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"One Belt One Road" and its role in Yunnan

herenow (144 posts) • 0

@JanJal wrote: "the designation is only as gateway", ... "a gateway to the real experiences elsewhere"

The wording of the government's designation is somewhat beside the point (and I may be misremembering the precise language). What matters is the government's political will.

The gateway designation seemed to suggest that the government is determined to seriously develop Kunming, but we can't know for sure -- as I said, it's a wildcard.

Think of how Peter the Great basically willed St. Petersburg into existence as Russia's "Window to Europe". Perhaps you might have said at the time that St. Petersburg was just "a window to the real experiences elsewhere", and you would have been right, but only until the city developed.

Notwithstanding the obvious differences between the governments of czarist Russia and modern China, both were/are wealthy and authoritarian. So if Beijing is determined to make Kunming into something roughly analogous to St. Petersburg (a "Window to southeast Asia"), then it's going to happen.

JanJal (743 posts) • 0

I'm sure that there is political will in Beijing to develop Yunnan, but I believe it is mostly motivated by this region being among the most impoverished in the country.

It is about wanting to develop Kunming to reduce need for rural citizens here to migrate to the east coast for jobs, which increasingly will not be available there in coming decades.

St. Petersburg is a port city on the Baltic sea, and was of huge strategic importance back when the dominant world powers in Eurasia were other than USA, Soviet Union or China.

Kunming wasn't of equal strategic importance even during the Japanese occupation and nearby Chongqing as provisional capital.

For Kunming to become important in way comparable to St. Petersburg, China would first have to go to war against some (or all) of it's southern neighbours.

For now, Kunming and Yunnan is of different kind of strategic importance. It's the road and gateway for trade between other parts of China and the southern neighbours, and a strategic epicenter in ongoing war against poverty.

herenow (144 posts) • 0

@JanJal: The first two paragraphs and the last paragraph of your post are presented without evidence regarding the government's relative priorities.

The remainder, although correct in certain facts, revolves around what I believe is a distorted version of St. Petersburg's history. Specifically, it seems to ignore that the site was a sparsely inhabited swamp of marginal strategic value before the 18th century. Also, it overly centers military/strategic considerations and slights the crucial economic, cultural and "Window on Europe" aspects.

This doesn't seem to be a productive exchange, so I will leave you the field.

tigertiger (4870 posts) • +1

@herenow said, "So if Beijing is determined to make Kunming into something roughly analogous to St. Petersburg (a "Window to southeast Asia"), then it's going to happen."
Policy statements do not always turn into defacto action. How determined is Beijing? Who actually said it? and most importantly, why was it said? These are all considerations. Just because someone said it will be, does not mean it will be so. The market reactions, and the peoples reactions may not fit in with the desired policy outcome, and some things are just not achieved. There are numerous examples of this, I think most of us have seen 'flavor of the month' policy drives that come to naught.

JanJal (743 posts) • 0

@herenow: "I believe is a distorted version of St. Petersburg's history."

It's possible that my upbringing and education in the country that shares some 1300 km of land border with Russia and former Soviet Union (just north of St. Petersburg) affects my views on this matter.

The city was still named Leningrad when I went to high school. In the country that went from rule of Swedish Empire to that of Russian Empire before eventually declaring independence and defending it against Soviet invasion during WW2.

Economic, cultural or windows considerations were negligible in comparison to those of military and strategic in the world that preceded rise of USA and Soviet Union from WW2 onwards.

Peter the Great captured the former Swedish fortress there, in a war, and started by building his own. A fortress, not a tradepost or a museum.

Military affairs preceeded everything else in that time and age. Trade routes were not created by investments or tourism, they were taken by force.

herenow (144 posts) • -1

@JanJal: I studied a fair amount of European history as an undergrad, including a class specifically on Russia during this era, and I have continued to read more since. There are several things in your last post that clash with my understanding to date.

But I'm not going to contest the matter further as my knowledge is mostly from secondary sources. Plus you are making a fair claim of homefield advantage. So let's just say that you win on the St. Petersburg point.

herenow (144 posts) • +1

@tigertiger: Agreed on all points. I have used the word "wild card" a couple of times in this thread, by which I meant that we can't be sure whether or not the purported political will exists.

But if they want to transformationally develop Kunming and its role half as much as they want to establish sovereignty within the nine-dash line, then they will do what it takes and market reactions be damned.

JanJal (743 posts) • +2

If we consider Kunming's future, maybe we shouldn't even begin to compare it to Chengdu or Chongqing, but go to opposite side of the country.

Yunnan's potential (outside agriculture and tourism) lies in it's position as border province to 3 countries that all can be consider in some ways underdeveloped. Yunnan can (to a degree) grow with that development.

But this potential is far greater in the northeast on the DPRK border.

If I was to bet on some Chinese city's future (it connection to BRI or without), it would be in Dandong or any smaller city upstream by Yalu river, or even further north on Russian border.

tigertiger (4870 posts) • +1

A hi tech rail link would be more of a flag waving exercise than anything else. Yes there would be passengers, but would there be a profit.

More passengers would inevitably lead to an increase in trade, but how much? The train passengers would most likely be low level business-people, and traders.
The real movers and shakers in trade and industry, who do the multi-million dollar deals will be the ones who fly, and unless there is a tectonic shift in trade, they will continue to fly to the likes of Chongqing. IMHO.
I can think of the number of times that UK government have tried and failed to move business out of London. The most effective shifts have been caused by non-government influences, like the high rents in London.

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