations with Russia, China and Japan (World Nuclear Association, ibid). Knowing that Russia has developed a major uranium refining industry (Marin Katusa, The Colder war, How the Global energy trade slipped from America’s grasp, 2015), and that Kazakhstan does not have, for now, that kind of industrial capability, the Kazakh uranium production is largely integrated in and by the Russian nuclear industry. Given the world status of Kazakhstan as a uranium producer, Kazakhstan_(orthographic_projection)this status is shared by the Russian Atomoyexport company and thus by the Russian state.

As it happens, the economic boost of rich oil and minerals Kazakhstan coupled with its opening to the European market and its integration to the New Silk Road dynamic becomes, thus, de facto combined with the historic and massive influence of Russia in the country and, generally, on Central Asia (Michel Heller, Histoire de la Russie et de son empire, 2015).

The Great “New Silk Road” Russo-Chinese convergence

In effect, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are important gas producers in Central Asia. However, their energy production is mostly transported through pipelines, which belong to Gazprom, the Russian national gas giant company (Marshall Goldman, Oilopoly, Putin, Power and the rise of the new Russia, 2008).

In other terms, the Central Asian members of the New Silk Road are still deeply dependent on the Russian system of infrastructures inherited from the Soviet Union, and integrated in the Russian strong system of political, economic and military influence, which goes from the Caspian Sea to China (David Teurtrie, Géopolitique de la Russie, Intégration régionale, enjeux énergétiques, influence culturelle, 2010). Furthermore, these countries are members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Expedition_38_Soyuz_Rollout_(201311050006HQ)Kazakhstan also plays a central role in the built-up of the Russian strategic influencing, by hosting the space launch facility of Baïkonur, and, as such, plays a crucial part in the making of the Russian space power (William E. Burrows, This New Ocean, The story of the first space age, 1998).

Let us also remember that the presidents of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan are former Soviet officials, and, as such, have a profound experience of the Russian capabilities of influence in the region (Teurtrie, ibid). Furthermore, there are Russian military bases installed in these countries, which create a Russo-Central Asia network of influence.

The dominance of Russian political influence is hardly diminished by the U.S. influence in Central Asia, which has been challenged by the departure of the U.S. military from Iraq, by the nuclear deal with Iran, and by the “long defeat” in Afghanistan (Jason Burke, The 9/11 wars, 2011, and Bill Roggio and Thomas Joscelyn, “Are we losing Afghanistan again?” The Long War Journal, Oct. 21 2015). Indeed, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have hosted U.S. military bases used for the American force projection in Afghanistan and Iraq. The latter countries constitute the outside rim of the region where the strong U.S. presence, henceforth its influence on Central Asia, has been diminishing since the military withdrawal from Iraq.

The military dimension of Russian influence in Central Asia has been recently reasserted with the missile strikes launched from vessels of the Russian Caspian Sea fleet against the Islamic State in Syria at the start of the Russian air campaign in Syria in October 2015(“Russian missiles hit IS in Syria from CasRussian_military_bases_2015pian Sea”, BBC News, 7 October 2015). These strikes have given a new visibility and a renewed weight to the fact that if the Caspian Sea oil is being exploited by Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as well as by Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran (James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello, The Oil Road, Journeys from the Caspian Sea to the City of London, 2012), the dominant political and strategic presence and influence in the region is nothing but Russia.

So, in Central Asia, the New Silk Road Initiative is interwoven with the multiple forms of Russian power and influence, from which emerge the regional sphere of influence of Russia.

Russian presence and influence are further asserted through the multiplication of the Russo-Chinese large-scale energy deals, signed between Gazprom and the China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) for the extension of the western section of the “Power of Siberia” pipeline towards inner China (Sergei Blagov, “Russia seeks to strengthen energy alliance with China”, Asia Times, 18 December 2015).

The deal involves also an eastern new pipeline from Siberia to China, and comes after the first giant natural gas deal signed on 26 May 2014, when the Russian and Chinese governments signed an energy agreement, according to which Beijing agreed to pay 400 billion dollars during the next thirty years for Russian natural gas (Ding Ying, “A Gas bond, energy cooperation will serve as a new link between China and Russia”, The Beijing Review, 22 May, 2014). With this deal, Russia agreed to have their giant state company Gazprom supply the China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) with 1.3 trillion of cubic feet of gas a year, during the next thirty years, which amounts to about a quarter of the current Chinese gas consumption.

To understand the political and strategic meaning of these deals, we must keep in mind that energy issues are not “simply” about economics, but are crucial strategic issues: it ensues that these developments are major political choices. They turn Russia into a fundamental energy provider for China, i.e. for the Chinese energy production needed to insure both the daily life of the giant population of the Middle Kingdom, and its economy, supported by the world deployment of the new Silk Road.

In other terms, China launches the New Silk Road Initiative throughout Central Asia in order to turn the different Republics of the former Soviet Union into a support for the Chinese economic development, while the immense energy needs the scale of the Chinese development generates become a mammoth support for the power and influence of Russia in the same region (“Putin’s Beijing visit to boost Russia-China trade”, Russia Today, 2 September 2015).

This means that the Chinese New Silk Road empowers China, and that the Chinese gigantic global needs empowers Russia, thus creating a dynamic not only of co-development, but also of co-empowerment (Ding Ying, “Realizing Chinese and Russian Dreams, China and Russia are determined to promote bilateral relationships to make both countries safe, strong and prosperous”, Beijing Review, March 28, 2013).

This gigantic dynamic that spans the two-thirds of the Eurasian continent has massive unintended consequence: it is becoming a formidable engine of resilience for Central Asia, after the massive political, economic, social, military and ecological shocks it suffered from the start of the 20th century to the start of the 21st century.

This resiliency process is installing Central Asia as a fundamental place for the Sino-Russian power nexus.

This will be the object of the next paper of this series.

To be continued.

Featured image: Статуя Конфуция в ШПУ – Conference 2011 by Savkovich Y [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.

About the author: Jean-Michel Valantin (PhD Paris) leads the Environment and Security Department of The Red (Team) Analysis Society. He is specialised in strategic studies and defence sociology with a focus on environmental geostrategy.

Iran, China and the New Silk Road

Given the rising tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the twenty-first century, reaching new heights in early 2016 with the beheading of a Shi’a Cleric by Saudi political authorities, which generated violences on Saudi diplomatic representations notably in Iran, in turn leading to the Saudi decision to break diplomatic relations with Iran (e.g. BBC News, 4 Jan 2016), understanding the new dynamics existing between Iran and China is even more important, as they may carry new weight, usually not considered as far as the Middle East is concerned.

