Executive Briefings

Is China Trying to Circle the Globe with Its Ports?

From the ground, Colombo's port does not look like much. But viewed from high up in one of the growing number of skyscrapers in Sri Lanka's capital, it is clear that something extraordinary is happening: China is creating a shipping hub just 200 miles from India's southern tip.

The old port is cramped and stuffed full of containers. A Chinese ship has just delivered three giant Chinese cranes to a new container terminal built by a Chinese company and run by an entity controlled by another Chinese firm.

This development has split opinion in Sri Lanka and in nearby India, which uses Colombo as a transshipment hub. Tales of Chinese domination are "just scaremongering" says one captain. The port will push Colombo into the big league, says the boss of a repair yard. A few are nervous, though. The Chinese have a hidden agenda, says someone close to the ports authority.

For India's hawks, there is no ambiguity. The port is part of a Chinese plot. In the eyes of some Indians, Colombo is part of a "string of pearls""”an American-coined phrase that suggests the deliberate construction of a network of Chinese built, owned or influenced ports that could threaten India. These include a facility in Gwadar and a port in Karachi (both in Pakistan); a container facility in Chittagong (Bangladesh); and ports in Myanmar.

Is this string theory convincing?

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Keywords: international trade, ocean transportation, Chinese seaport operation, China-India trade tensions, Colombo port facility

The old port is cramped and stuffed full of containers. A Chinese ship has just delivered three giant Chinese cranes to a new container terminal built by a Chinese company and run by an entity controlled by another Chinese firm.

This development has split opinion in Sri Lanka and in nearby India, which uses Colombo as a transshipment hub. Tales of Chinese domination are "just scaremongering" says one captain. The port will push Colombo into the big league, says the boss of a repair yard. A few are nervous, though. The Chinese have a hidden agenda, says someone close to the ports authority.

For India's hawks, there is no ambiguity. The port is part of a Chinese plot. In the eyes of some Indians, Colombo is part of a "string of pearls""”an American-coined phrase that suggests the deliberate construction of a network of Chinese built, owned or influenced ports that could threaten India. These include a facility in Gwadar and a port in Karachi (both in Pakistan); a container facility in Chittagong (Bangladesh); and ports in Myanmar.

Is this string theory convincing?

Read Full Article


Keywords: international trade, ocean transportation, Chinese seaport operation, China-India trade tensions, Colombo port facility