Puzzling over China’s decision to join Trans-Caspian pipeline project

Puzzling over China’s decision to join Trans-Caspian pipeline project

 

Based on international energy agencies’ data, the Caspian Sea basin has one of the largest undeveloped hydrocarbon reserves in the world, which gives ground to consider the region as a hydrocarbon raw material base of world importance.

Accordingly, the competition for the Caspian oil and gas reserves is not an empty phrase, but quite specific actions made by world’s great powers and smaller regional countries.

Of equal importance is their delivery to resource-poor regions such as Europe.

The other day, China announced its possible participation in the construction of the Trans-Caspian undersea pipeline (TCP). International energy experts began to puzzle over the reasons for this seemingly unexpected decision.

Who could have believed that China, which seems to gain much from holding a monopoly on the Turkmen gas supplies, suddenly decides to join the development of the TCP project leading to Europe?

China has a completely different view of things. While Russia and Iran focus on the specific task of “keeping Turkmen gas out of Europe as a competitor,” China views the construction of TCP just as one of the numerous links of its own global expansion.

Gas from Siberia, LNG from Qatar, Australia and Canada – China has alternatives to Turkmen gas. So, there is no need to cling to the monopoly on gas export from Turkmenistan, especially since there is a lot of it and, moreover, that in return for investing in the TCP project China will be able to get a good share from Ashgabat in the development of Turkmenistan's gas fields.

It is much more important for Beijing to continue its victorious march across the planet, pushing its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as far to the west as possible. And Turkey, which, in the words of President Erdogan, is the heart of the project, should play a key role in this.

Therefore, for Beijing, the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline is not the main goal. The main goal is Turkey with its unique geographical position on the Eurasian continent. Unlike Washington and Moscow, which are trying to attract Turkey with their military-political partnership, Beijing operates using economic instruments.

China sees Turkey as a passionate nation as itself. For Chinese, it is easier to deal with Turkish integrity than with the underhand Iranian diplomacy or Russian sluggishness in advancing BRI.

Turkey was almost the only Muslim country to express its serious concern about the fate of the Uighurs from Xinjiang province, and it was also noted by Beijing – not as a hostile act, but as a manifestation of sincerity in intentions and openness.

That is why the Chinese government has also expressed understanding for Turkey's concerns by formally inviting the Turkish delegation to Xinjiang to study the situation of the Uighurs.

The parties are acting for mutual gain: China's decision to take part and invest in construction of TCP coincides with Turkey's desire to become a key gas hub for the EU. China can also invest in Turkish economy and major projects, such as the Kanal Istanbul, the construction of artificial islands in the Black sea etc.

All of this echoes Ankara's new foreign policy strategy - "Asia anew", which involves the diversification of Turkey's international relations and closer ties with the countries of Central, South, South-East Asia and, first of all, with China.

World media monitoring

04.09.2019

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