On 4 March 2013, an Iranian military fleet, which had left the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, docked at the Chinese port of Zhangjiagang, after a forty days journey (“Thread: Iran 24th fleet heading for Malacca Strait after Chins stop: Navy Cmdr”, Pakistan Affairs, 7th march 2013).

On 5 May 2014, the Chinese Defence minister Chang Wanquan declared, during a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Dehqan, that Iran was a “strategic partner” of China (Zachary Keck, “China calls Iran a “strategic partner”, The Diplomat, May 06, 2014).

Liaoning_aircraft_carrier_Sept_2012

On 23 September 2014, this declaration was followed by the first joint naval exercise between the Chinese navy and the Iranian one, after the docking of a Chinese military flotilla at the Bandar Abbas port (Ankit Panda, “China and Iran’s historic naval exercise“, The Diplomat, Sept. 23, 2014).

Meanwhile, the Chinese government was having an important role as part of the international negotiations aimed at lifting the sanctions on Iran in exchange for the abandonment by Iran of the part of their nuclear program that could lead to the enrichment of uranium, and thus to military development (Iran sanctions, US Department of State).

China, with Russia, stood up for a rapid sanctions relief once the deal was reached. On 25 July 2015, the deal was endorsed by the UN Security Council, and should start being implemented at the beginning of 2016. Following the vote, the General Secretary of the U.N. called the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi to praise the role of the Chinese government in the talks (Shannon Tiezi, “ China, Iran, predict closer ties thanks to nuclear deal”, The Diplomat, September 16, 2015).

In the meantime, the Chinese government signed a 46 billion dollars deal with Pakistan, in order to build infrastructure transportation from the Xinjiang region to the Pakistani port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea ((Katharine Houreld, “China and Pakistan launch economic corridor plan worth 46 billion dollars”, Reuters, April 20, 2015).

Hassan_Rouhani_in_Bishkek

As we saw in “China, Israel and the New Silk Road”, part of that deal will be devoted to the construction, financed by China, of the Pakistani part of a new gas pipeline between Iran and Pakistan, which will be completed as soon as U.S. sanctions on Iran are lifted (“China, Pakistan sign gas pipeline deal key to Iran imports”, Press TV, April 21, 2015). The pipeline, dubbed the “Peace pipeline”, is already completed on the Iranian side, and goes from Assaluyeh, Iran’s energy hub, to the Pakistani frontier (“China, Pakistan sign gas pipeline deal key to Iran imports”, Press TV, April 21, 2015).

In the context of this mutually profitable strategy, the “new silk road” interplays between Iran and China are reinforcing the power and the influence of these two countries.

Iran and the New Silk road            

The military exchanges between China and Iran that we have evoked appear as opportunities to affirm the political will of Beijing and Teheran to work together. So, it is worth noting that on 5 May 2014, the Chinese defence minister Chang Wanquan declared:

“The age-old and historical relations between the two countries which date back to over 2,000 years ago are full of instances of cooperation in cultural, economic, industrial and technological arenas”.

Presumably referring to the Middle East and Central and South Asia, Chang Wanquan added that he:

“Voiced the hope that the two countries will continue to play a positive role in safeguarding regional peace and stability.”

The Iranian defence minister Fars answered him:

“We can remove the two sides’ common security concerns over extremism, terrorism, drug trafficking and piracy by developing military cooperation.” (Zachary Keck, ibid)

Recalling the historical depth of the Chinese-Iranian relations is a reference to the long history of the “Silk Road”, this system of roads that, from antiquity to the end of the M320px-Silk_routeiddle-Age, linked China, India, Central Asia to Europe, through the commerce of precious goods, and, especially, silk (Subhakanta Behera “India’s encounter with the Silk Road”, Economic and Political weekly, Dec 21-27, 2002). Furthermore, during the Cold War and since, China and Iran have maintained important diplomatic, economic, industrial and technological relations.

It is also a political statement about the “new silk road”, also known as the “One belt, One road” initiative, launched by President Xi Jinping in 2013 (Willy Lo-Lap Lam, Chinese politics in the era of Xi Jinping, 2015). 

As we saw in “China and the new Silk Road: From oil wells to the Moon … and beyond”, the “road” is aimed at creating a worldwide “land and sea” system (“Belt and Road Nations account for 26 per cent of China’s trade”, The Beijing Review, April 29, 2015), in order to attract supplies and diverse resources much-needed by the rapidly growing Chinese economy and urban development. Each “segment” of the “belt and road” strategy is aimed at determining a sub-continental area important to China (Valantin, ibid).

The “New Silk Road” approach is grounded in the idea that, in order to turn the “member states” of the Road into a “support” for the “Middle Kingdom”, they must be “supported” by China, through numerous development projects, which are devised to make these countries “sustainable”. Reciprocally, the members of the New Silk Road have the ability to support the Chinese development.

Iran is part and parcel of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

Iran and Chinese energy power plays

In this instance, Iran plays an even more major role for China, because it holds the world’s fourth proven oil reserves and second proven natural gas reserves. Teheran is deeply dependent on oil sales, which, from 2006 to today, represent 80% of total exports and 50% of the state’s revenue (Iran, US Energy information administration).

China buys 10% of its oil from Iran, and the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation discusses about investing heavily in joint projects with the National Iranian Oil Company.

Iran, China, New Silk Road

These projects are elaborated in order to help the Iranian company to develop its extracting capabilities, after the 50% cut the latter suffered through the international embargo imposed since 2006 (Paasha Mahdavi, “Oil, monarchy, revolution and theocracy: a study on the National Iranian Oil Company”, in Victor, Hults, Thurber, Oil and Governance, 2014).

This means that China is ready to help its old oil supplier to become again an energy power, after having politically supported Iran during the nuclear negotiations. In the same time, Beijing helped finding a balance with the U.S. demands on security, without which its relations with Iran would have risked being hampered by the political reactions in Washington D.C. (Shannon Tiezi, ibid).

