The Iron Silk Road (2): China Railroads Central Asia

As we have discussed earlier in this forum, China is attempting to draw Central Asia into its orbit by developing extensive energy links with the region’s nations but, as noted here earlier & reinforced by a recent Stratfor analysis, it now attempting to capture the whole of Central Asian economic life. As the analysis notes:

“…China is also in the midst of an equally aggressive effort to harness the region’s rail network. Pipelines are certainly important in orienting a country’s geopolitics, but rail lines allow for two-way trade and deep economic penetration that involves the entire populace. Energy, in comparison, only involves a very few people and writing checks to the producing country. Rails, far more than pipes, are truly the ties that bind.

Of the five Central Asian states’ 11 major rail connections to the outside world, only two — one connecting Turkmenistan to Iran and one linking Kazakhstan to China — do not lead to Russia. This simple fact has left the region firmly in Russia’s economic orbit, despite the fact that the Soviet Union dissolved nearly 20 years ago.

This is changing — and quickly.




Central Asian Railway Links Map

Within the past few months, China has broken ground on two projects to link itself to Central Asia via railways. One will link Kazakhstan’s Almaty region to China’s rail network via the border town of Korgas. The other will link the Chinese city of Kashi — at the terminus of China’s own system — to the Ferghana Valley and on to the Uzbek capital, Tashkent. Both routes also lay the groundwork for later road and pipe connections.

Such links would invert the economic relationships that define the region. It is not so much that the Central Asian states wish to be economically integrated with Russia but that they have not had a choice. China’s internal market is more than triple the value of Russia’s, and China’s robust ports are much closer to the Central Asian population centers of Tashkent and Almaty than are Russia’s paltry ports on the Black and Baltic seas. The volume of shipments passing through the single existing rail connection between Kazakhstan and China increased 60 percent in 2007 from a year before. By 2010, both of the new routes are expected to be finished…”

This entry was posted on Sunday, February 3rd, 2008 at 11:27 am and is filed under China, Kazakhstan.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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