The BRI is an attractive opportunity for Central Asian states along the New Silk Road. Chinese investment can be a key catalyst for development in Eurasia, helping propel it into the first world by fostering trade routes between East and West. Perhaps no country exemplifies this opportunity more than Kazakhstan. Its economic ambitions and geographic location position it well within the context of the BRI.
A more developed Kazakhstan would provide the BRI with an essential launch pad for expanding China’s planned multinational infrastructure network; lessons learned from the China’s efforts there can be instructive for much of Central Asia. At the same time, the Kazakhstani example presents several pertinent obstacles that should be addressed in order for the BRI to move forward across this complex territory most effectively. For one, the Kazakhstani populace and neighboring countries have demonstrated certain hesitations regarding Chinese development assistance, noting concern that foreign investment will connote a sacrifice of autonomy. Other fundamental questions include China’s ability to help diversify Kazakhstan’s extractive oil and gas-based economy, as well as the current viability of Kazakhstan’s high-speed rail system.1 A closer examination indicates that, to an extent, these questions stem from the BRI’s inherently bilateral nature.
- Cai, Peter. “Understanding China’s Belt and Road Initiative.” Lowy Institute for International Policy, Mar. 2017. ↩