A small but significant link has been added to the connections between China and Southeast Asia. After seven years under construction, the railway between Yuxi and Mengzi in Yunnan province has finally been inaugurated. The 141 km line snakes its way through treacherous mountains that have never been crossed by a train. In its relatively short span, the railway crosses 61 bridges and passes through 35 tunnels. Its significance, however, is has nothing to do with its provincial location. It is in fact an integral part of a massive undertaking to link Kunming (the capital of Yunnan) with Singapore, 3,900 km away. The rail link – some parts of which are already in use – will be finished in 2020 and lends credibility to the far-sighted project of uniting the railways of Europe and China, a modern-day Silk Road to promote the commercial integration of the two continents. For now, the railroad will allow China to accelerate its approach to Southern Asia. The trains will carry tourists, but the main objective is the transport of goods, with an eye on supremacy. The ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is fully invested in the project and has no choice but to strengthen its ties with Beijing. The 600 million inhabitant bloc is already China’s third largest trading partner (after the EU and US), but the growth rate will bring it to the top spot in only a few years. The economies of Southeast Asia and China complement each other in a synergy of raw materials, diversified structure, availability of capital, and manufacturing capacity. The signing of the ACFTA (ASEAN-China Free Trade Association) in 2010 marked the most populous commercial union in the world with a nearly complete erasure of all import duties. This integration – in which the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia played a crucial role – has yet to be validated by the political aspect. Fears of a disguised Chinese expansionism are alive in historical memory and in everyday news. Vietnam is interested in the project, which it considers essential for the modernization of its rail system, but clearly it also fears a return to its historic position as vassal to the Chinese giant. Ironically, the link now terminates at the Vietnamese border not far from Dien Bien Phu, where France lost a historic battle against the Vietnamese in 1954 and was forced to leave Indochina. Thailand and Malaysia are conscious of their close ties with China, but they are even more aware of their fragile domestic ethnic balance. If commercial agreements draw strength from the railway, so too could the political climate be altered. Whether by see, on rubber, or on rails, China is speeding up its descent towards the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean. Ironically again, China is traveling the opposite course dreamt of by the great European colonial powers – France and the United Kingdom – who sought to reach the massive potential of the impenetrable Chinese markets via the southern corridors of Burma and the Tonkin. Today, China is seeking an outlet for its exuberant industrial production. Infrastructure projects constitute a peaceful course in an inverse scenario – and with greater chances of success – than the one undertaken more than 100 years ago.