Kyrgyzstan’s participation in Belt and Road Initiative is vital for country


By Nurzhan Kasmalieva
Reporter, Kyrgyzstan

BISHBECK: Kyrgyz and Chinese, who were linked by the Silk Road in ancient times, now are linked by the joint One Belt, One Road project.

The Belt and Road initiative, announced by Chinese leader Xi Jinping in 2013, unites the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

Belt and Road covers most of Eurasia, connecting developing and developed countries. Rich reserves of resources are concentrated on the territory of this project where 63% of the world’s population lives.

China has signed cooperation agreements under the Belt and Road Initiative with about 150 countries and international organizations.

Kyrgyzstan and China are neighbors, with 858 kilometers of shared state borders.

In addition, the two countries are strategic partners. Their took their countries’ comprehensive strategic partnership to new heights last year during the SCO Summit in Bishkek, according to a report in Kyrgyzstan news agency KABAR.

During his visit to Kyrgyzstan, Chinese president Xi Jinping stressed that jointly building the Belt and Road has become the focus of China-Kyrgyzstan cooperation, calling on the two countries to deepen the alignment of their development strategies, tap new potential of partnerships and explore new space of cooperation.

Today, China’s economic strategy is becoming global. The initiative is spread across all the spheres, including economy, culture, medicine, education system, tourism, sports, archeology and other areas, by forming a new model of cooperation between countries.

This model, created in the spirit of the ancient Silk Road, attracts the attention of potential trading partners, moving goods from China through Central Asia to Eurasia and further to the West.

The implementation of the initiative may lead to the formation of a new architecture of the world economy around Eurasia, where Central Asia is becoming the main connecting link.

It is important for Kyrgyzstan, like other countries of Central Asia, to participate in the implementation of this megaproject, to effectively use the emerging new opportunities and advantages of regional cooperation.

Kyrgyzstan has a unique opportunity to become a valuable transport hub for the movement of goods and services from the Asia-Pacific region to the Middle East and Europe. As a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), as well as having the GSP + status of the European Union, Kyrgyzstan perfectly fits into the initiative.

Expert Igor Shestakov told Kabar News Agency that Kyrgyzstan’s participation in Belt and Road Initiative is vital for the country. At the same time, he said that Kyrgyzstan is underusing the potential that the Belt and Road project has.

“China has consistently been pragmatically and progressively developing one of the world’s most important infrastructure projects during seven years, since 2013 when it was announced,” he said.

The expert believes that for Kyrgyzstan, this is an opportunity to get out of the transport and logistics deadlock, as the country has big problems with not only access to European markets, but also to the markets of the post-Soviet space.

The expert from Kyrgyzstan named the BRI one of the main tools that Kyrgyzstan could use taking into account that for the last seven years China has been actively financing infrastructure projects related to the development of transport logistics.

“Great opportunities open up for Kyrgyzstan, if it joins the implementation of interstate transport highways within the framework of the Belt and Road project,” he noted.

Shestakov also stressed that the construction of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway will certainly give a great opportunity to use not only land routes and open up prospects for using other logistic possibilities.

At the same time, many local analysts noted that the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway can provide the shortest rail link for China to the Persian Gulf region, mainly through the mutual docking points of the steel highways of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran.

Minister of Economy of Kyrgyzstan Sanzhar Mukanbetov has recently expressed regret that such a strategic and useful railway project has not yet been implemented for various reasons and has been constantly postponed.

A number of projects have been completed and implemented in Kyrgyzstan within the framework of the BRI, namely the reconstruction of the Bishkek-Naryn-Torugart and Bishkek-Osh highways, the construction of Datka-Kemin transmission line and other projects in energy, hydropower, mining spheres.

Belt and Road and COVID-19 pandemic

Even though COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the economies of all the countries and suspended the implementation of many projects worldwide, including within the BRI, cooperation within the framework of the Chinese initiative was not stopped amid the pandemic in countries located along the Belt and Road.

The project in Kyrgyzstan regarding the construction of the alternative highway connecting the north and south of the country, financed and being built by the China Road and Bridge Corporation, has not been suspended either, though there were some restrictions at work as some Chinese specialists could not arrive due to closed borders.

The projects, being implemented in other Central Asian countries, also continued. For example, Tajikistan modernized  a large flour mill capable of processing 400 tons of wheat per day with the support of one of the largest state-owned Chinese conglomerates China Oil and Foodstuffs Corporation. In addition, Chinese contractors continued the reconstruction work on Dushanbe-Bohtar highway in Tajikistan.

During the pandemic, state oil companies of Kazakhstan and China set up a joint venture in southern Kazakhstan to produce steel pipes for transporting oil, gas, water and petroleum products.

Work on Zhanatas, the largest wind energy project in Central Asia being implemented by the State Energy Investment Corporation of China, was not suspended.

The pandemic proved the important role of international freight railroad transportation in the development of trade cooperation between countries.

The pandemic also proved that railway communication is very important, when the air service is suspended in many countries due to the pandemic, China was able to send medical supplies by rail to countries along the Belt and Road.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic, countries along Belt and Road have been helping and supporting one another to curb the pandemic.

The Chinese government has been helping many countries, including Kyrgyzstan, in fighting the pandemic by providing humanitarian assistance and advisory support.

A medical expert group from China visited Kyrgyzstan in April when it faced the pandemic to share experience with Kyrgyz colleagues in combating COVID-19.

Kyrgyzstan has received several batches of humanitarian aid in the form of medical supplies from the Chinese government and from Chinese foundations and companies.

The negative role of pandemic in Kyrgyzstan has been highlighted by Kyrgyz expert Mars Sariev in statements to Kabar.

“The pandemic played a very negative role in Kyrgyzstan because the trade flows from China were greatly reduced, which affected Kyrgyz citizens’ living standards,” he said adding that many people in Kyrgyzstan live mainly through re-export.

The expert noted that Kyrgyzstan is interested in the resumption of the flow of goods.

Sariev emphasized the necessity to create free trade zones and more options so that Chinese goods go through Kyrgyzstan, as there are competitors like Khorgas in Kazakhstan.

Stressing the import role of the Belt and Road project for Kyrgyzstan’s economy and its development, the expert expressed hope for a rapid recovery of economies of the countries along the Belt and Road after the pandemic.

There is great hope that following the hardships countries have suffered from the coronavirus pandemic, they will boost their international cooperation within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative and take it to new heights.

Over the past seven years, the BRI has truly become an important instrument of international cooperation. Its status should be strengthened and significance consolidated.

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