Will China Finally Build a Rail Link with Central Asia?

As reported by Window on Eurasia, Chinese, Kyrgyz and Uzbek experts have reached agreement on the route of a railway line between China and Central Asia, but this project – which would transform the geopolitics of the region – still faces some serious technical and political obstacles.  As the article notes:

“…experts have agreed on the 268.4 km route (Kashgar-Torugart-Arpa Valley-Ferghana Crest-Uzgen-Kara-Suu) and on the location and on a transfer station to cope with the difference in width between the Chinese and Central Asian rails.

…Kyrgyz and Uzbek officials told Dudka that they are enthusiastic about the project, viewing it not only as a way out to world markets which bypasses Russia but also as a direct stimulus to their economies overall and to particular branches such as iron and steel and regions such as Kyrgyzstan’s Naryn oblast.

…Then, there are a large number of technical problems. Part of the route is situated at more than 3600 meters (12,000 feet) above sea level, and plans call for the construction of 48 tunnels and 19 bridges, all of which pose daunting construction challenges and make the project all the more difficult to complete.

And finally, there is serious opposition to the project from both the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan, each of which views the construction of such a rail line from China through Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan as a threat to its own interests — economic and geopolitical — as transit routes for Central Asian goods and as economic partners with China.

Even more to the point … is China still interested in this project given “the explosiveness” of Muslim populations in Xinjiang and the danger that this rail link would expand contacts between those groups and Central Asia?

Second, are the Europeans and the Americans going to be supportive of such a rail line given their concerns about Islamist challenges in Central Asia and Iran when they have other routes available them via either the sea lanes or across the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan which are more stable?…”

This entry was posted on Saturday, August 30th, 2008 at 1:01 pm and is filed under Azerbaijan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan.  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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