This search for an international political balance is implemented in order to secure the flow of oil from Iran towards China. In the Chinese logic of mutually profitable relationship (Valantin, “China and the New Silk road: from oil wells to the Moon … and beyond“, The Red Team Analysis Society, July 6, 2015), it is thus aimed at helping Iran to diversify its sales to Europe and Central Asia, securing the good health of its economy, and thus maintaining each and every reason for Teheran to keep its good relations with the “Middle Kingdom”  in the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, it also helps supporting the energy development of Pakistan, which plays a cardinal role in the implementation of the “One belt, One road” strategy.

Furthermore, Iran is both an energy power and a maritime power. This conjunction comes with the fact it controls the Strait of Ormuz. Controlling this strait is one of the pillars of its international influence.

In effect, everyday, 17 millions of barrels of oil leave through the Strait of Hormuz, 85% of it being bought by Asian countries. It ensues that the Persian Gulf is one of the most strategic place on Earth for the world energy market.

Persian-Gulf-map.png

The Gulf’s littoral is shared by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, i.e. by many of the major players on the world energy scene.  Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and Qatar are among the most important oil and natural gas producers, thus having a major influence on the world. The Persian Gulf is saturated by oil and gas tankers (“The Strait of Hormuz is the world’s most important oil transit chokepoint”, US Energy information administration, 2012) and is under heavy U.S. military influence through the presence of military bases (Michael Klare, Blood and Oil, 2005) and of the U.S. fifth fleet. Iran exerts a dominant military influence on the Strait of Hormuz through the presence of the Bandar Abbas port, home to the Iranian Naval high command and to a naval Air base.

Having Bandar Abbas welcoming Chinese military ships is an important step both for China and Iran because it reinforces the Chinese force projection (Ankit Panda, ibid), while sending a message to other sea powers, chief among them the U.S. Thus, it reinforces the Iranian strategic capital on the regional and world scene.

This reciprocal reinforcement expresses itself in a very real sense with the development of the presence of the Iranian and the Chinese fleet on the Red Sea, on the south side of the Arabian Peninsula, especially in order to fight piracy (“China seeks anti piracy training from Iran”, Pakistan Defence, November 25, 2015).

Pirates_leave_the_merchant_vessel_MV_Faina_for_the_Somali_shore_Wednesday,_Oct._8,_2008_while_under_observation_by_a_U.S._Navy_shipThis has become of a strategic importance, because the Chinese commercial ships leaving the Pakistani port of Gwadar for Europe will need to pass safely through the Gulf of Aden and all along the Red Sea before to reach the Mediterranean sea through the Suez Canal and (Valantin, “Somali Piracy: a Model for Tomorrow’s Life in the Anthropocene?“, The Red Team Analysis Society, 28 October, 2013).

Meanwhile, the Iranian fleet is very interested by this naval region, where Iranian interests clash with Saudi ones, especially in Yemen (Ahmed Al Omran and Asa Fitch, “Saudi coalition seizes Iranian boat carrying weapons to Yemen”, The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 30, 2015).

The new Silk Road: a game changer in the Middle East?

The integration of Iran into the “One belt, One road” initiative from and to China is also a game changer for the whole Middle East, among others because ties of a political, economic and technological nature between China and Israel are quickly being developed and deepened, as we saw in “China, Israel and the new Silk road” (Valantin, The Red Team Analysis Society, June 8, 2015), when Israel perceives Iran as a major military ad political threat.

For example, Israel has been instrumental in the secret war waged during several years against the Iranian nuclear program (David Crist, The Twilight war, 2012), and Tel Aviv does not hide its displeasure at seeing the sanctions lifted.

In the same time, Israel is becoming a producer of natural gas, thanks to the giant off shore fields named “Leviathan” and to smaller ones. These smaller fields are interesting the Chinese investment group Fosun ( Reuters, “Source: China’s Fosun seeks to buy Israel gas fields from Delek”, Rigzone, December 1, 2015). Thus, natural gas also gives Israel a new energy role for China.

As a result, China and the new Silk Road are of interest to these two Middle East powers.

So, it remains to be seen how the New Silk Road, and related Chinese influence, are going to change, if not to transform, the distribution of power in the Middle East. The first major test could very well be the escalating tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran, intensifying in this beginning of 2016, where China’s role and action will deserve to be closely monitored.

Featured image: The platform Mabot, is littered with shrapnel holes caused during the Iran-Iraq war, close to 15 years ago. (All Hands, September 2003, pg. 25) Photo by PH1 Shane T. McCoy. (RELEASED) – Public Domain.

Jean-Michel Valantin (PhD Paris) leads the Environment and Security Department of The Red (Team) Analysis Society. He is specialised in strategic studies and defence sociology with a focus on environmental geostrategy.

 

 

China and the New Silk Road: From Oil Wells to the Moon… and Beyond

 On 25 May 2015, the Chinese political authorities agreed to finance the building of a pipeline between Pakistan and Iran, dubbed the “peace pipe line” (Valantin, “China, and the new silk road: the Pakistani strategy”, The Red Team Analysis Society, May 18, 2015). As we saw, this agreement is part of the Chinese strategy called “the New Silk Road”, which is defined by the concept of “One belt, One road”.

The “road” is aimed at creating a worldwide “land and sea” system (“Belt and Road Nations account for 26 per cent of China’s trade”, The Beijing Review, April 29, 2015), in order to attract supplies and diverse resources much-needed by the rapidly growing Chinese economy and urban development. Each “segment” of the “belt and road” strategy aims to determine a sub-continental area important to China (Valantin, ibid).

China_on_the_globe_(Asia_centered)_(alternative)

The “New Silk Road” approach is grounded in the idea that, in order to turn the member states of the Road into a “support” of the “Middle Kingdom”, they must be “supported” by China, through numerous development projects, which are devised to make these countries “sustainable”. This strategy can be implemented also thanks to the creation of the Chinese-led Asian Investment and Infrastructure Bank (Tyler Durden, “New silk road could change global economics forever, part 1”, Zero Hedge, 05/23/2015).

Linking numerous countries, such as Pakistan (Valantin, ibid), Israel (Valantin, “China, Israel and the new silk road”, The Red Team Analysis Society, June 8, 2015), Turkey (Valantin, “Turkey: an energy and environmental power”, The Red Team Analysis, 23 February 2015), Russia (Valantin, “The Arctic, Russia and Chinese energy transition”, The Red Team Analysis, February 2, 2015), South Sudan, and soon Iran, as well as Arctic nations (Valantin, “Arctic China 2-The Chinese shaping of the North”, The Red Team Analysis Society, 9 June 2014) and Brazil, to the New Silk Road, may have immense transformative effects on the world distribution of power, as well as on regional contexts, as in the Middle East.

