India and China Seek Economic Integration Via Burma, Bangladesh
By NEETA LAL / ASIA SENTINEL| Nov 6, 2013 |http://www.irrawaddy.org/china/india-china-seek-economic-integration-via-burma-bangladesh.html and www.natunbarta.com/english/business-and-finance/2013/11/0…
The recent endorsement by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of a multibillion dollar construction corridor encompassing Bangladesh, China, India and Burma—if it materializes—could redraw the economic and geopolitical map of Asia.
Termed “an international gateway to South Asia,” the BMIC corridor, as it is known, was the highlight of Li’s recent visit to India. The Chinese premier’s office commented that the link “will surely release enormous growth energy and provide new vitality for the Asian economic integration and global growth.”
Statements like this are the usual hyperbole of state visits and must be taken with skepticism. But this time China, over recent weeks, has publicly unveiled a huge burst of ambitious plans to further draw East Asia, including both South Asia and Southeast Asia, into its economic and political orbit.
“Connectivity” is China’s new mantra and the focus of Beijing’s long-term planning and strategic thinking, extending a web of rail, highway and air links all over the region and recently, during the visit of President Xi Jinping, offering an infrastructure bank to help build it. Given the region’s considerable natural resources, and China’s need for them to fuel its industrial growth, planners have all roads pointed toward Beijing.
The economic advantages of the corridor—covering 1.65 million square kilometers, encompassing an estimated 440 million people in the regions of Yunnan, Bangladesh, Burma and Indian states like West Bengal, Bihar and the northeast region—are gargantuan. Besides access to myriad markets in Southeast Asia, the link is also expected to enhance the transportation infrastructure and creation of industrial zones.
…With labor costs rising in China, labor-intensive industries such as textile and agro processing will eventually be shifted out of China to newer regions that offer labor at relatively lower costs. “This will lead companies operating in China to give priority to the trade corridor region given its established infrastructure, improved logistics and ease of access,” he added.
India’s isolated eastern and northeastern states also stand to gain by higher trade and connectivity with China and the rest of Asia…The bridge dovetails well with India’s own “Look East” initiative and regional plans to help the BMIC grouping. China and Bangladesh have already been pressing India to improve and upgrade existing road and other traffic network on its territory, with a view to facilitating more border trade and strengthening the local economies involved.
Ethnic minorities areas in Guizhou map -dark blue-Miao; dark green-Buyi; pink-Dong; light green-Yi; brown-Tujia; light blue-Gelao; yellow-Shui
24-Zig along the Burma Road （滇缅公路24拐）
“The “24-zig” is in Guizhou Province, it has 24 sharp bends on a high mountain. The Burma Road was largely built by Chinese during World War II to bring supplies to beleagured China, to help Chinese resist the Japanese invasion.
（from www.chinawhisper.com/top-10-most-dangerous-roads-in-china ）
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Historic ’24-zig’ Rediscovered on Stilwell Road
August 15, 2002, China Daily, english.peopledaily.com.cn/200208/15/print20020815_101492…
People can see a famous old photo on websites about World War II: convoys of US GMC military trucks snaking up a steep zigzag road in southwest China’s mountainous region.
It illustrates the crucial lifeline that linked the Chinese battlefield with allied forces 57 years ago. The road, nicknamed “24-zig” because it has 24 sharp bends on a high mountain, was believed to lie on the famous Stilwell Road, also known as the Burma Road.
Along the road, mountains of guns, bullets and food were carried by US trucks to China to fight against the Japanese troops.The “24-zig” was so geologically typical and a symbol of the times that its fame was soon spread worldwide by the international media.
However, after the war ended half a century ago, the precise location of the “24-zig” faded from memory. Many Chinese, Japanese and Westerners tried to pinpoint it along the Stilwell Road and the Burma Road in Yunnan Province, but it seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth.
Guo Shuya, a Chinese expert in World War II history, has been studying the road for many years. In 2001, he happened to get a piece of information from Japan that the “24-zig” was not on the Stilwell Road as many experts believed, but actually on another road in nearby Guizhou Province.
Guo went to Guizhou and sought help from elderly drivers, and they told him the “24-zig” was in a county named Qinglong, two hundreds miles away from Guiyang, capital of Guizhou.
