During the international military intervention in Afghanistan, major powers viewed Central Asia primarily through the lens of the conflict. As the allied forces have scaled back, China, Russia and the United States have shifted their focus to the region’s economic potential.
This shift could help Central Asia integrate with the global economy, but if conducted poorly could subject the region to damaging competition between Beijing, Moscow and Washington. As these powers implement their respective visions for Central Asia, they should look for opportunities to cooperate among themselves.
During an October 2013 visit to Kazakhstan, Chinese President Xi Jinping outlined his vision of a Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB), and shortly after the concept of the so-called 21st Maritime Silk Road was presented by him in Jakarta. Together, this “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) will create trade corridors connecting East and Southeast Asia with most of the rest of Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
China’s vision includes transit via rail, road, air, sea and pipelines. Financing will come from China’s $40 billion Silk Road Fund, as well as new Chinese-led multilateral development institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Shanghai-based BRICS New Development Bank.
A roadmap released at the end of March 2015 specified that the OBOR initiative will “promote … connectivity,” “establish and strengthen partnerships” along the route and establish new “connectivity networks.”
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Jeffrey Mankoff is Fellow and Deputy Director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Washington. Richard Ghiasy is a Researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). His views do not necessarily represent those of SIPRI.