For example, including Iran in the New Silk Road is of a major strategic importance, because it is a key nation in order to open the Middle East, the Mediterranean world and Europe to the deployment of the “One belt, One road”.

In fact, through the integration of a growing number of countries to the “belt”, Beijing seeks to ensure not only a sustainable Chinese economy, but also the material basis for the daily life of one billion and four hundred million people (Craig Simon, The Devouring Dragon, 2013). For example, China imports daily 7,4 million barrels of oil, thus more than the U.S., which imports 7,2 million barrels of oil a day (“Pétrole : la Chine importe plus que les USA”, Le Figaro avec Reuters, 11/05/2015).

191px-Xi_Jinping_Sept._19,_2012

This mammoth endeavour has for goal to reinforce the social contract between the state, the Chinese Communist Party and the population and thus to legitimise the political authorities (Loretta Napoleoni, Maonomics, 2011), and this, at a time of globalised competition for diminishing natural resources (Dambisa Moyo, Winner take all, China’s race for resources and what it means for us, 2012).

Understanding the Chinese political meaning of the New Silk Road

Before all, one must understand the philosophy and strategy that are underlying the “One belt, One road” process, in order to avoid any misunderstanding, based on the projection of Western conceptions on a very Chinese project (Etiemble, L’Europe Chinoise, tomes 1 et 2, 1988 and 1989). In effect, from the Chinese point of view, the “Road” may have many segments, but they are all parts of the same process, the deployment of the New Silk Road, wherever the development of China needs to reach resources.

308px-Viae_Flaminia_Aemilia_PostumiaFrom a Western point of view, this idea of a road made of “roads” can evocate the memory of the system of roads through which the Roman empire was projecting its forces and its civilisation throughout Europe (Pierre Grimal, La Civilisation Romaine, 1960), or the opening of the mining resources in South America by European powers (Eduardo Galeano, The open veins of Latin America, 1971), not to mention the commercial roads designed by and for the colonisation of Africa (Adam Hochschild, King Leopold’s Ghosts, 1998).

However, this historical and collective Western and “non Chinese” “memories” do not apply to the “New Silk Road” and, in fact, are intellectual and emotional obstacles to the understanding of this project. The “New Silk Road” may rather be seen as nothing but the creation of a “world channel”. It would thus be rooted in the deep history of irrigation in China, and in the Chinese world vision, which emerged more than five thousand years ago, and is using concepts coming from the observation of the way nature and human practices must be carefully balanced (Marcel Granet, La Civilisation Chinoise, 1968).

According to the Chinese worldview, it is imperative to cultivate an equilibrium between the natural world and the human world, thanks to carefully managed social and economic, political activities, guided by the theosophical practices of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism (Quynh Delaunay, Naissance de la Chine moderne, L’Empire du Milieu dans la globalisation, 2014).

This permanent quest for equilibrium and harmony is the very basis for the legitimacy of the Chinese political authorities, and has been qualified for a long time as the “Celestial Mandate”. This culture of material, social, and spiritual collective search for equilibrium turned China into a sustainable and largely self-sufficient and self-sustainable nation for thousands of years, despite important sequences of political turmoil, violence and war (John King Fairbanks, Merle Goldman, China, a New History, 2006).

PLA_entering_Xi'anHowever, the twentieth century saw China going through a very profound transformation, knowing in the same time, a Communist-led political, agrarian, industrial, and urban revolution, during and after a monstrous civil war and the equally violent war against the Japanese invaders (Rana Mitter, China’s war with Japan, 1937-1945, 2013).

After the death of Mao in 1976, and up until the beginning of the 1990s, Deng Xiaoping launched massive reforms, using market capitalism in order to support the development of the well-being of the Chinese citizens, and thus renewing the social cohesion through a new Chinese social contract, while keeping alive the Communist project (Giovanni Arrighi, Adam Smith in Beijing, 2007), largely “hybridized” with the Confucian culture (Etiemble, Confucius, 1986).

Reaching this goal goes hand in hand with the absolute necessity of attracting, i.e. channelling, the massive amounts of resources, among them oil and gas, needed by the gigantic population and development dynamics of the “Middle Kingdom” (Martin Jacques, When China Rules the World, 2012).

For example, China is the first importer of oil in the world, while driving a world-wide race for natural resources, under the form, for example, of land-grabbing, in order to guarantee the Chinese food security (Paul Mc Mahon, Feeding Frenzy, the new politics of food, 2013). In this context, it is interesting to note that China buys 400.000 barrels of oil a day, i.e. half the oil production of Iran.

In other words, the New Silk Road is the way China is organising its relations with the world, by coordinating the access to resources and the different needs of this giant country, because Beijing political authorities want to maintain a social equilibrium, while allowing for the global enrichment of the Chinese population, despite powerful contradictions between the carrying capacity of the country and the urban explosion it knows (OECD, “Urbanisation and green growth in China”, OECD Regional development working papers, 2013/07).

The “Middle Kingdom” in the middle of the world?

320px-Shanghai_from_the_SWFCThis deployment is the way China opens itself up to the rest of the world. It does not try to impose its ideological or political and military influence, or to impose its way of life or to become an Eurasian empire. It is quite the opposite: China is using its world mammoth influence “only” to channel the resources it needs through the “Road” (Napoleoni, ibid).

The different segments of the “road” are built up by a foreign policy based on the systematic signature of bilateral treaties between China and a growing number of states. Each state thus becomes an actor of the development of the Middle Kingdom, as well as a support towards the region it opens (Li Xin, “The Asian fusion, China’s two silk roads help forge closer cooperation among CICA members“, The Beijing Review, May 1, 2014).

In the same time, Beijing takes care to make the new agreements worthwhile for the development dynamics of its partners (Deng Yaqing, “A shared path”, The Beijing Review, July 10, 2014). This approach is applied everywhere in the world. For example, in less than ten years, China has become a “near Arctic nation” and a “permanent observer” at the Arctic council, while having multiplied treaties with Iceland, Norway, Finland, Russia, meanwhile “materializing” the “road” with its first icebreaker. Thus, China puts itself “in the middle” of the Arctic nations.

From China to the Moon

The logic of the New Silk Road is also applied to the Chinese space program, which has known a tremendous achievement on 13 December 2013, when the Chang’e3 rocket brought the Yutu Moon Rover close to the Moon, where the rover soft-landed (“China Moon Probe VIDEO Shows ‘Chang’e’ Nail Landing On Lunar Surface », The Huffington Post, 12/17/2013).

