The major risks in China's belt and road initiative are civil unrest and extremism.
Overview of China's belt and road initiative
The belt and road initiative has two aims:
1. To boost China's export through infrastructure investment.
2. To expand China's global geopolitical influence.
Figure 1: The belt and road initiative
The Belt and Road initiative is geographically structured along 6 corridors, and the maritime silk road.
New Eurasian Land Bridge, running from Western China to Western Russia through Kazakhstan
China–Mongolia–Russia Corridor, running from Northern China to Eastern Russia
China–Central Asia–West Asia Corridor, running from Western China to Turkey
China–Indochina Peninsula Corridor, running from Southern China to Singapore
China–Myanmar–Bangladesh–India Corridor, running from Southern China to Myanmar
China–Pakistan Corridor, running from South-Western China to Pakistan
Maritime Silk Road, running from the Chinese Coast through Singapore to the Mediterranean
Figure 2: Risks in the belt and road initiative
There are 64 countries joining the belt and road initiative, and 33 of them are traditional Muslim countries. Among the rest 31 countries, 10 countries have existing civil turbulence and are under risk of terror attacks.
As seen in Figure 3, China's belt and road initiative largely overlap with global Muslim distribution.
Figure 3: Global Muslim distribution
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor
Figure 4: Proposed routes in China-Pakistan economic corridor
Pakistan is strategically important to China. By the completion of the three commute routes, China could utilize Pakistan's Gawdar port to import oil and gas, and bypass the strait of Malacca. Today, 82% of China's seaborne import transit through the strait of Malacca.
Figure 5: China's import transit route
However, there is extremism risk in China-Pakistan economic corridor. Taliban controls the northwest of Pakistan, and parts of Afghanistan.
Figure 6: Taliban in Pakistan
Figure 7: Taliban and IS control in Afghanistan
Figure 8: Ethnic map of Myanmar
Figure 9: Conflict zones in Myanmar
There is continued ethnic insurgency in China–Myanmar–Bangladesh–India corridor, most prominently in Myanmar. Major conflict fronts in Myanmar are in Kachin state, Kayah state, Kayin state, and Rakhine state.
The risks in the belt and road initiative must be handled properly by China, in order to realize the political and economic interest from its investments.
Reference: Preventing risk of extremism on ‘Belt and Road’ By Mei Xinyu, Global Times, 2016-12-15.