It has been in the news since long that the CNPC (China National Petroleum Corporation) would soon be completing construction of the natural gas pipeline from the Rakhine coast in Myanmar to Kunming in China. The pipeline will traverse nearly 800 KM from the Island of Kyankpyu to Yunnan. The natural gas pipeline is not the only project linking Kyankpyu Island. CNPC is also building an oil pipeline alongside the gas pipeline. Additionally, China plans to build a highway and a high speed rail link between Kyankpyu and Yunnan. Whatever the size of the infrastructure that will develop around the Kyankpyu terminal - the pattern is being repeated in Hambantota and Gwadar, possibly Chittagong as well - the fact remains that in Myanmar the Chinese will be able to push in thousands of labourers, many of whom will marry locally and create a sizeable Chinese community. It has happened in Angola and elsewhere in Africa. What should be more worrying to India and ultimately to Myanmar as well is that the 800 KM long oil, gas, rail and road corridors will present the Chinese with an opportunity to demand at least one thousand or minimum 500 M meters land corridor on either side along the entire 800 KM stretch for maintenance and other purposes. 800 KM X 1000M represents a huge swath of territory, which (again) for all practical purposes will be held by China with settlements of Chinese labourers and their families all along. The import of this large-scale semi-permanent or permanent Chinese influx cannot be lost on either India or Myanmar. Before the agreements are finalised, Myanmar and India must hold talks to ensure adequate safeguards to obviate a permanent influx of large Chinese settlers. Concomitantly, massive felling of virgin tracts on either side will also take place unless China is prevented from doing so or obliged to keep felling to the bare minimum. It is a potential threat to both countries. Possibility of diversification with Japanese, Indian or Western companies and insistence on local labour being trained for the purpose, with limits on Chinese labour should be gone into at this juncture. Nobody can hazard a guess on the exact figure, but a million plus Chinese could already have crossed over into Northern Myanmar from Yunnan. There is not very much that the Myanmar government can do about it.
A diplomat from one of the Central Asian countries bordering China - actually the Chinese province of Xinjian expressed fears - evidently off the record - that his country was worried about the increasing influx of Chinese people in the border region. According to the laws of his country they were not allowed to own land; so many Chinese are now marrying locals to get over that difficulty. The Head of another country bordering Xinjian told a top EU diplomat a few years ago that (at the time) there were approximately 30 million Han Chinese opposite his country; when the figure touched 300 million, he said, they would have a big problem on their hands. As it turns out, with the increased pace of infrastructure development westwards tens of millions of Chinese will move into Xinjian much sooner than the head of state had anticipated - as is happening currently in Tibet. Several million will cross over into the open spaces in the sparsely populated Kazakhstan: quite a large number would have already moved in. Both the Russians and the Kazakhs are aware of the creeping movement into their regions adjoining China. As members of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation they have not raised their voices.
Many countries in Africa are alive to the problem as well. A few have gone on record to demand greater employment for locals on the large infrastructure projects being undertaken by the Chinese. The latter have stalled on these requests by saying that the locals were not skilled enough for the job and that language difficulties would delay the projects. China has been in Africa now for many years, the second time around. They have not even attempted to meet the local aspirations by training locals to fill the jobs. Instead Chinese workers are herded together in labour camps and shifted with the progress of the projects. It is said that the Chinese workers brought in from mainland China are paid comparatively low wages when compared with those paid by other countries implementing projects in Africa. Details are not easily forthcoming and the actual situation cannot be independently confirmed by outsiders.
In several other countries around the world Chinese brought in for the projects are being encouraged to settle down and take up small commercial activities. The largest influx of Chinese workers, many of whom could ultimately settle down to form Chinese colonies is wherever China is undertaking port construction and linking infrastructure projects or where the Chinese have taken out long leases from the host governments, especially those in dire financial straits. An example in the second category would be the Port of Piraeus in Athens. Greece and China signed the 4.3-million-euro (6.32 million dollars) agreement for the new management of the port. Under the contract, Pier 2 and 3 of Piraeus' Container Terminal will be under COSCO management for 35 years. Piraeus is one of the most important ports in the eastern Mediterranean region. The Chinese company plans to make Piraeus the hub of its Chinese exports operation for South-East Europe. The security implications of the development were not lost on Brussels. Greek dock workers protested in large numbers in 2009, but eventually had to reconcile themselves to the reality of an impoverished nation on the lookout for financial bailout. China is evidently repeating the pattern in port cities around the world or where it has been contracted for constructing new ports. The hostility of the native population is never allowed to prevent take-over, as in Baluchistan where the local population is opposed to the Chinese takeover of Gwadar Port.
Elsewhere Chinese settlers are among the largest immigrant communities. China and Australia are cases in point; not to mention the large Chinese populations in several countries of Southeast Asia.
March 25, 2013.