Since this initiative has been heavily promoted over the last 5 years, I doubt anyone living in China hasn't heard of it. I guess some even might have formed opinions about it.
First of all, I want to state that is hard to grasp for me what this initiative is all about. The books I read on it were all on a strategic level. I know it's a huge investment, I know some good things happened in Africa, some issues emerged in Malaysia and Pakistan. Contracts are being signed and roads are being built.
The scope is enormous. So, I would like to narrow it down, and since we are all in Yunnan, I was wondering: What exacly does Belt and One Road initiative (BRI) mean for Yunnan? From a historic point of view, some cities have been important hubs on the Southern Silk Road. Should we all move to Dali, buy a horse and start trading tea? On a more serious tone, do you expect some cities will develop because of BRI? What role is Kunming going to play in the South East Asia trade?
We'd all like a high speed train to Thailand but the Thais have misgivings. That's all you need to know.
It means large amounts of money being invested into the city as Kunming is the main connection between China and South East Asia and will continue to boom if things go to plan. In other (previously) similarly sized provincial capitals of poor rural provinces such as Nanning, Guiyang, Lanzhou you don't see many 200m+ skyscrapers but in Kunming there are several already made or on the way. That's because investors are banking on money flowing into Kunming, more than other provincial capitals, over the next 5 years or so.
Many development projects within, nearby and far from China have of course been in planning for decades or more, and could happen anyway, but it suits China to tag as many of them as possible (even retroactively) with BRI as a trophy to glee about.
One such, opened in 2015 and relevant to Yunnan and Kunming, are Sino-Myanmar pipelines that run through Myanmar to Kunming, and provide alternative route to transfer oil and natural gas from Africa and Middle-East to PRC - avoiding Malacca straits.
That is certainly a strategic investment for China, and also highlights role of Yunnan within China.
Very true Jan, China has rebadged a lot of old projects as BRI. And new projects badge themselves as BRI to attract funding. But what a daft decision to dump the New Silk Road brand for the dull as ditchwater Belt and Road. What on earth were they thinking?
Seeing as a lot of existing trade with SE Asia has been done through Chengdu and Chongqing, that already have many foreign banks there, it will be an uphill struggle for Kunming to leverage its way into this market. No matter how many clarion calls there may be.
One thing worth noting in all these silk, tea, horse or whatever roads, is that they are still just roads.
Yunnan may well remain as only that - a road through which goods manufactured and used elsewhere get transported.
Growth simply happens faster in those end points, rather than on the way.
@tigertiger: One wildcard is that the national government has officially chosen Yunnan as China's gateway to SE Asia. A GoKunming article published in the last few years (that I can't locate at the moment) reported that Yunnan had beat out some other province/s in an official competition for the designation.
@JanJal: I think that's true in most cases, but it's not a law of nature. San Francisco started out as basically just a waystation on the way to the gold fields.
@JanJal: Also, it changes the calculus if you think of Kunming's potential hub status as being analogous to a port rather than a road. Much of the manufactured goods from the American Upper Midwest used to be sent via the Erie Canal and the Hudson River to New York Harbor on their way to their final destinations. Today the Upper Midwest is the Rust Belt and New York is thriving.
@herenow: "national government has officially chosen Yunnan as China's gateway to SE Asia"
Well, Yunnan does share land border with Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, and a major waterway down to Thailand and beyond, while our neighbouring province to the east only has border with Vietnam.
But again, the designation is only as gateway, which is not a big improvement from a road.
Yunnan in this internatioal picture remains much like Kunming in Chinese map - a gateway to the real experiences elsewhere.