Kunming – a strategic “bridgehead city” facing Southwest Asia

Kunming occupies a strategic position. It is the Chinese city which is nearest to several ASEAN countries (479 km from Vietnam, 789 km from Laos, and 858 km from Myanmar). Because of this geographical advantage, the Chinese government has put a great deal of effort into the construction of transportation networks connecting Kunming with its foreign neighbours.Kunming111

In 2011, the construction of the Trans-Asian Railway (with Kunming as a starting point) was officially begun. This is the first high-speed railway connecting China and Southeast Asia. Its four routes include the eastern line (from Kunming to Singapore), the mid-eastern line (from Nanning to Vientiane), the middle line (from Dali to Bangkok), and the western line (from Kunming to Yangon). This network also links up with railway lines in Burma and India. The terminal stations on these lines (Ho Chi Minh and Singapore on the eastern line, Bangkok on the middle line, and Yangon on the western line) are all international ports.  The economic impact of the railway will also boost the economy of the Indo-West Pacific area, and as a result, Kunming’s economic importance in Southeast Asia will increase.1.

In addition to the railway, all the highways in Yunnan connecting with South-East Asia start from Kunming. The Kunming-Bangkok Expressway, built jointly by the governments of Laos, Thailand and China, was open to traffic in 2012.2. The China-Vietnam highway (from Kunming to Hanoi) is expected to open in 2013. Other highways (from Kunming to Kyaukpyu, Myanmar and from Kunming to Ledo, India) are also in the planning stages.3

In 2010, with the launch of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area, China’s average tariff for ASEAN countries dropped significantly from 9.8% to 0.1%, and the commercial relationship between China and the ASEAN countries became closer. Because of the important position of Kunming, the Chinese government sees Kunming as a strategic “bridgehead city” facing Southwest Asia.

 

  1. Fan ya tielu zhi yi dongnanya zoulang 泛亚铁路之一「东南亚走廊」http://tw.myblog.yahoo.com/daniel-ni/article?mid=729, last accessed 29 April 2013 []
  2. Kunming zhi mangu gonglu yixian quanmian guantong 昆明至曼谷公路一线全面贯通, Retrieved from http://www.moc.gov.cn/xinxilb/xxlb_fabu/fbpd_yunnan/201212/t20121214_1338955.html, last accessed 29 April 2013 []
  3. Zhongyue gaoss gonglu yuji 2013 nian guantong 中越高速公路预计2013年贯通, http://www.gxjtsjy.com/news.asp?ky=78&mid=80&id=358, , last accessed 29 April 2013. []

Chi-Han Ai

Ph.D. candidate of EHESS ( École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris) focusing on regional economic development in China and Taiwan.

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