Guo made his way to Qinglong where he rediscovered the “24-zig”.
“I have solved a riddle that has puzzled people worldwide for half a century, ” he said. “It seems that we still don’t know very much about World War II.”
The Stilwell Road was a single road built in 1944 between Indiaand China’s Yunnan Province. However, the international community usually regarded all the traffic networks in southwest China as being part of the famous road, which was named after Joseph Stilwell, commander-in-chief of the China-Burma-India war theater.
“The ’24-zig’ is indeed in Guizhou, and it can be seen as an extension of the Stilwell Road,” said Zhou Mingzhong, an official with the Guizhou Transportation Bureau.
He said that the road was built by US troops and remained undamaged. These days curious drivers usually ride on the historic road for fun.
“Currently, Guizhou is investing heavily in a campaign to build new roads. However, we will preserve the “24-zig” according to its original look,” said Zhou, adding that “it is a relic of World War II, and a symbol of Sino-American friendship”.
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The Burma Road
for good photos see: http://www.tinyadventurestours.com/Eng/Destinations/BurmaRoad.html
The road was constructed between 1937 and 1938 during the ‘Second Sino-Japanese War’ by combining existing roads and tracks and upgrading them for use by heavy transports and even building completely new roads and bridges. This all through an area in which till then hardly any roads had existed. The purpose of the road was to keep supplies coming in while the eastern sea ports of China were controlled or blocked by Japanese forces.
The road got closed off by the Japanese occupation of Burma and western Yunnan. Control over the road resulted in critical battles like the battle at the Huitong Bridge and the battle at Songshan Mountain in the Gaoligong mountain range.
During the second world war American engineer regiments constructed a new road from Ledo in India across Burma to connect to the original Burma Road. The combined road got named “Stilwell road” after American General ‘Vinegar Joe’ Stilwell.
Burma road at present. The present day enlarged and improved Burma Road crossing the Gaoligong mountain range near Longling.
At the turn of the century the British had attempted to extend their rail network from Lashio in Burma into Yunnan but had given up because the terrain was one of the hardest in the world with many mountains and big rivers to cross. The only east/west connection was the ‘Southern Silk Road’, a combination of footpaths and horse trails leading to footbridges and ferry crossings.
The Burma Road was constructed by an unskilled local labour force of thousands recruited from the various tribes living along the route. The tools used were local farming tools and complicated constructions were avoided by letting the road hug the higher parts of the mountains and avoiding the valleys with rivers and streams as well as muddy flat lands as much as possible.
Over the years the road got widened and paved with cobble stones but the road in its full length does not exist anymore as such. National road G320 incorporated parts of the old road and some parts got abandoned. Now the new G56 four lane motorway replaces the G320 again. This modern, road with many bridges and tunnels, makes it possible to drive the entire length of the old Burma Road in hours.
from “Kueichou – An Internal Chinese Colony,” by J E Spencer, Pacific Affairs, vol. 13,no 2,(Jun,1940), pp 162-172 quote from pp. 167. See whole article free with Google Books, http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2751051?uid=3737800&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&sid=21102539382847
British in 1942 traveling through Guiyang to the Burma Road, escaping Japanese takeover of Hong Kong, see: http://www.hongkongescape.org/Legge.htmtrade routes in the Yuan dynasty – Note “Southwestern Silk Road” thru Yunnan.
Chinese archaeological writer Bin Yang, whose work, ‘Between Winds and Clouds; The Making of Yunnan’, (Columbia University Press,2004) and some earlier writers and archaeologists, such as Janice Stargardt strongly suggest this route of international trade as Sichuan-Yunnan-Burma-Bangladesh route. According to Bin Yang, especially from the 12th century the route was used to ship bullion from Yunnan (gold and silver being among the minerals in which Yunnan is rich), through northern Burma, into modern Bangladesh, making use of the ancient route, known as the ‘Ledo’ route. The emerging evidence of the ancient cities of Bangladesh, in particular Wari-Bateshwar ruins, Mahasthangarh, Bhitagarh, Bikrampur, Egarasindhur and Sonargaon are believed to be the international trade centers in this route. (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_Silk_Road )