This is just the third step of multiple phases of the space and moon Chinese program. However, in fact, the Chinese space and moon program is also an industrial and political Chinese-led program, integrating, through the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization, industrial hardware, software and political cooperation from India, Thailand, Bangladesh, Mongolia, and Iran (K.S. Jayamaran, “India and China Sign Space Cooperation Pact », Space News, September 22, 2014).

As these countries are not directly involved in the space race, or even very far from it, with the exception of Iran, by supporting, if only politically, the Chinese space program, they become part and members of the opening of the space and moon segment of the “Belt and Road”.

Indeed, the Chinese space program accumulates multiple layers of political and strategic meaning. Among these, is the way the political present and future political dimension of its sustainability resides in the ability of China to reach the Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Chang'e-3_lunar_landing_site

The space program also helps China to boost its research development, while politically and industrially sharing its success with its partners. In the meantime, it gets access to this strategic “ultimate high ground” that orbital space and lunar space are (William Burrows, This New Ocean, 1998).

In effect, as in the Arctic, the Chinese space program is a way to install the Middle Kingdom “in the middle” of Asian industrial development and technological forms of nationalism.

In other terms, the “New Silk Road” installs China in “the middle” not only of the different nations, but also of major development dynamics, which are “channelled” to support the sustainable and enduring development of China, on Earth, in space, in the present and in the future.

However, the deployment of the “belt and road” also necessitates securing it. Achieving this security means being able to mobilise military means and powerful partners. That is why the inclusion of Iran in this system is fundamental for Beijing, as we shall see next.

To be (soon) continued.

Jean-Michel Valantin, (PhD Paris) leads the Environment and Security Department of The Red (Team) Analysis Society. He is specialised in strategic studies and defense sociology with a focus on environmental geostrategy.

Featured image: Long March 2F rocket (Chang Zheng 2F) with manned spaceship Shenzhou-8 during roll-out, Jiuquan Satellite Center. 26 October 2011, 04:19:55. by DLR [CC BY 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons. 

 

 

China, Israel, and the New Silk Road

In April 2014, the Israeli President and historic figure Shimon Peres led a three days state visit in China, in order to bolster the growing relationship between the two countries (Shannon Tiezzi, “As China Turns Toward Middle East, China and Israel Seek Closer Ties“, The Diplomat, April 09, 2014). It is interesting to note that the discussions were mainly focused on agriculture, natural resources, environmental protection, Israel, Strategic Foresighteducation and healthcare. Since then, other talks have been held about defense cooperation (Mercy A. Kuo and Angelica O. Tang, “The U.S.-China-Israel Defense Dynamic: Strategic Common Ground”, The Diplomat, May 11, 2015). Beijing has even proposed its mediation in the Israel-Palestine conflict (Shannon Tiezzi, “China appoints new special envoy to the Middle east”, The Diplomat, September 05, 2014).

The choice of these fields is not “simply” about the way Israeli expertise meets the interest of the Chinese political and economic authorities (Gregory Noddin Poulin, “Sino-Israeli Ties blossoming”, The Diplomat, December 01, 2014). At a much deeper level, these areas are directly related to the basic needs of nations, which must remain sustainable.

This is especially true currently for China, which is devising the worldwide strategy of the “New Silk Road”, in order to succeed in its national project (Valantin, “China and the New Silk Road: the Pakistani strategy”, The Red Team Analysis, May 18, 2015).

That project, also known as “one belt, one road”, is based on the building of a series of land and sea transport infrastructures. Its different parts constitute segments of “one road”, which deploys itself wherever the Chinese authorities need it, thus defining spaces that are part of a common belt.

191px-Xi_Jinping_Sept._19,_2012These spaces, composed of countries, or regions, are thus defined as part of an international “support system” for the Middle Kingdom (“Belt and Road Nations account for 26 per cent of China’s trade”, The Beijing Review, April 29, 2015). In other words, through the growth of its cooperation with China, Israel is joining the “New Silk Road”, and thus involves itself in the Chinese grand strategy (Tyler Durden, “New silk road could change global economics forever, part 1”, Zero Hedge, 05/23/2015).

This grand strategy needs to be understood for what it is, i.e. a coherent set of ways and means, combined and deployed by China, which seeks to guarantee its own capability to remain a growing and viable country during the twenty-first century.

Water and national futures

The new phase of the Israeli-Chinese cooperation materialises itself through multiple projects. Among them, the “Water city” framework allows Israeli and Chinese municipal officials to explore different kind of innovations across the water sector (Niv Elis, “Israel, China launch joint task Force for expanding ties”, The Jerusalem Post, 03/30/2015).

In effect, Israel is extremely advanced in the field of water treatment and management, and is the leading nation in the field of desalination technology ((William Booth, “Israel knows water technology and it wants to cash in”, The Washington Post, October 25, 2013). It is a huge advantage in an arid region, strongly hammered by climate change, and home to countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, which are under a mounting hydric stress, because of their growing population and water needs, and of the regional effects of the war in Syria and Iraq (Valantin, “Collapse war in the Middle East?The Red Team Analysis, April 7, 2015).

Through water technology, Israel works at being a nation with a future, in the context of the regional situation of hydric stress, climate change and social and political tensions. This makes the “Water city framework” especially interesting for the Chinese, given the rapidly growing hydric needs of Chinese cities.

In effect, China knows a phase of giant urban expansion: according to the OECD, the Chinese urban population counted 200 million people in 1980, and is currently reaching 700 million people, out of a total population of 1, 200 billion. It could count 950 million in 2030. This unprecedented urban growth necessitates the rapid development of efficient and affordable water treatment capabilities (OECD, “Urbanisation and green growth in China”, OECD Regional development working papers, 2013/07).

320px-2012_Pudong_(2)

This is especially true in coastal industrialized cities, such as Shougouang, which is the designed core of the “water city project” and where the possibilities offered by Israeli technology and expertise are explored, before being expanded to other cities (Sharon Udasin, “Chinese officials in Israel to advance Shougouang “water city” project”, The Jerusalem Post, 03/30/2015).

In effect, the rapidly growing Chinese megacities need to be able to attract the kind of technologies developed by Israel. Indeed, Chinese demographic and industrial growth generate the same kind of threat on sustainability, through, for example, air and water pollution (Valantin, “The Arctic, Russia and Chinese energy transition”, The Red Team Analysis, February 2, 2015) and environmental degradation as the combination of aridity, demography and economic growth in the case of Israel (Valantin, “Israel, Natural Gas and Power in the Middle East”, ibid).

