The security dimension is a key factor in the OBOR initiative, considering that Xinjiang region is an exclusive gateway for Central Asian oil and gas imports as well as for trade corridor between China and the West.
Given the strategic relevance of the maritime energy and trade routes, China aims to achieve the protection and the security of the Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) implementing the «21st Century Maritime Silk Road»: this initiative concretely represents a geopolitical update of the so–called “String of Pearls” strategy, which was based on the creation of commercial and energy outposts as strategic bases in the Indian Ocean – stretching from the Middle East to southern China – in order to protect its energy interests as well as «broader security objectives».
The «Maritime Silk Road» strategy is clearly focused on security and geopolitical aims, pushing China to increase its naval presence to prevent piracy and terrorist threats along the SLOCS as well as to geopolitically contain Indian influence in the Indian Ocean. The full implementation of the OBOR initiative could also help China to solve the «Malacca dilemma», which is a key energy gateway for China, crossed by 75% of Chinese oil imports.
China fears that international terrorists or hostile powers (a US potential intervention in the case of China–Taiwan dispute) could seize control of the straits and block nearly all of China’s energy imports. The development of alternative maritime and overland energy pathways – which should deliver oil (and gas) coming from Middle Eastern and African suppliers bypassing this chokepoint – has become a pillar in the Chinese foreign and energy policy: the other planned economic corridors – the China–Pakistan economic corridor, the China–Indochina economic corridor, the BCIM economic corridor (aiming to connect Yunnan, the south–western Chinese province with the Bay of Bengal) and China–Mongolia–Russia economic corridor – will help China to legitizme itself as a geopolitical pivot in the region.
Fabio Indeo, Center for Energy Governance and Security, South Korea