China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a multifaceted economic, diplomatic and geopolitical undertaking that has morphed through various iterations, from the “New Silk Road” to “One Belt One Road”.
First proposed in September 2013, it is the signature foreign policy initiative of Chinese President Xi Jinping. It is a project of unprecedented geographical and financial scope.
BRI has two primary components: the overland Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB), and the sea-based 21st-century Maritime Silk Road (MSR). Together, they form the “belt” and “road”.
SREB’s overland infrastructure network encompasses the New Eurasia Land Bridge and five economic corridors: China-Mongolia-Russia; China-Central Asia-West Asia; China-Pakistan; the China-Indochina peninsula; and Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar. The SREB’s connective sinews will be high-speed rail and hydrocarbon pipeline networks.
The MSR is focused on developing key seaports that connect to land-based transportation routes.
What China gets from the BRI
BRI projects are likely to increase China’s economic and political leverage as a creditor.
China has established the multilateral Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the $40 billion Silk Road Fund. These are financial vehicles for BRI infrastructure projects, yet the vast bulk of funding to date has come from China’s big state-owned investment banks.
The BRI has been viewed as a way for China to productively use its enormous, $3 trillion capital reserves, internationalise the renminbi, and deal with structural issues as its economy navigates the so-called “new normal” of lower growth.
Perhaps foremost among these is the issue of industrial over-capacity. Having maxed out investment-driven growth through a frenzy of domestic infrastructure building following the 2008 global financial crisis, the BRI represents an international stimulus package that will utilise China’s idle industrial capacity and safeguard jobs in key industries such as steel and cement.
This is a significant political dividend for the Chinese government. The Chinese Communist Party’s legitimacy rests on maintaining economic growth and improving people’s standard of living.
In relation to energy security, the BRI will assist China in diversifying its energy sources through greater access to Russian and Iranian oil and gas. This will be achieved by linking with pipeline networks from Russia and Central Asia.
By investing in pipelines from Gwadar, on the coast of Pakistan, to Xinjiang, and from coastal Myanmar to Yunnan, China also can diversify its transportation routes for maritime energy supplies. This reduces its vulnerability to energy supply disruption at maritime choke-points in the Strait of Malacca and the South China Sea.
The establishment of port facilities in the Indian Ocean will also be advantageous to the emerging blue-water capability of the People’s Liberation Army Navy. This would assist in keeping vulnerable critical sea lines of communication open for maritime energy supplies from the Middle East.
Collectively, these measures could reduce the ability of the US Navy to blockade China’s energy supply routes in any future conflict scenario.
Benefits to Myanmar
Myanmar is involved in two of the six economic corridors under China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), according to professional services firm PwC. BRI has the potential to turn Myanmar into a regional logistics hub drawing in trade from neighbouring Thailand and Laos. The introduction of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), a deep-sea port, factories, residential buildings, hotels, electric generators and an additional elevated highway connecting the port with major urban centres is sure to rejuvenate Myanmar’s ailing infrastructure and economy.
“Now this begs the question. With so much economic and political prospects why would the Myanmar military and government suddenly begin ethnically cleansing the marginalised Rohingya minority and attract international condemnation that may lead to sanctions or even military action that will inevitably stall the proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)?”
To understand Myanmar you must look at Pakistan
One of the most important countries in this initiative is Pakistan. Pakistan borders China’s Xinjiang Province in the north, albeit at an elevation of over 15,000 feet. It therefore provides China with a potential corridor through the Karakoram Highway to the seaport at Gwadar in Baluchistan on the Indian Ocean. The Pakistan part of the larger project is referred to as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, CPEC. China plans to spend at least $60 billion on infrastructure developments in Pakistan itself, although some of this money would be loans to Pakistan, which Pakistan will be obligated to repay (Chaudhury, 2017).
CPEC will include the construction of industrial parks, agricultural farms, railways, airports, roads, a fiber-optic network, energy-generating projects, including one of the world’s largest solar farms, and a high speed train between Karachi and Peshawar that will travel over 160 km per hour. All of these projects will be built according to Chinese plans, with Chinese labor, and connected to Chinese businesses. The project will also build a new telecommunications network linking Pakistan with China, and through China to Europe.
Almost immediately after China announced the OBOR Initiative in 2013, terrorism related violence and killings have engulfed the whole of Pakistan into turmoil, resulting in the deaths of over 18,000 Pakistanis between 2013-2017 (Satp.org). The majority of victims have been ordinary Pakistani’s and member of the security forces.
