Chinese ambitions go beyond its geographic borders, overstepping mountains and bridging lands and seas.
Traditionally, China has regarded the mountains which guard its southern border as a defence against invasion. Now Beijing is beginning to see that the advantages of opening its borders to its southern neighbours might outweigh the dangers. But some of the countries involved are not so sure.
China’s current railway building spree is both an economic and a technological challenge in line with the country’s remarkable industrial expansion.
China, of course, already has international rail links through Mongolia and directly to Russia and the Trans-Siberian route to Europe. There are also links through Xinjiang to the Central Asian network. However, both of which present challenges because of the different gauges in use. The main advantage of southbound routes is that they connect more directly to China’s main sources of raw materials, notably fuel, and to warm-water ports for its year-round export trade.