DIALOGUE UNIT 11: One Belt One Road (OBOR) Campaign and its Impact in Central Asia
When China’s head of state Xi Jinping in a keynote speech at Nazarbayev University in Astana in 2013 coined the notion of the „Silk Road Economic Belt“, this came as a revelation of the ambitious plans for future Chinese political and economic engagement in post-Soviet Central Asia. Drawing on historic interconnections as well as trade and other forms of vivid cultural and social exchange in the past, Xi corroborated China‘s commitment to build nothing short of a modern „Silk Road“, in particular by offering the Chinese government‘s generous assistance in upgrading transport infrastructure across central Eurasia (roads, railway lines, pipelines). Together with the vision of a „Maritime Silkroad“, the concept of the trans-Eurasian „Silk Road Economic Belt“ has become synonymous for the „One Belt One Road“ initiative (OBOR), which nowadays serves as a major instrument for Chinese globalization.
While the framework and details of OBOR, generally and with focus on Central Asia, until now remain (intentionally or not) rather vaguely outlined, the Chinese government in the past five years has become by far the largest donor in Central Asia for large-scale projects of infrastructural development. Yet, despite the fact that the aim of re-enforcing trade and transport links between the landlocked Central Asian republics and the outside world has been welcomed by policy-makers and business people, there exists a strong, yet, far from uniform wariness among the people in Central Asia concerning China’s increasing political and economic impact in the region, and more specifically the intentions behind and outcome of Chinese-funded infrastructural projects under way.
Hence, this Dialogue Unit aims at getting a deeper understanding of how Chinese engagement in cross-border infrastructural projects and its underlying ideas/dynamics are represented/narrated from a top-down and from a bottom-up perspective. The intended research also builds upon and further expands earlier research by the principal investigator on cross-border interaction in the borderlands of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Xinjiang. The questions to be answered among others are:
How local actors (urban and rural dwellers, (trade and agricultural) entrepreneurs, government officials etc.) reflect upon the developmental ideas behind these projects?
Which lack of gains, challenges, hopes and fears that Chinese-funded road improvements invoke in their everyday life?
Dr. Sayana Namsaraeva
RNDr. Pavel Ptáček, Ph.D.
Dr.Phil. Ute Wallenböck