On the 29th of January, China opened, with little fanfare, a new oil link through Myanmar. Despite its low profile, this project has clearly been a huge undertaking, both technologically and politically. This 2,400km long pipeline runs through some of the most rugged areas on the planet, marked by jagged hills and ridges and dense jungle. On top of that, two stretches of the pipeline traverse two of Southeast Asia’s political hotspots, the Rakhine and Shan States, which retain semi-autonomous armies that have only just recently been nominally pacified.
The new route however, has one invaluable advantage in eyes of Chinese leaders: it bypasses the Malacca straits, whose infamous waters are infested with pirates. A 300,000 ton super tanker recently discharged its oil at the new deepwater port located on Maday Island—the first time this had happened—marking the start of new pipeline’s operation. That oil will now flow to Kunming, the capital of the southeast Chinese province of Yunnan, which borders Myanmar. The pipeline shortens the distance the oil will have to travel by sea to reach China by 700 miles. It also cuts by 30% the time this liquid black gold will take to get to the Middle Kingdom.
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