Note from Blog owner: as readers of this blog will know, I recently posted an analysis of the plan to obtain oil for Nepal via the Friendship Highway that goes through Tibet. Then I wrote a second part. Mr. Wilson Chin responded. He is a businessman based in Singapore, and he supplied pertinent information about the “Big Picture” of the Chinese petrochemical endeavor. Prior to his input I had no particular knowledge of where the Chinese oil came from. (turns out that they do not get it from the Persian Gulf. China is piping in oil & gas from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. They are however still buying a very large amount of oil from the Middle East. One of the difference is that oil from Middle East is delivered by Tanker vessels to the Chinese East Coast.). I invited him to write a guest post on the Nepal plan to get oil from China. Here it is. Click here to see the location of the original post. Please note that the captions below each photo are mine.
Breaking News! “Read all about it”. For those who had not, then, hear ye, hear ye! China is sending free petrol to Nepal up to 1,000 tons, in 25 oil tankers, the first to arrive next week. Collect your number, queue up.
Those who insist that China would come to the rescue is vindicated. Shame on you, southern neighbor, shame on you that you did not do more to alleviate Nepal’s thirst for petrol.
India and China have a history of rivalry. Ongoing border disputes occur at Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. Some believe that Nepal’s 1,700 km buffer separating India and China’s province of Tibet prevented the dispute-philiac pair from having more disputed areas. After the Central Tibetan Administration went into exile in Dharamsala, India, the 14th Dalai Lama has been an excruciatingly painful thorn in China’s side. The issue of Nepal’s new constitution laid bare their rivalry. One could picture China rubbing its hands with glee . When the Constitution was signed, India, openly irked, “noted its significance”. At the same time China “noted its significance with delight”, praising the Nepali Government. When India was denounced for blockading fuel from entering Nepal (India officially denied that), China agreed to send 1,000 tons of petrol FREE OF CHARGE. India was almost silent over China’s generous gift. India was stunned but not defeated
Kathmandu, a month ago when petrol was being rationed. The weather was warmer at that time.
Since 2013, when China mooted the New Silk Road, it did not expect to fast track a route that some believed was too ambitious. Emergency relief to Nepal’s earthquake in April 2015 showed cracks in logistical support from across Nepal’s border. How could that be possible from a giant, the second richest country in the world and in its own backyard? Six months on, the Friendship Bridge linking both countries is still un-passable. China and Nepal remain friends electronically when physical, feely touchy friendship proved difficult.
The road to Rasuwa travels through steep terrain on the Nepal side and landslides are common.
Tibet is one of China’s poorest provinces. At a GDP of $4,000/- per capita, it is only one fourth that of Beijing. In Tibet, all trains lead to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, all trains to Lhasa come from Xining – the nearest City 2,000 km away, all trains run on the only railway line, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, except for a new line joining Lhasa to Xigatse . China needs to develop Tibet – desperately. There are only two restive regions in China, Tibet is one of them. Tibet is Nepal’s northern neighbor. Tibet is Nepal’s hope. To reach Nepal, Chinese supply must first pass through Tibet
The Himalaya as seen from the North. It does not look so tall because the Tibetan Plateau starts at 12,000 feet elevation.
Tibet is Rich in tradition, rich in culture, rich in water, rich in sand, but hydrocarbon poor. As a result, a gas pipeline is planned to channel fuel to Lhasa over 1,400 km from Qinghai to make up for its hydrocarbon deficiency Nationalists, secessionists have been criticizing China Central Government for not developing Tibet, the same people are also complaining of over-development, accusing the Government of planning to populate the region with Chinese immigrants and diluting the Tibetan race. Still, development must proceed, even if such developments do not make economic sense like the loss making Qinghai – Lhasa railway.
The New Silk Road as many suspected is more than a “road”. It is the Chinese safety valve out of its growth stagnation, it is Chinese quantitative easing, it is a means to spend its way out of deflation. Cities are saturated with new ghost towns; there is only one way left to build, horizontally. Railways are the next poster boys, roads the next poster girls and pipelines the next supermodels. Money is no problem, finance least of its worries; China has billions of dollars in its New Silk Road Fund. When Nepal asked China to build a railway linking China to Nepal, China with no hesitation, went straight to the drawing board, and came up with an audacious plan to tunnel under Mount Everest – as if to say ” Match me if you can”. China is ready. With the merger of its Railway Companies into a mega – CRRC Corp, the second largest industrial company in the world, tunneling under Mount Everest could be its Expo to showcase its technical abilities; India’s troubles with Nepal was the opportunity China needed. With a broad stroke, Tibet is primed for a makeover. It stands to benefit from all the possible spillover economic activities made possible after India’s diplomacy with Nepal blinked. Solving Tibet’s secession tendency once and for all looks like a Fait Accompli.
China’s overcapacity needs more than Tibet, a vast province with a population of just 3 million. China’s New Silk Road initiative needs more than Nepal, another small nation by China’s standard. Roads, railways, pipelines would end up as white elephants if they all end in Tibet or Nepal. It would be a monumental economical coup if they all continue on to India and Pakistan. That card is however held by India and it is a wild card.
High Speed trains in a Chinese railyard.
China National Highway 318 is perhaps Nepal’s best chance to reach the sea from the northern border. At 5,500 km, it is the longest highway in China. Starting at the Tibetan city of Zhangmu, the highway traverses 8 Chinese provinces and ends in Shanghai. Highway 318 is also dubbed one of the most dangerous highways in the world. Yes, it is a difficult journey, it would take a long time, it is for the brave, for the adventurous. Only the survivors will arrive at the Pacific Ocean
Switchbacks on the Friendship Highway leading into Zhangmu, the town on the Chine side of border.
Underestimate India at your own peril. Silence is the nature of the Bengal Tiger, watching at a distance, with all access roads covered. The Tiger holds all the aces, Kolkata its ace of spades. The tiger is not giving Friendship Bridge even a second glance, the Tiger is not interested in any entry point into Nepal, knowing very well that all entry points are obstacle courses. They are peaks, troughs, valleys, rivers, snow, ice, cliffs and then sand, more sand and yet more sand. They are earthquake prone, with excellent terrain good for training special forces, training rescue missions, training helicopter pilots and mountain climbing. They are tailor made by nature for endurance testing of trucks, cars, tires and endurance driving. They are part of the highest mountain range in the world, the formidable Himalayas, restricting unwanted riffraffs at the same time restricting the flow of provisions and necessities. Mother Earth does not take sides. The tiger sits pretty and watches; it knows that it does not need to watch its northern flank – the great wall of Himalayas takes care of that.
Chinese workers surveying a landslide site.
ACE OF SPADES
Kolkutta port in Bangladesh. This blog focuses on the land route to Europe but the Chinese are also developing the “sea route”.
Never underestimate the tiger as William Blake immortalized it in The Tiger -“Tiger, tiger, burning bright….”
From Mr. Chin’s LinkedIn profile.
Wilson Chin is a businessman and a consultant in energy. Wilson is totally neutral in climate change, with a passionate leaning towards environmental protection against pollution; similarly he is neutral in Nepal’s politics. He has done a lot of business in India and also in China and understandsthe geo-politics of the region. Wilson is most fascinated by the immense potential of Nepal’s Hydropower potential. His profile is listed in Linkedin.