Optic fiber on the Karakoram Highway – China’s latest top news

Jeremy Goldkorn’s selection of the top stories from China on October 10, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina newsletter, a convenient package of China’s business, political, and cultural news delivered to your inbox for free. Subscribe here.

Digital Silk Road upgrade

Pakistani newspaper Dawn in June “publicly disclosed for the first time” details from documents that set out the long-term plan for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), whose major element is a transportation link between far western Xinjiang Province in China and the port of Gwadar in south-western Pakistan. CPEC is a long-planned project that has become one of the key elements of the Belt and Road initiative. Much of the analysis of CPEC has seen it as primarily a means for China to gain access to an Indian Ocean port, but the plans Dawn revealed also include an agreement for China to lease “thousands of acres of agricultural land,” and to install “a full system of monitoring and surveillance…in cities from Peshawar to Karachi, with 24-hour video recordings on roads and busy marketplaces for law and order.”

After further analysis of source documents, Dawn now reports on the “CPEC plan for Pakistan’s digital future,” which envisions a project set for completion in 2030:

  • A “new, upgraded fibre optic cable network” that covers Pakistan and “crosses the border to connect directly with China” following the route of the Karakoram Highway.
  • The new network will improve communications between the two countries, and allow them to avoid routing data through Europe, the U.S., and India.
  • Dawn says that “China also has in mind its own increasing international telecommunications service demands,” which will necessitate additional international bandwidth.
  • The new network should improve internet penetration and speed in Pakistan, as well as provide landlocked central Asian countries with alternative communication routes.
  • The new China-built networks will, of course, also give the Chinese government enhanced surveillance capacity, not only in Xinjiang, but over all countries that use Chinese optic fiber to connect.

Film postponed for politics gets festival premier

On September 23, news media began to report that the release date of director Feng Xiaogang’s 冯小刚 latest film, Youth (芳华 fānghuá), in China had been mysteriously postponed. Youth was originally supposed to premiere on September 29, but was delayed, probably because of the 19th Party Congress.

It’s still not clear when, or even if, the film will get a theatrical release, but it will be screened at a new film festival in Pingyao, a Ming Dynasty walled town that has become a popular tourist destination. Sixth Tone reports that Youth “will kick off the inaugural Pingyao International Film Festival later this month.”