Asia Europe Journal

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 267–281 | Cite as

China’s silk road economic belt initiative in Central Asia: economic and security implications

  • Bhavna Dave
  • Yuka Kobayashi
Original Paper


The Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) initiative, launched by Xi Jinping in 2013 as the Central Asian component of the Eurasian Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is presented as a trade and infrastructural developmental initiative that benefits all to deliver stability. It consolidates Beijing’s existing economic investments and security-building measures, while launching new projects to link the regions of Central Asia and South Asia more closely with China and extend the arc of security westward and develop these as a transport corridor linking China to Europe. This article examines the interaction between China’s infrastructural investments and security dynamics in the Central Asian region, exploring why the BRI/SREB, presented by China as primarily as a developmental vision, is fraught with wide-ranging security implications. We examine the reception of China’s BRI/SREB in Central Asia focusing on the following three dimensions: (1) the lure of Chinese investments which makes SREB particularly attractive for Central Asian countries; (2) the securitization thrust of the Silk Road initiative which consolidates the power of the Central Asian regimes but also grants considerable role to China in managing security arrangements; (3) elite maneuvering between the lure of Chinese investments and appeasing popular anxieties about China’s growing influence. It points to the overall positive reception in the region to the aid and investment offered by China, while noting the variance in their responses based on the implications of SREB for their sovereignty and security and also concerns on whether the promised benefits of connectivity and development (a “win-win” scenario) will materialize. The article concludes by outlining the implications of China’s rising economic and security engagement in Central Asia and the close Sino-Russian partnership for European financial and security interests and highlights the areas of cooperation and complementarity between China and EU in the region.


