May 21, 2008 9:49 am


To protect the vital industries from possible Japanese advance in 1937, complete industries were removed there. This was repeated in the mid 1960s when China worried about an American or a Soviet attack. Since 1975, new high technology and nuclear industries have been set up there. When I taught in China, the parents of some of the students were amongst those moved east during that period. Did the earthquack damage such important Chinese assets? I have no idea. I am not sure when we will find out if ever. B. Raman explains further:

Another factor with important strategic dimension arises from the fact that many of China's steel and defence----particularly aero-space--- industries are located in the province. The late Mao Zedong decided to locate them in the Sichuan province far away from the coast in order to ensure that they would not be vulnerable to military strikes by the US or Taiwan or both. The Sichuan Space Industry Corporation (SSIC) has over 30 research and design institutes and production enterprises located in the province with over 6,000 employees. Their products include systems associated with liquid-fuelled ballistic missiles, launch vehicles, and anti-ship missiles, as well as electronics, telecommunications systems and satellite ground stations. A number of China's rockets (Long March rockets) and satellites had been launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

7. The aerospace and other defence-related industries in the province have played a very important role in China's missile and other military supply relationships with Pakistan and Iran. In May,1998, when Pakistan faced some unspecified technical difficulties in carrying out its nuclear tests in response to the Indian tests, a team of Pakistani nuclear scientists flew to Chengdu to consult their Chinese counterparts on the technical problems faced by them. Research, development and production facilities for the JF-17 military aircraft being jointly produced by China and Pakistan are also located in the province.

8. In appreciation of the important role played by the Sichuan province in helping Pakistan acquire a missile capability, Pakistani leaders visiting China generally make it a point to visit the province. Pakistan has a consulate in Chengdu to cater to the consular needs of a large number of Pakistani military, nuclear and missile experts who keep visiting the province. During a visit to Chengdu, former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz announced contribution of funds by the Pakistan Government to set up a Pakistan-China strategic studies centre in the Sichuan University.

9. It is not yet known whether any of the military and aero-space industries were damaged by the quake. There has been a reference to only damages suffered by chemical factories (missile propellants?).

10. Sichuan is an important nerve centre for road,rail and air communications with Tibet. The Chengdu military region is responsible for maintaining internal security in Tibet and other Tibetan-inhabited areas and for the defence of China's border with India. It has been preoccupied with maintaining law and order in the Tibetan-inhabited areas after the March uprising by the Tibetans. Since many of the PLA troops from the province are presently deployed to quell the Tibetan uprising, Beijing has rushed troops from other provinces to undertake disaster management.

11. It is not known whether road and rail links to Tibet have been affected. The"China Daily News" report cited above refers to the rupture of"a major railway line to the north-east", but does not identify it. The massive Three Gorges dam with its huge water reservoir is located in the adjoining Hubei province which used to be part of the Sichuan province before it was bifurcated. There was opposition to the dam from foreign and even Chinese environmental groups on the ground that the dam would make an already quake-prone area even more prone. Their criticism was ignored by the Chinese authorities. This is likely to be revived now. The Chinese authorities have stated that neither the dam nor the newly-constructed Olympics infrastructure in Beijing has suffered any damage as a result of the quake or its after-effects. The International Olympics Committee may insist on an independent inspection of the Games infrastructure to satisfy itself that there has been no structural damage.

12. One has to await further information before assessing any strategic dimensions.

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