China’s Land Bridge to Turkey creates new Eurasian Geopolitical Potentials

Published on Voltairenet.org, by F. William Engdahl, APRIL 23, 2012.

The prospect of an unparalleled Eurasian economic boom has been further solidified following recent talks between Turkish and Chinese leaders. The first steps are being constructed with a number of little-publicized rail links envisioned to connect China and parts of Western Europe. It is increasingly clear to all nations concerned, especially China and Russia, that their natural tendency to develop these markets faces only one major hurdle: NATO and the US Pentagon’s Full Spectrum Dominance obsession. According to Engdahl, rail infrastructure is a major geopolitical tool for obviating that obstacle.  

China and Turkey are in discussions to build a new high-speed railway link across Turkey. If completed it would be the country’s largest railway project ever, even including the pre-World War I Berlin-Baghdad Railway link. The project was perhaps the most important agenda item, far more so than Syria during talks in Beijing between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Chinese leadership in early April.

The proposed rail link would run from Kars on the easternmost border with Armenia, through the Turkish interior on to Istanbul where it would connect to the Marmaray rail tunnel now under construction that runs under the Bosphorus strait. Then it would continue to Edirne near the border to Greece and Bulgaria in the European Union. It will cost an estimated $35 billion. The realization of the Turkish link would complete a Chinese Trans-Eurasian Rail Bridge project that would bring freight from China to Spain and England [1] … //

… China builds Second Eurasian Land Bridge:

By 2011 China had completed a Second Eurasian Land Bridge running from China’s port of Lianyungang on the East China Sea through to Kazakhstan’s Druzhba and on to Central Asia, West Asia and Europe to various European destinations and finally to Rotterdam Port of Holland on the Atlantic coast.

The Second Eurasian Land Bridge is a new railway connecting the Pacific and the Atlantic that was completed by China to Druzhba in Kazakhstan. This newest Eurasia land bridge extends west in China through six provinces—Jiangsu, Anhui, Henan, Shaanxi, Gansu, and Xinjiang autonomous region, which neighbors respectively with Shandong Province, Shanxi Province, Hubei Province, Sichuan Province, Qinghai Province, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Inner Mongolia. That covers about 360,000 square kilometers, some 37% of the total land space of China. About 400 million people live in the areas, which accounts for 30% of the total population of the country. Outside of China, the land bridge covers over 40 countries and regions in both Asia and Europe, and is particularly important for the countries in Central and West Asia that don’t have sea outlets.

In 2011 China’s Vice Premier Wang Qishan announced plans to build a new high-speed railway link within Kazakhstan, linking the cities of Astana and Almaty, to be ready in 2015. The Astana-Almaty line, with a total length of 1050 kilometers, employing China’s advanced rail-building technology, will allow high-speed trains to run at a speed of 350 kilometers per hour.

DB Schenker Rail Automotive is now transporting auto parts from Leipzig to Shenyang in northeastern China for BMW. Trains loaded with parts and components depart from DB Schenker’s Leipzig trans-shipment terminal in a three-week, 11,000 km journey to BMW’s Shenyang plant in the Liaoning province, where components are used in the assembly of BMW vehicles. Beginning in late November 2011, trains bound for Shenyang departed Leipzig once each day. “With a transit time of 23 days, the direct trains are twice as fast as maritime transport, followed by over-the-road transport to the Chinese hinterland,” says Dr. Karl-Friedrich Rausch, member of the management board for DB Mobility Logistics’ Transportation and Logistics division. The route reaches China via Poland, Belarus, and Russia. Containers have to be transferred by crane to different gauges twice—first to Russian broad gauge at the Poland-Belarus border, then back to standard gauge at the Russia-China border in Manzhouli. [5]

In May 2011 a daily direct rail freight service was launched between the Port of Antwerp, Europe’s second-largest port, and Chongqing, the industrial hub in China’s southwest. That greatly speeded rail freight transport across Eurasia to Europe. Compared to the 36 days for maritime transport from east China’s ports to west Europe, the Antwerp-Chongqing Rail Freight service now takes 20 to 25 days, and the aim is to cut that to 15 to 20 days. Westbound cargo includes automotive and technological goods, eastbound shipments are mostly chemicals. The project was a major priority for the Antwerp Port and the Belgian government in cooperation with China and other partners. The service is run by Swiss inter-modal logistics provider Hupac, their Russian partner Russkaya Troyka and Eurasia Good Transport over a distance of more than 10,000km, starting from Port of Antwerp through to Germany and Poland, and further to Ukraine, Russia and Mongolia before reaching Chongqing in China. [6]

The Second Eurasian Land Bridge runs 10,900 kilometers in length, with some 4100 kilometers of that in China. Within China the line runs parallel to one of the ancient routes of the Silk Road. The rail line continues across China into Druzhba where it links with the broader gauge rail lines of Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is the largest inland country in the world. As Chinese rail and highways have expanded west, trade between Kazakhstan and China has been booming. From January to October 2008, goods passing through the Khorgos port between the two nations reached 880,000 tons – over 250% growth compared with the same period a year before. Trade between China and Kazakhstan is expected to grow 3 to 5 fold by 2013. As of 2008, only about 1% of the goods shipped from Asia to Europe were delivered by overland routes, meaning the room for expansion is considerable. [7]

From Kazakhstan the lines go on via Russia and Belarus over Poland to the markets of the European Union.

Another line goes to Tashkent in Uzbekistan, Central Asia’s largest city of some two millions. Another line goes west to Turkmenistan’s capital Asgabat and to the border of Iran. [8] With some additional investment, these links, now tied to the vast expanse and markets of China could open new economic possibilities in much-neglected regions of Central Asia. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) could provide a well-suited vehicle for coordination of a broad Eurasian rail infrastructure coordination to maximize these initial rail links. The members of the SCO, formed in 2001, include China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikstan, Uzbekistan with Iran, India, Mongolia and Pakistan as Observer Status countries.

Russia’s Land Bridge: … (full long text and Notes 1 to 11).

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