The Americans see OBOR as 'threatening' the US

China’s One Belt, One Road: An Ambitious Strategy Challenging the U.S. - ASP (American Security Project)
The Americans see OBOR as 'threatening' the US

KUALA LUMPUR (September 2017): The online news portal Amercian Security Project (ASP) reported that China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative is an ambitious strategy challenging the US - stopping short of saying that it is a strategic threat to American interests.

Well, that has always been the US response to any challenge posed by any country in any field, be it military, business or economic.

At an international summit in Beijing attended by more than 30 heads of state, the Chinese government pledged more than US$100 billion (RM420 billion) to support OBOR.

ASP claims China’s ambition in its OBOR strategy is clear - that the future lies in re-joining Eurasia as a single economic entity.

It reports that a “New Silk Road through Central Asia” and a “Maritime Silk Road” through the Indian Ocean was China’s attempt to knit Europe and Asia together along both maritime and overland trade corridors that had long been neglected.

ASP writes: “This is consciously harkening back to the ancient and medieval trade routes of the past, even including pictures of camel caravans in its official documents.”

One of the Chinese Government’s official OBOR cartoons

ASP also reports: “The One Belt, One Road initiative appears to be a combination of geopolitical, economic, and military strategy put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping to achieve multiple Chinese aims. Xi’s speech at the Belt and Road Forum offers clear historical analogies hearken back to a time when China saw itself as the “Middle Kingdom” – literally at the center of the world. The economic implications are clear: China seeks to continue to export. Not only will China export the consumer goods we know well in the United States, but the country needs to export its unfinished goods to maintain domestic employment. One example will show: China has a surplus capacity of steel production, with its smelters expected to produce over 100 million metric tons of steel this year than they can consume. For the last several years, that surplus has been dumped onto world markets, driving down global steel prices and drawing threats of a tariff war between China and other steel producers, including the United States. Instead of reducing steel production (which would cost jobs and harm politically important steel manufacturers), the OBOR initiative would export that steel as a part of its aid to support local infrastructure.”

Now, just what is the US complaining about? What’s so “devilish” about China pursuing global economic expansion that features mutual benefits?

It sure looks like the US is just, as usual, sour grapes, jealous of other nations’ initiatives and treats every challenge as a threat to them.

For the benefit of I Love Malaysia China Silk Road readers, here’s a Forbes article for more on the OBOR:

"SEP 13, 2017 @ 07:23 AM
How China's Belt And Road Sparked A Renaissance Of Transportation Innovation

Wade Shepard , CONTRIBUTOR

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

(STR/AFP/Getty Images)
The countries of Europe and Asia are increasingly integrating together economically, logistically and politically via China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the various other endeavors of the broader New Silk Road, opening the gateway for a paradigm-shifting renaissance of technological innovation across the region. Trans-Eurasian transportation networks are being unified and streamlined, IT infrastructures are being upgraded and fused together, energy capacity is being boosted manyfold, and new types of problems are creating the opportunity for new types of technological solutions.

Jonathan Hillman of the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS) in Washington D.C. posits that Asia has become a laboratory of new transportation ideas, and this is immediately evident when looking at the technologies that are emerging along its new array of trans-Eurasian trade corridors.

“Just as the compass and the domesticated camel facilitated greater mobility in ancient times, all these innovations have the potential to reshape today’s economic landscape,” Hillman proclaimed.

Over the past five years, an entire 40+ line network of direct cargo trains between China and Europe has emerged, and while the innovativeness of this system is mainly found in the realms of politics and customs protocols rather than technology, this system has inspired a reimagining of the future of rail transport.

Pushing the logistic limit

HP is largely recognized as being the driving force behind this new era of trans-Eurasian rail. When they moved a large portion of their production from the coastal city of Shenzhen to the inland city of Chongqing, a new logistical question arose: Are we really going to ship our products overland 1,500 kilometers east just to ship them west again by sea? Is there another way?

Wade Shepard
A trans-Eurasian train crossing into Kazakhstan from China.

The task was given to HP’s director of global logistics, Ronald Kleijwegt, to come up with that other way. His solution: rail. Over the next few years, Kleijwegt and his team put together a direct rail line between Chongqing and Duisburg, Germany, and by 2012 established the first regular service.

However, organizing the logistics for such a rail operation was merely the first step. As these trains would pass through regions where the weather ranges from as high as 40°C in the summer to as low as -45°C in the winter -- much too extreme to ship the high-value, temperature-sensitive electronics that HP produces -- in order for them to run year round a new technological solution was needed.

Kleijwegt mulled over the situation for a while and eventually found the answer when he ran into Jan Koolen at a European rail conference later on in 2012. Koolen is the founder of Unit 45, a company that has made pushing the innovative limits of shipping container technology their business model. Kleijwegt explained what he needed -- a fully automated, temperature-controlled shipping container that could make the entire two-week long, 9,000-kilometer rail journey between China and Europe without requiring maintenance or refueling. Koolen said it could be done and then set to work with his team to make it so.

Wade Shepard
A train loaded with Unit 45 climate controlled reefer containers in Khorgos Gateway in February 2017. Image: Wade Shepard.

Unit 45 had already invented a climate controlled shipping container that was being loaded onto trucks, carting goods over the highways of Europe. However, their 250-liter diesel tanks would require two or three refueling stops on the journey between China and Europe, and were hence inadequate.

