Central Asia Rail Development

Why China’s Belt and Road Initiative Lacks Regional Importance


  • Péter Bucsky University of Pécs
  • Tristan Kenderdine Future Risk


Central Asia, China, Development Banks, European Union, rail infrastructure, transport policy


Rail transport between China and Europe via Central Asia has become a popular example of practical economic development possible under China’s Belt and Road Initiative. However, the actual significance of rail transport between China and Europe or China and the Central Asian countries remains limited. China’s contribution to the development of rail infrastructure in Central Asia has been overrated. Intra-regional concerns were dominant drivers for Central Asian rail development immediately after independence, and the post-Soviet development history of the Central Asian rail network demonstrates that both the European Union and Russia have had more influence on financing and developing regional transport corridors than China. Ultimately, we find that China’s BRI investment model has had a negligible impact on Central Asian transport infrastructure development or rail freight volumes.

Author Biographies

Péter Bucsky, University of Pécs

PÉTER BUCSKY is PhD Candidate at the Doctoral School of Earth Sciences, University of Pécs. His research specialises on rail freight transport in the Eurasian economies, particularly European Union rail freight market development, the impacts of rail freight market liberalisation, the development of the Iron Silk Road and rail market developments in Central Asia. E-mail: peter.bucsky@gmail.com

Tristan Kenderdine, Future Risk

TRISTAN KENDERDINE is Research Director at Future Risk, working on China’s geoeconomic policy in Central Asia and the Middle East. His research interests include institutional political economy, historical institutionalism and post-Keynesian economics. Tristan’s work mostly focuses on the public administration and public finance of economic development in China and Eurasia. E-mail: tristan.leonard@ftrsk.com


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