South Asia

China plans ‘South Asia gateway’ to boost regional links

Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan leaves after the opening session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, China, Sunday, March 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)   | Photo Credit: Kin Cheung

China will accelerate plans to build “an international gateway to South Asia” by boosting road, rail and air links from its southwestern border province of Yunnan to the region, according to a government work report released on Sunday.

China’s top political advisory body, which began its annual session in Beijing on Sunday, put forward proposals for the new government that will take over this month. Among the proposals were calls for more balanced economic growth and to take forward several major development projects, including long-discussed plans to build an “international gateway” to South Asia.

The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), an advisory political body, and the National People’s Congress (NPC), the top legislative body, will hold a crucial session in the coming week to formalise the appointment of new government officials, following last year’s once-in-ten year leadership transition in the Communist Party of China (CPC).

The “two meetings”, as they are known in China, are also expected to take forward several administrative reforms in the government and provide some indication of the new leadership’s political and economic priorities in the next five years.

The CPPCC Work Report, presented on Sunday by outgoing Chairman Jia Qinglin, outlined proposals for more balanced growth, and listed several key projects that would be taken forward on a priority basis.

These included taking forward plans to build an “international gateway to South Asia”, turning the southern island province of Hainan into an international tourism hub, and setting up a Western Taiwan Strait Economic Zone.

Officials in Kunming, the provincial capital of the southwestern border province of Yunnan that will lead the gateway project, told The Hindu in interviews earlier this week that the gateway hub, which involves building a network of roads, railway lines and air links to bring Yunnan closer to Myanmar, Bangladesh, India and Southeast Asian countries, would be accelerated during the Twelfth Five Year Plan (2011-15).

Fang Xudong, a senior CPC official in the Yunnan provincial committee, said the first step was elevating an annual South Asia commodities fair into a larger expo, the first of which will be held in June this year. Under the initiative, the government also opened the sprawling new Kunming Changshui International Airport in June 2012. The province is also planning to open high-speed rail links with Southeast Asia.

“Although Yunnan and India witnessed rapid growth in trade cooperation, there is still potential," Yunnan Vice Governor Gao Shuxun said in an interview. “For instance, we will focus more on the service sector, and take our trade beyond just goods."

Asked about the poor condition of road links between Yunnan, Myanmar and India, officials in Kunming said China was developing roads on its side of the border and also investing in projects in Myanmar. India, however, has been reluctant to open road links in the northeast citing strategic concerns.

“We will use what we have now,” Mr. Gao said, “but at the same time we will create new platforms. Due to the mountainous area, it costs a lot to build roads in such difficult geological conditions, but we will try our best to do it.”

“We see ourselves as a gateway,” he added. “This involves railway, roads, air links and waterways. For example, the new Kunming international airport was put into operation in June, and it is already China’s fourth biggest with 38 million arrivals annually. After we build two more runways, we will handle 80 million passengers, and we want to have flights to every major city in India, and Asia."

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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 12:32:37 AM |

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