The focus on water is particularly telling as far as the strategic importance of the partnerships that China is currently developing with Israel is concerned. Guaranteeing access to water to the immense Chinese urban and rural population, in conditions of growing hydric stress (OECD, ibid), is a key feature of the social and national cohesion the Middle Kingdom must ensure.

In effect, the different ways and means through which China achieves sustainability – i.e. the adequate equilibrium between the organization of society and the production of resources necessary to answer its needs (John King Fairbanks, Merle Goldman, China, a New History, 2006) – is one perspective through which to read and understand China.

Shanghai_haze_Highway_20131206The development of the country, and the legitimacy that is granted to the political authorities in this context, rests upon the material and biological viability of the cities. If this were to be endangered, the relationship between the population and the local and national authorities could be violently questioned (Quynh Delaunay, Naissance de la Chine moderne, L’Empire du Milieu dans la globalisation, 2014).

In order to have a successful national future, China seeks (and finds) the technologies and skills it needs to get the capabilities necessaries for its national grand strategy. This is exemplified, in our case, by the meeting of the “Belt” with Israeli national interest(s).

An alliance of national futures?

In other words, what the Israel – China cooperation reveals is that these two countries understand each other through a shared question: how are they going to maintain the social, political, economic, and environmental conditions that have been accessory to the Chinese project on one hand and to the Israeli project on the other hand over the last sixty years?

Israel needs not anymore a “protector” as much as it needs partners.

In effect, Israel has developed itself upon the idea of a sustainable Jewish state in a politically challenging context, combined with the necessity of accessing water and other basic resources necessary for a modern state and society in such an arid environment (Valantin, “Israel, Natural Gas and Power in the Middle East”, The Red Team Analysis, April 27, 2015). What is at stake, here, is the possibility of a successful national future both for Israel and for China, as both experiment deep transformative dynamics.

As we have seen, China is becoming, in the same time, an urban country and a world power, which needs to attract immense amounts of resources (Giovanni Arrighi, Adam Smith in Beijing, 2007).

Israel knows a transformation of its own international strategic status, by becoming, over the last few years, an energy power, thanks to the discovery and exploitation of giant off shore natural gas deposits (Marin Katusa, The Colder War, 2014). This is quickly changing its status in the Middle East, making it an energy exporter, particularly to Egypt and Jordan (Gismatullin, “Egypt importing gas for the first time as export disappear”Bloomberg Business, December 11, 2012).

249px-Benjamin_Netanyahu_portrait

This happens when the Israeli historic and strategic “special relationship” with the US is strained. We could wonder if a profound reason for these tensions lies in the new status of Israel, which needs not anymore a “protector” as much as it needs partners. In other words, Israel may well seek a way to support its transformation from “protected power” to “integrated regional power” (Valantin, ibid).

The “New Silk Road” is reaching the Middle East

These new relations between Israel and China are happening in the context of the deployment of the “New Silk Road strategy” in Pakistan and, through this country, in Iran and thus in the Middle East.

320px-Silk_routeFrom a historical and political point of view, it could be said that the “New Silk Road” is revitalizing the medieval Silk Road (“About the Silk Roads“, UNESCO), which closed during the fifteenth century, and which was linking the Mediterranean world to China through the Middle East and Central Asia.

The intensification of the Israeli relations with China may thus appear deeply linked to the Chinese process of international networking launched by China through the “New Silk Road” strategy.

In effect, as we saw, in April 2015, President Xi Jinping and Pakistani Premier Nawaz Sharif announced a joint deal, worth 46 billion dollars, for the development of transportation and infrastructures, which will link the Pakistani harbour of Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea, with the Chinese Xinjiang (Katharine Houreld, “China and Pakistan launch economic corridor plan worth 46 billion dollars”, Reuters, April 20, 2015).

Part of that deal will be devoted to the construction, financed by China, of the Pakistani part of a new gas pipeline between Iran and Pakistan, which will be completed as soon as US sanctions on Iran are lifted when the deal on Iran nuclear projects is signed, probably during the summer 2015 (“China, Pakistan sign gas pipeline deal key to Iran imports”, Press TV, April 21, 2015).

The pipeline, dubbed the “Peace pipeline”, is already completed on the Iranian side, and goes from Assaluyeh, Iran’s energy hub, to the Pakistani frontier. Besides other projects, as seen, it will help alleviate the Pakistani need for energy, and could be used to transport natural gas to China.

Through these infrastructural projects, China’s “belt and road” is reaching the Middle East through South Asia, while developing common interests with Israel.

In other words, the “New Silk Road” becomes a system to support Pakistan and Iran as partners of China, in order for them to be able to support China. This means that China, through the renewal of its relations with Iran, through “the belt” in Pakistan, is becoming both a major South Asia and Middle East player.

This could have major impacts for Israel, which so becomes an important actor of the “Middle East segment” of the system of partnerships and network that China develops. Furthermore, it will be interesting to see if the relations between China and Israel, and between the Middle East countries and China, are going to contribute to further transform, or not, the relationships between Israel and the Middle Eastern world as well as with the Mediterranean world.

And we must not forget that these evolutions of the political and strategic status of Israel are entwined with its new energy capabilities and its relations with the Chinese “New silk road” system.

This convergence between China and its Middle Eastern partners could become a powerful transformative force, given a likely future mammoth influence of China, in the Middle East. This could happen through the creation of new regional and international systems of shared interest between these countries and the Middle Kingdom, while allowing China to become a Middle East player.

What now remains to be seen is the way the New Silk Road could, or not, favour the emergence of a very unexpected system of cooperation in the Middle East, and if this system could affect the balance of power and the “war and peace process” in the region, especially in the case of the Islamic State.

To be (soon) continued.

Jean-Michel Valantin, (PhD Paris) leads the Environment and Security Department of The Red (Team) Analysis Society. He is specialised in strategic studies and defense sociology with a focus on environmental geostrategy.

Featured image: Drops of water falling on the facility description of gray water by Shai Kessel via the PikiWiki – Israel free image collection project – שי קסל [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons.