The deadliest terrorist attack by far was in December 2014, when a team of nine Taliban gunmen stormed a crowded school in Peshawar. They killed 145 people (mainly children) in the deadliest single attack in the militant group’s history in Pakistan. Other attacks have targeted Pakistan’s Christian and Shiite religious minorities fuelling sectarian unrest. In May 2017, 10 labourers working on the construction of link roads that connect outlying towns to the country’s $57-billion Chinese Belt and Road initiative were executed in cold blood. This is a direct attempt to jeopardise the Gwadar-Xinjiang economic corridor that is proposed to become fully operational from June next year.
In addition, a number of separatist militant groups have sprung up in the Baluchistan province that are waging war against the central government, citing social and economic despondency and demanding a greater share of the gas-rich region’s resources.
Just like events in Myanmar the social and political problems in Pakistan have been under immense scrutiny by the west and given copious amounts of media coverage attracting a barrage of condemnation from the United Nations and Amnesty International for human rights violations.
Are the west trying to sabotage China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)?
It is no coincidence that Myanmar is suffering the same cycle of violence that has engulfed Pakistan ever since it became a partner of China’s BRI. It is also more plausible to believe that the Rohingya Muslims are being butchered by a hidden enemy just like 18,000 Pakistani’s who died at the hands of an unknown enemy that is clearly a proxy, serving a foreign agenda.
Whilst evidence from video footage clearly shows the Buddhist monks perpetrating massacres in Myanmar’s Arakan State, the question is were they provoked by instigators intent on causing inter-religious violence? For example if separatist Christian guerrillas staged attacks against Muslims in a country like Pakistan, surely there would be reprisal attacks against Christians. This is a highly probable scenario in Myanmar since the use of covert infiltration is the hallmark of western foreign policy.
History of western ‘foul play’
In 1991 Algeria’s main Islamic party, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), won a first-round victory in the country’s inaugural multiparty general elections, which threatened to strip away the power of the generals who had controlled the state on behalf of their former French colonial masters.
Exploiting Europe’s fear of an Islamic government, the DRS – the Algerian secret service – systematically infiltrated insurrectionary Islamist groups such as the GIA and from 1992 onwards launched its own fake guerrilla groups, including death squads who perpetrated massacres disguised as Islamists. In 1994, the DRS managed to place Jamel Zitouni, one of the Islamists it controlled, at the head of the GIA.
According to Mohamed Samraoui, a former colonel in the Algerian secret service: “French intelligence knew that Ali Touchent (the mastermind of the Paris Bombings) was a DRS operative charged with infiltrating pro-Islamist cells in foreign countries.” It has never been officially denied that in return for supplying the French authorities with valuable information, Touchent was granted protection.
Likewise during the Troubles in Ireland British security forces had thousands of agents and informants working inside Northern Ireland paramilitary groups, who were recruited by the Army, MI5 and Special Branch and many were involved in criminality and murder. Just one of the agents – Brian Nelson was linked to “dozens and dozens” of murders.
Nelson, who was a paid army agent, provided assassination targets for the three main Loyalist paramilitary groups – the Ulster Freedom Fighters, the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Red Hand Commando.
During his investigations in Northern Ireland, Lord Stevens and his team arrested 210 paramilitary suspects. He says that 207 of them were agents or informants for the state.
Baroness Nuala O’Loan, who was Northern Ireland’s first police ombudsman, also found evidence that state agents were involved in murder. She said that the security forces failed to control their undercover operatives.
“They were running informants and their argument was that they were saving lives, but hundreds and hundreds of people died because these people were not brought to justice,” she said.
“There was impunity really for these people to go on committing their crimes. Many of them were killers, some were serial killers.”
The recruitment of death squads is part of a well established US military-intelligence agenda. There is a long and gruesome US history of covert funding and support of terror brigades and targeted assassinations going back to the Vietnam war.
The recruitment and training of terror brigades in Iraq was modeled on the “Salvador Option”, a “terrorist model” of mass killings by US sponsored death squads in Central America. It was first applied in El Salvador, in the heyday of resistance against the military dictatorship, resulting in an estimated 75,000 deaths.
China is aiming to spur a new round of economic globalisation, but in a changed international order that it has a pivotal role in shaping. This is deeply troubling China’s economic adversaries the US and Europe who seem to be utilising everything in their means to maintain the status quo of their global world order. Unable to engage directly with China militarily they seem to be focusing on spreading terror and instability in countries that are crucial to the Belt Road Initiative.
As Muslims it is our duty to investigate and verify any news that reaches us from unreliable sources. We must not accept any narrative without considering the aims and objectives of the ones reporting to us because all media is a tool to further the interests of governments and powerful interest groups. For this reason when particular news stories are not in the interest of these groups and countries they will simply not report them or distort them to fit their agenda. Just as we see with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and wars in the Middle East. Therefore we should learn to read between the headlines and look at history to see that most conflict is over wealth and resources as opposed to religion as the secularist like to portray.