China’s “One Belt, One Road” project aims to make central Asia more connected to the world, yet even before the initiative was formally announced China had helped to redraw the energy map of the region. It had built an oil pipeline from Kazakhstan, a gas pipeline that allowed Turkmenistan to break its dependence on dealings with Russia and another pipeline that has increased the flow of Russian oil to China.
Chinese companies have funded and built roads, bridges and tunnels across the region. A ribbon of fresh projects, such as the Khorgos “dry port” on the Kazakh-Chinese border and a railway link connecting Kazakhstan with Iran, is helping increase trade across central Asia.
China is not the only investor in central Asian connectivity. Multilateral financial institutions, such as the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank have long been investing in the region’s infrastructure. The Kazakh government has its own $9bn stimulus plan, directing money from its sovereign wealth fund to infrastructure investment. Other countries, including Turkey, the US, and the EU have also made improving Eurasian connectivity a part of their foreign policy.
1) Moscow-Kazan high-speed railway A China-led consortium last year won a $375m contract to build a 770km high-speed railway line between Moscow and Kazan. Total investment in the project — set to cut journey time between the cities from 12 hours to 3.5 hours — is some $16.7bn.
2) Khorgos-Aktau railway In May last year, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced a plan to build — with China — a railway from Khorgos on the Chinese border to the Caspian Sea port of Aktau. The scheme dovetails with a $2.7bn Kazakh project to modernise its locomotives and freight and passenger cars and repair 450 miles of rail.
3) Central Asia-China gas pipeline The 3,666km Central Asia-China gas pipeline predated the new Silk Road but forms the backbone of infrastructure connections between Turkmenistan and China. Chinese-built, it runs from the Turkmenistan/Uzbekistan border to Jingbian in China and cost $7.3bn.
4) Cental Asia-China gas pipeline, line D China signed agreements with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to build a fourth line of the central Asia-China gas pipeline in September 2013. Line D is expected to raise Turkmenistan’s gas export capacity to China from 55bn cu m per year to 85bn cu m.
5) China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway Kyrgyzstan’s prime minister Temir Sariev said in December that the construction of the delayed Kyrgyz leg of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway would start this year. In September, Uzbekistan said it had finished 104km of the 129km Uzbek stretch of the railway.
6) Khorgos Gateway Khorgos Gateway, a dry port on the China-Kazakh border that is seen as a key cargo hub on the new Silk Road, began operations in August. China’s Jiangsu province has agreed to invest more than $600m over five years to build logistics and industrial zones around Khorgos.