China and the New Silk Road: The Pakistani Strategy

On 20 April 2015, the Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced a common plan for developing an economic and energy corridor linking the two countries through the development of gigantic infrastructures worth 46 billion dollars (Katharine Houreld, “China and Pakistan launch economic corridor plan worth 46 billion dollars”, Reuters, April 20, 2015).

If this announcement is in itself very impressive, it is, in fact, only a part of China’s grand strategy, dubbed the “New Silk Road”. This strategy is defined through the concepts of “belt and road” (literally in Chinese Yídài yílù, 一带一路, one belt, one road) (“Belt and Road Nations account for 26 per cent of China’s trade”, The Beijing Review, April 29, 2015). Each “node” of the “belt and road” strategy aims to determine a sub-continental area important to China.

So, the “Belt” deploys itself around regions in South Asia, in the Asia-Pacific, in Central Asia, between Russia and China and starts unrolling towards Africa and Europe. It aims to develop and reinforce transport and other infrastructures between these areas and the “Middle Kingdom”.

China, Pakistan, New Silk Road, one belt one roadIn fact, this strategy is a way to both expand the influence of China and to attract the resources necessary to answer the huge needs and thus demand in commodities and products that emerge from a developing society and economy of one billion and four hundred million people, in an immense country with limited natural resources (Craig Simon, The Devouring Dragon, 2013). For example, China imports daily 7,4 million barrels of oil, thus more than the U.S., which imports 7,2 million barrels of oil a day (“Pétrole : la Chine importe plus que les USA”, Le Figaro avec Reuters, 11/05/2015).

In other terms, China needs as much attracting resources as making sure that the areas with which it has economic and energy relations are composed of countries that will be able to sustainably support the resource flows toward and through its frontiers. This strategy is devised in an era of growing international competitions for natural resources fraught be the new political and strategic tensions triggered by this competition.

Ensuring the future China in a (violent) multipolar world

The “New Silk Road” is a system of networks, infrastructures and development programs, which aim to connect China with South Asia, Central Asia, Russia and Europe. Each of these regions is defined as composing a “belt” with China, while road systems and infrastructures are the means chosen in order to link them with China’s regions (Deng Yaqing, “A shared path”, The Beijing Review, July 10, 2014). The “Belt and Road” initiative has a maritime dimension, which is central to this strategic project (Li Xin, “The Asian fusion, China’s two silk roads help forge closer cooperation among CICA members“, The Beijing Review, May 1, 2014).

This strategy reveals what is at the core of the thinking of the Chinese political authorities, that is to say the will of ensuring China’s historical continuity over the decades to come (Loretta Napoleoni, Maonomics, 2011).

China, Pakistan, New Silk Road, one belt one road, Shanghai

In effect, Beijing is quite aware of the numerous emerging factors of discontinuity, notably the new risks created by the current world resource competition (Michael Klare, The Race for what’s left, 2012 and Dambisa Moyo, Winner take all, China’s race for resources and what it means for us, 2012) and global warming, on the very singular living conditions of this giant and socially and ecologically sensitive and vulnerable country (Jared Diamond, Collapse, 2005).

In effect, the different ways and means China achieves sustainability – i.e. the adequate equilibrium between the organization of society and the production of resources necessary to answer its needs (John King Fairbanks, Merle Goldman, China, a New History, 2006) – is one perspective through which to read and understand the very ancient history of China.

China, Pakistan, New Silk Road, one belt one road, ConfuciusWe thus find a conjunction of social control, very careful agrarian, economic, rural and urban development, Confucian philosophy, strong political power, which rule is based on the recognition that what it does is good for or the country, and thus corresponds to what is good as well as “harmonious” (Etiemble, Confucius, 1986). During millennia, this form of legitimacy has been called the “Celestial mandate”. As we saw in  “The Arctic, Russia and China’s energetic transition” (Valantin, The Red Team Analysis Society, February 2, 2015), “If the population discerns signs that the government has lost the Mandate, it ceases to see the government as legitimate and vast social and political unrest and extremely violent upheaval may follow (John King Fairbank and Merle Goldman, ibid.).

In other terms, the Chinese political authorities need today to protect their population from the permanent pollution-related countrywide airborne chemical attack that it now suffers, because it may be perceived as a sign that the Mandate of Heaven is lost:

“Towards the close of each regime, for example, natural calamities, earthquakes, floods, comets, eclipses, and other heavenly portents become more numerous in the record, evidence that the improper conduct of the ruler was losing him the Mandate of Heaven” (Fairbank & Goldman, Ibid: 48).

Nowadays, the challenge for the Chinese political authorities is to preserve their legitimacy, without which they could be violently disavowed, and thus to ensure that the economic and social development of their country continues, as has been of paramount importance since Deng Xiaoping (Quynh Delaunay, Naissance de la Chine moderne, L’Empire du Milieu dans la globalisation, 2014). This national project necessitates for China to attract the resources it needs, despite the fact that a lot of other countries are competing with each other in order to attract those very same resources.

China, Pakistan, New Silk Road, one belt one road, IraqHowever, this strategic thinking on a continental scale is quite different from other types of strategies developed in Europe or in the U.S., such as, for example, the spread of the US military influence in the Middle East through the Iraqi war (Giovanni Arrighi, Adam Smith in Beijing, 2007).

The current Chinese strategy is based on the idea that the different corridors of influence created by the different “nodes” of the “Belt” are primarily destined to attract resources towards China, while having Chinese workers going into these countries, notably to build the infrastructures, which are part of the deal. This allows China to support the countries that are part of the system, in a wide scale “win-win” game, by helping them becoming more sustainable (Juan Pablo Cardinal and Heriberto Araujo, China’s silent army, 2014).

This support is a way to turn these countries into parts of the system created to guarantee the long term of Chinese sustainability. In other words, China does not expand its influence to become a “classical” dominant or imperial power but, “simply”, in order to make sure that countries throughout Eurasia have an interest in participating in the sustainability of China (Dambisa Moyo, ibid).

Symmetrically, Beijing makes sure that its partners are themselves able to be sustainable, because they are involved in a system that could be destabilized by the unsustainability of some of its parts.

China_on_the_globe_(Asia_centered)_(alternative), China, Pakistan, New Silk Road, one belt one roadThus, the “New Silk Road” strategy allows its promoters to express what we call the “Chinese power of need” (Valantin, “The Chinese shaping of the North”, The Red Team Analysis, 9 June 2014) throughout Eurasia, while displacing the idea of direct domination and conflict as notion of influence. Beijing prefers the vision of a systematic complementarity between the “Middle Kingdom”’s national interest and the different national interests of its partners. The latter is achieved by creating the “need for China”.