  1. AFP (2015) Putin warns of spillover from Afghanistan fighting. The Express Tribune. Accessed 12 Jan 2018
  2. AIIB (2016) Asia for the future, annual report and accounts 2016. AIIB. Accessed 20 Jan 2018
  3. Asia Development Bank [ADB] (2012) Public private partnerships key to meeting Asia’s $8 trillion infrastructure needs - study. ADB. Accessed 12 Jan 2018
  4. Asia-Plus (2017) China leads in direct investment in Tajikistan’s economy. Asia-Plus. Accessed 12 Jan 2018
  5. BBC (2013) Tajikistan’s Rogun: building the world’s tallest dam. BBC News. Accessed 12 Jan 2018
  6. Brautigam D (2011) The Dragon's gift: the real story of China in Africa. Oxford University Press, USAGoogle Scholar
  7. Burkhanov A, Chen Y (2016) Kazakh perspective on China, the Chinese, and Chinese migration. Ethnic Racial Stud 39(12):2129–2148Google Scholar
  8. Business World (2016) Kyrgyzstan: debts to China the worst. Business World. Accessed 19 Jan 2018
  9. Bustonkala RK (2011) Tajik land deal extends China's reach in Central Asia. Reuters. Accessed 19 Jan 2018
  10. Callahan WA (2016) China 2035: from the China dream to the world dream. Glob Aff 2(3):247–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chan M (2017) As overseas ambitions expand, China plans 400 per cent increase to marine corps numbers, sources say. South China Morning Post. Accessed 12 Jan 2018
  12. Chikanaev S (2017) Kazakhstan: ‘pryzhka’ Poyasa- puti (kontseptsiia Odin poyas – Odin put) [Kazakhstan: ‘buckle’ in belt and road (the concept of one belt- one road)]. GRATA InternationalGoogle Scholar
  13. Chorshanbiyev P (2017) Tajikistan’s foreign debt nears 2.3 billion U.S. dollars. Asia-Plus. Accessed 19 Jan 2018
  14. Clarke M (2013) China’s strategy in “greater Central Asia”: is Afghanistan the missing link? Asian Aff Am Rev 20(1):1–19Google Scholar
  15. Cooley A (2012) Great games, local rules: the new great power contest in Central Asia. Oxford University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Defence Tube (2017) China wants Pakistan Army to take over CPEC projects. Accessed 12 Jan 2018
  17. DW (2017) ‘New silk road and China’s hegemonic ambitions. DW Accessed 20 Jan 2018
  18. EBRD (2012) Key link in the road from Tajikistan to the world. Accessed 22 Jan 2018
  19. EBRD (2016a) Road project in Tajikistan becomes first joint EBRD-AIIB investment. Accessed 19 Jan 2018
  20. EBRD (2016b) Road safety for key thoroughfare of Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Accessed 22 Jan 2018
  21. EP (2016) Briefing: one belt one road - China’s Regional Integration Initiative. Accessed 1 Mar 2018
  22. Erlanger, S (2018) Europe once saw xi Jinping as a hedge against trump. Not anymore. Accessed 1 Mar 2018
  23. Eurasia News (2016) Tajikistan is turning into the new province of China. Eurasia News. Accessed 22 Jan 2018
  24. Eurasianet (2015) Kyrgyzstan hails epoch-making power line. Eurasianet. Accessed 19 Jan 2018
  25. Ferghana News (2017) Emomali Rahmon asks China to participate more actively in construction of medium hydro power stations in Tajikistan. Ferghana News. Accessed 12 Jan 2018
  26. Ghiasy, R and Zhou, J (2017) The silk road Economic Belt. Considering security implications and EU–China cooperation prospects. SIPRI/Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Stockholm. Accessed 27 Feb 2018
  27. Hofman I (2016) Politics or profits along the ‘silk road’: what drives Chinese farms in Tajikistan and helps them thrive? Eurasian Geogr Econ 57(3):457–481CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hussain K (2017) CPEC masterplan revealed. Dawn. Accessed 12 Jan 2018
  29. Javed SH (2017) CPEC could develop into Pakistan’s debt trap. The Express Tribune. Accessed 19 Jan 2018
  30. Karaganov S (2014) Is Russia turning East? Valdai Club. Accessed 20 Jan 2018
  31. Kerr D (2010) Strategic regionalism: central Asian and Russian perspectives on China’s re-emergence. Int Aff 86(1):127–152. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kerr D, Swinton LC (2008) China, Xinjiang and the transnational security of Central Asia. Crit Asian Stud 40:89–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kobayashi Y and Sanchez A (2017) Minilateralism à la Chine. Lau China Inst Pol Paper Ser 1, 6:2–17. Accessed 12 Jan 2018
  34. Kucera J (2016) China proposes new central Asian military alliance. Eurasianet. Accessed 12 Jan 2018
  35. Le Corre P (2017) Europe’s mixed views on China’s one belt, One Road initiative. Brookings. Accessed 20 Jan 2018
  36. Lelik A (2016) Kyrgyzstan: Bishkek hopes Chinese investment can produce industrial breakthrough. Eurasianet. Accessed 19 Jan 2018
  37. Lelyveld M (2017) China shelves Central Asia gas plan. Radio Free Asia. Accessed 12 Jan 2018
  38. Lewis D (2008) The dynamics of regime change: domestic and international factors in the ‘tulip revolution’. Cen Asian Surv 27(3–4):265–277CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Millward J (2009) Positioning Xinjiang in Eurasian and Chinese history: differing visions of the ‘silk road. In: Clarke M, Mackerras C (eds) China, Xinjiang and Central Asia: history, transition and future prospects into the 21st century. Routledge, London, pp 55–74Google Scholar
  40. Nasar I and Haand J (2016) Afghanistan welcomes Chinese anti-terror proposal. Voice of America. Accessed 12 Jan 2018
  41. National Bureau of Statistics of China [NBS] (2013) 2010 Population census. National Bureau of Statistics of China. Accessed 12 Jan 2018
  42. National Development and Reform Commission [NDRC] (2015) Vision and actions on jointly building silk road Economic Belt and 21st-century maritime silk road. National development and reform commission. Accessed 12 Jan 2018
  43. OSCE (2017) OSCE conducts training of trainers for border officers of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Accessed 12 Jan 2018
  44. Putz C (2015) Kyrgyzstan declares energy independence. The Diplomat. Accessed 12 Jan 2018
  45. Putz C (2016) China in Central Asia: building border posts in Tajikistan. The Diploemat. Accessed 12 Jan 2018
  46. Rashid A (2017) The stakes are high for China in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Financial Times. Accessed 20 Jan 2018
  47. RFE/RL (2013) Chinese mining company operations in Kyrgyzstan blocked by protesters. Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty. Accessed 20 Jan 2018
  48. Shahbazov F (2017) China’s long march into Central Asia: how Beijing expands military influence in Tajikistan. The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst. Accessed 20 Jan 2018
  49. SPIEF [St Petersburg International Economic Forum] 2017: From Wider Europe to a Big Eurasian Partnership? (2017) Eurasian Studies: Higher School of Economics, Russia. Accessed 28 Feb 2018
  50. Starr, S F (2005) A ‘Greater Central Asia Partnership’ for Afghanistan and its neighbors. Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Programme, Johns Hopkins UniversityGoogle Scholar
  51. State Information Council [SIC] (2017) Big data report of trade cooperation under the belt and road initiative. State Information Council. Accessed 22 Jan 2018
  52. Tengri News (2013) Share of China’s companies in Kazakhstan’s oil production estimated at 24%. Tengri News. Accessed 19 Jan 2018
  53. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China [MOFA] (2004) The five principles of peaceful coexistence. Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Accessed 19 Jan 2018
  54. Windsor M (2012) Case watch: UN holds Kazakhstan accountable in Uighur extradition case. Open Society Foundation. Accessed 19 Jan 2018
  55. Xi J (2013) Promote friendship between our people and work together to build a bright future. Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Accessed 19 Jan 2018
  56. Xi J (2014) The governance of China. Foreign Languages Press, BeijingGoogle Scholar
  57. Xi J (2016) Full text of address by president xi Jinping of China at the inauguration ceremony of the Asian infrastructure investment Bank. Xinhua. Accessed 12 January 2018
  58. Zhao H (2007) Central Asia in China’s diplomacy. In: Rummer E et al (eds) Central Asia: Views from Washington, Moscow and Beijing. ME Sharpe, Armonk New York, pp 137–214Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SOAS University of LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations