In the event that China were to face hostile actions from a state or non-state actor, energy imports through the Straits of Malacca could be halted, which in turn would paralyse the Chinese economy in a scenario that is frequently referred to as the “Malacca Dilemma. In addition to vulnerabilities faced in the Straits of Malacca region, China is heavily dependent upon sea-routes that pass through the South China Sea, near the disputed Spratly Islands and Paracel Islands, which are currently a source of tension between China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and the United States.
The CPEC project will allow Chinese energy imports to circumvent these contentious areas and find a new artery in the west, and thereby decrease the possibility of confrontation between the United States and China.
In addition to its significance to reduce Chinese dependence on the Sea of Malacca and South China Sea routes, CPEC will provide China an alternative and shorter route for energy imports from the Middle East, thereby reducing shipping costs and transit times. The currently available sea-route to China is roughly 12,000 kilometres long, while the distance from Gwadar Port to Xinjiang province is approximately 3,000 kilometres, with another 3,500 kilometres from Xinjiang to China’s eastern coast. As a result of CPEC, Chinese imports and exports to the Middle East, Africa, and Europe would require much shorter shipment times and distances.