The Pakistani strategy

China, Pakistan, New Silk Road, one belt one road
“Unveiling the plaques of the projects” – From Pakistan Prime Minister’s Office Facebook Page – 20 April 2015 – Click to access photo

The agreement on the “China Pakistan Economic Corridor” is an excellent example of this philosophy and strategy. The deal comes with a 46 billion dollars package, which will be used to create transport infrastructures from the port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea, close to Iran border, to China’s western Xinjiang region (Saeed Shah and Jeremy Page, “China readies 46 billion dollars for Pakistan trade route”, The Wall Street journal, April 16, 2015). In other terms, the Pakistani part of the “Belt” is both land and sea based, which opens maritime perspective for the expansion of the Belt.

“Green Parliament – Solar Power Generation Project” – From Pakistan Prime Minister’s Office Facebook Page – 21 April 2015 – Click to access photo

Furthermore, the package includes the development of coal, hydro, solar and wind power plants, destined to alleviate the Pakistani structural problem of electricity generation. The money will be lent by Chinese banks and maybe by the new Asian Infrastructure Investment bank to Chinese companies, which will develop projects with Pakistani companies and public services companies (Shah and Page, ibid).

So, from the Chinese point of view, this agreement allows the Chinese state and companies to link Chinese sea ports (“Gwadar port integral to China maritime expansion”, The Tribune, February 17, 2013), and thus the littoral economically developed regions with Pakistan by sea.

Gwadar, China, Pakistan, New Silk Road, one belt one roadAlso, the use of the Pakistani Gwadar port by Chinese ships (Valantin, “Pakistan and the long storm”, The Red Team Analysis Society, February 23, 2014) will help to integrate the much less developed Xinjiang interior region through the agreed upon roads to be built between the hinterland and the littoral.

Furthermore, it will facilitate the linking both of South East China and Xinjiang with south and southwest Asia, as well as with the Arabian-Sea, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea through the Suez Canal, while escaping from the strategic bottleneck of the Malacca strait (Shah and Saeed, ibid).

China Pak official
From Pakistan Prime Minister’s Office Facebook Page – 21 April 2015 – Click to access photo

Meanwhile, this 46 billion dollars project allows developing China to involve itself in the development of socially, politically, economically and strategically unstable Pakistan. There, the political, religious, social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities compose a national system of instability (Anatol Lieven, Pakistan, A Hard country, 2011), which endows Pakistan with a singular political capital: it is a very fragile country, with a 140 million people strong population, and a nuclear power. In other words, its neighbours cannot allow Pakistan to collapse (Valantin, ibid).

Thus, China builds upon this strategic reality and transforms it in an asset for its own needs, by helping the Pakistani public and private sectors, which, in turn, become a support for its own sustainability, through the “win-win” philosophy at the core of the “Belt and road “ strategy.

China, Pakistan, New Silk Road, one belt one road
From Pakistan Prime Minister’s Office Facebook Page – 21 April 2015 – Click to access photo

In this context, Beijing encourages Washington to keep on supporting Islamabad from a security perspective (Shah and Page, ibid), while remaining a staunch military ally of Pakistan, and also helping it to develop its energy capacities, in order to reinforce the social urban cohesion through a proper electricity system, without which modern life is very difficult, notably considering the current state of the Pakistani megapolis such as Karachi (e.g. Huma Yusuf, Tactical Cities: Negotiating Violence in Karachi, Pakistan, 2008).

Thus, Pakistan is starting to be integrated to the “belt” of the “New Silk Road”, through a land and sea “silk road” system, which, itself, is a support for other deployments of the “belt and road”.

The Pakistani case is a good demonstration of the way the “New Silk Road” is a new expression of the Chinese philosophical and strategic thought. This philosophy is installed in an understanding of the spatial dimension as something that has to be used in order to support and spread Chinese influence and power (Quynh Delaunay, ibid).

The profound intelligence of the “New Silk Road” strategy resides in the fact that it is elaborated through the idea that the Chinese national interest must be promoted through a strategy that is not primarily based on the use, or the threat, of armed, symbolic or economic violence. From the Chinese point of view, the strategy is built upon the creation of a system of mutually understood interests, and violence must “simply” be a possibility and a possible political mean, which accompanies the creation of the Belt, without being at its core (Giovanni Arrighi, ibid).

China, Pakistan, New Silk Road, one belt one road, South Sea Fleet

The “New Silk Road” is also elaborated and designed while the People’s Liberation Army is quickly developing its Navy. For example, it has nowadays more submarines than the US Navy (Jeremy Bender, “China’s submarines could create problems for US Navy”, Business insider, April 7, 2015). Meanwhile, it is building up its network of bases in Asia and Africa (Tyler Durden, “China to build military base in Africa next to critical oil choke transit”, Zero Hedge, 05/10/2015). In other words, Beijing gives itself the means to protect and secure the network of influence and resource attraction created through the “New Silk Road”.

However, it must now be seen how this strategy is implemented throughout Asia, Europe, the Middle east, and Africa, from Pakistan and India to the Arctic, and how it meets other ways to develop other types of strategies, in their spatial and military forms.

To be (soon) continued.

Jean-Michel Valantin, (PhD Paris) leads the Environment and Security Department of The Red (Team) Analysis Society. He is specialised in strategic studies and defense sociology with a focus on environmental geostrategy.

Featured image: “Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Chinese President Xi Ping inaugurating projects through video link at Prime Minister’s office, Islamabad, April 20, 2015” from the photo album of the Facebook Page of Pakistan Prime Minister’s Office. Click here to access to the photo.

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 195 – Tunisia Museum Attack, Global Jihadi Threat and Public Indifference?

Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals…

Read the 19 March scan  

World – The deadly attack on the Bardo museum in Tunisia, on 18 March, reminded the world that the Salafi-Jihadi threat is far from being overcome, despite some lassitude displayed by crowds and media over such attacks. One of the interesting signals to notice here, is the small number of crowdsourced articles referring to the attack. Only three articles found their way in The Weekly, when the casualties are far more important than those of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris or of the shooting in Denmark, to say nothing of the impacts to Tunisia’s economy and more broadly polity, and in terms of spread of Jihadi attacks, threat to the stability of the region, etc.

Continue reading The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 195 – Tunisia Museum Attack, Global Jihadi Threat and Public Indifference?