Operations at Gwadar port were officially handed over to China Overseas Holdings Limited from Singapore's PSA International on Monday. Since the port was put into operation in 2007 with the help of China, it has received special attention from the international community, particularly India.
Gwadar port is located in Pakistan's Balochistan Province. As it's close to the Strait of Hormuz and Pakistan's border with Iran, it is considered strategically important. The West believes that the port is the starting point of an energy corridor that will connect China to the Arabian Sea and the Strait of Hormuz and also a strategic branch for China to influence the situation in the Persian Gulf. Some even see it is part of a Chinese "string of pearls" strategy aimed at encircling India.
Behind these analyses are worries and reservations over China's rise. Energy security plays a fundamental role in this rise. The West is alert to any overseas move by China related to energy.
Any port has potential military value. There are growing suspicions that China will station fleets of warships in the Indian Ocean or other waters and establish naval bases worldwide. However, few Chinese support this. There are no benefits for China in encircling India, and strategists in both countries don't want to play such a game.
Some predict China's rise will have a greater influence on the global power structure. But so far, China has restrained itself in terms of geopolitical competition. China's low-key culture hasn't changed with the growth in its strength. China's global exploration is mainly aimed at seeking economic opportunities. One of the basic principles is to realize mutual benefit with its partners.
Enclosing and colonizing land overseas and expanding powers are all strange concepts to Chinese. Chinese merchant ships can be seen all over the world nowadays, but we have no interest in "pirate civilization." China alone cannot convince the outside world, but regional prosperity promoted by China's operations at Gwadar port in the future will be strong evidence of this.
It's foreseeable many forces will use the Gwadar issue to accuse China of being aggressive. The outside world has long had worries over China's rise, but various "China Threat" accusations actually bring less real harm to China than expected.
As long as China's overseas investment activities come out of a need for development, we can find ways to reduce outside suspicions and avoid destructive results.
China's development needs Gwadar port and Pakistan needs China to develop. We should do our best to reduce the suspicions of other powers. But if they insist on doubting China despite its restraint, it's no fault of China's.