Central Asia Rail Development
Why China’s Belt and Road Initiative Lacks Regional Importance
Keywords: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.
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