China did not have a lot left to build, and growth started to sputter. After Mr.
Trump abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership in January, American influence in the region is seen to be waning. The rail line through Laos would provide a link to countries that China wants to bring firmly into its fold. Many countries in the program have serious needs.
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In Kenya, China is upgrading a railway from the port of Mombasa to Nairobi that will make it easier to get Chinese goods into the country. The Kenyan government had been unable to persuade others to do the job, whereas China has been transforming crumbling infrastructure in Africa for more than a decade. The rail line, which is set to start running next month, is the first to be built to Chinese standards outside China.
The country will benefit for years from maintenance contracts.
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Although Chinese engineers just started arriving in this tourist town several months ago, they have started punching three tunnels into mountains that slope down to roiling river water. They are in a race to get as much done as possible before the monsoon rains next month slow down work. It is a fast start to a much-delayed program that may bring only limited benefits to the agrarian country. For years, Laos and China sparred over financing. A feasibility study by a Chinese company said the railway would lose money for the first 11 years. In Indonesia, construction of a high-speed railway between Jakarta and Bandung finally began last month after arguments over land acquisition.
In Thailand, the government is demanding better terms for a vital railway. Putin will be at the center of the Beijing conference. While two companies owned by one of his closest friends, Gennady Timchenko, have benefited from projects, there has not been much else for Russia. China is making calculations that the benefits will outweigh the risks. The cost could also come back to haunt China, whose banks are being pressed to lend to projects that they find less than desirable. By some estimates, over half the countries that have accepted Belt and Road projects have credit ratings below investment grade.
Laos is one of the risky partners. The Communist government is a longstanding friend of China. After five years of negotiations over the rail line, Laos finally got a better deal. Still, Laos faces a huge debt burden. It also expressed concerns that public debt could rise to around 70 percent of the economy.
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As construction gathers steam, nearby communities are starting to rumble. Farmers are balking at giving up their land. Some members of the national assembly have raised questions about property rights.
Sipaseuth, who said he used only one name, pondered the project over a glass of icy Beer Lao. With the help of Waverly Advisors we point out that wars over commodities go back centuries.
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We also consider more current geo-political tensions that are being driven by commodities. The French participated in the American Revolution when they offered the United Stated naval support in While the revolution is seen as a patriotic battle in the U. From Waverly: "From a European perspective the U. Though the British Raj or the British empire in India only began in , the British had made their presence felt through the East India Company as early as the s with the Mughal's granting them trading rights in the early s.
Britain's interest in India was driven by the empire's interest in Indian spices, textiles, precious stones, opium, other commodities and control over trade.
During the war, European demand for cotton greatly outstripped supply due to the Union blockade, and the confederacy was able to issue bonds bought by European institutions that had a convertible feature allowing them to be redeemed for gold or a fixed volume of Cotton, making them a favorite of speculative traders. After the war the U. During the second world war the Soviet Union wanted to mine nickel in Petsamo, but following the Soviet Union invasion of Finland, what has since been known as the winter war Finland refused and this resulted in the Continuation War.
From Waverly: "While the Finnish successfully defended themselves, the Soviets ultimately prevailed and seized the are at the end of WW2. The Manchurian incident as it is now known refers to Japan's invasion of Manchuria in the s and was in part because of demand for base metals. This invasion led the U. From Waverly: "The attack on Pearl Harbor was a direct result as Japan sought to Knock America out of the war quickly and seize oil, metal and food commodity assets in South Asia.
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As the second world war progressed Germany, found it increasingly difficult to obtain oil because of the British navy. Germany invaded Russia not just over ideological differences but also because it wanted access to the "grain belts of southern Russia and the Ukraine" and "oil wells of far southern Russia". Moreover British and Turkish troops wanted to seize Russian oil fields in the first world war. After Iraq accused Kuwait of stealing its oil, Iraq invaded the country in , a move that was largely seen as an attempt to gain control of Kuwait's large oil reserves.
It was also argued that Iraq wanted to curb Kuwaiti oil production, bring up oil prices and repay the massive debt it amassed while funding its war with Iran.
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From Waverly: " While protestors in the US carried signs that said "no blood for oil" there was no question whatsoever what Iraqi troops were fighting for in The actual excuse that Saddam Hussein gave for the invasion was that Kuwait was stealing Iraqi oil through slant drilling. China has been involved in territorial disputes with Japan and Taiwan over the Senkaku islands, and Vietnam over the Spratly islands off the coast of Vietnam.
China has even ramped up its naval presence in the South China Sea making its neighbors antsy. From Waverly: "China's claims in these cases are based on maps drawn out centuries ago when the Chinese empire laid claim to most of the South China sea. Why are they making these claims? Oil, and lots of it. The oil beds in the south China sea are estimated to contain nearly as much crude as Saudi Arabia has currently in proven reserves.