“So then I sat together with my technical guy and I said, 'Is there another solution?’” Koolen recollected. “‘Is there a solution where we could have a cooling unit which has the capacity for a 45-foot unit and we are able to have the content of the tank around 800 liters?’ Because then we can move them around 24 days, and that was how we came to the solution that we found.”

Koolen and his team made a diesel electric “smart” reefer container that could maintain a set internal temperature via a thermostat, be remotely controlled, is GPS enabled, and has enhanced security mechanisms that could theoretically make the journey from China to Europe and back again without needing to be refueled. Basically, they created the new camels of the New Silk Road.

High-speed is the future

However, while conventional trans-continental cargo trains are the vanguard of the Belt and Road, they are more than likely not its future. These trains have blazed new trails across continents, encouraged governments to work together, and helped transforma traditionally stubborn, change-adverse, state-owned and often monopolistic industry into a sleek, international, and modern mode of transport, essentially getting all of the preliminaries in place for new generations of trains to render them obsolete. The future of rail on the New Silk Road is high-speed.

(STR/AFP/Getty Images)
An array of endeavors to build high-speed rail lines in Russia, India, Southeast Asia and Europe are currently in the works. The long-delayed central route of the Kunming-Singapore high-speed rail line is now kicking off on multiple fronts. When finished sometime in the first half of the 2020s, tens of billions of dollars would have been spent and passengers will be able to travel between Kunming and Singapore in just 10 hours. A more ambitious, although still prospective, high speed-rail project is one that would link Moscow with Beijing, making it possible to cross the 7,769-mile expanse in one and a half days. Other New Silk Road high-speed rail lines are also being built in Indonesia, India, Vietnam and Eastern Europe, let alone thousand of kilometers being added onto China’s domestic HSR system to link in far western Silk Road hubs.

Funding and building these high-speed rail lines abroad also puts countries like China and Japan on the inside track to sell their ever-improving high-speed rolling stock, such as China’s new 400 km/h “Fuxing” trains, and other related technologies directly to the host countries.

A chance for Hyperloop

However, we would be remiss if we viewed HSR trains as the end-all-be-all of overland New Silk Road transport. While it is still a developing technology, the possibility of lining the Belt and Road with Hyperloop systems in the future is very much on the table. The U.S. startup Hyperloop One and Russia’s Caspian Venture Capital have teamed up on a feasibility study to gauge the potential of building a 65-kilometer hyperloop between the Russian port of Zarubino and the Hunchun logistics zone in China. If it happens, we may see the world’s first hyperloop system in action, shooting six cargo-filled pods per minute -- amounting to 1.3 million TEU per year -- at 540 km/h between the two locales, generating earnings in the ballpark of $250 million per year.

(David Becker/Getty Images,)
Other hyperloop projects are being proposed for India, South Korea, Slovakia and Abu Dhabi, and the potential to extend these tubes all the way from China to Europe is readily being discussed.

“The spirit of experimentation on the New Silk Road and the ability of some governments in Asia and the Middle East to remove regulatory barriers could lead to the first applications of hyperloop technology being outside of the U.S.,” Hillman explained. “Elon Musk recently tweeted that he got verbal approval for a line between Washington and NYC and many people pointed out all the legal barriers that remained. However, there are countries where approval from the right person could clear the way for something ambitious like hyperloop to be implemented on a trial basis.”

While hyperloop startups proudly proclaim that their technology could soon have the ability to ship cargo and people at speeds of over 1,000 km/h, which is faster than the cruising speed of a Boeing 747, the advantage of hyperloop technology for freight isn’t only about speed. As pointed out on Reconnecting Asia:

Shippers want availability, or system uptime, which is one of Hyperloop’s advantages over rail or roads. Being an autonomous system enclosed in a tube eliminates a lot of safety hazards such as grade crossings, but also takes weather and operator error out of the equation…Shippers also get flexibility. A Hyperloop can send a container when it is received instead of waiting for a mile-long train to be loaded with hundreds of other containers. Its magnetic non-contact traction allows it to climb grades three times steeper than the 5 percent for traditional freight rail.

Hyperloop technology is also highly touted as being greener, safer, more energy efficient, more resilient to weather conditions, and perhaps even cheaper than many of the currently established forms of transportation on the Belt and Road.

Supersonic flying trains

The speed breakdown for current and potential forms of New Silk Road transportation looks a little something like this:

· Truck: 90 km/h

· Conventional cargo train: 100 km/h

· High-speed cargo train: 250 km/h

· Hyperloop: 540 km/h

· Boeing 787: 954 km/h

However, there is another potential mode of transport that can go up to four times faster than the fastest vehicles traversing these emerging trade routes today. Dubbed "supersonic flying trains," a label that is in no way a misnomer, China claims to be developing a form of rail transport that can support speeds of up to 4,000 km/h.

The China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), which is basically China’s NASA, recently unveiled that it is planning to develop a train which combines some of the attributes of a supersonic jet with a high-speed train. It’s basically a pod which zips down a vacuum sealed tube via magnetic levitation.
Wade Shepard
Camels in Kazakhstan. While inspired by the ancient Silk Road, the New Silk Road is revolutionizing transportation technology.
As for a timeline for development, CASIC claims that the technology will be rolled out in stages, first running between some of China's regional cities at 1,000 km/h, then between the country's largest cities at 2,000 km/h, and then eventually evolving into the supersonic train that it is meant to be, “flying” at 4,000 km/h across continents along the corridors of China’s Belt and Road.

I'm the author of Ghost Cities of China. Traveling since '99. Currently on the New Silk Road. Read my other articles on Forbes here."