The seizure of Chinese-run mines in Kyrgyzstan amid ongoing protests has highlighted the risks to business in region, fuelling China’s desire to promote its private security companies (PSCs). But if Chinese PSCs continue to expand operations, Sinophobic sentiments—already widespread across the region—may spark a cycle of escalating securitization that will undermine China’s long-term interests.
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While most heads were turned to the East-West transport arteries spearheaded by China’s Belt and Road investments, activity along the lesser known North-South corridors has been slowly gaining momentum. Like their East-West cousins, the North-South routes consist of a bundle of land and sea multimodal corridors and connect South Asia to Northern Europe via the Persian Gulf and the Caspian region. Unlike the China-sponsored Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects, however, the development of the North-South corridors follows a more multilateral and multi-stakeholder approach.
The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), examined in the first part of this series, has developed slowly but steadily during its twenty years of existence. Although mired by political and financial difficulties, including new sanctions on Iran (and Russia) placed by the Trump administration, the corridor will retain its potential for the actors involved. Today, the INSTC is complemented by two other initiatives: the Chabahar International Transport and Transit Corridor; and the proposed Russia-Pakistan (Ru-Pak) Corridor. The two projects are discussed below, followed by a brief evaluation of the potential impact of the full roll-out of these emerging North-South trade routes.
Historically, Kazakhstan’s economic potential has been constrained by geographic extremes and uneven development. To address these challenges, the government has emphasized investment in transportation networks and urban economic centers, achieving steady growth and reducing inequality as a result, yet some risks remain.
A milestone agreement on trade and economic cooperation signed in May 2018 represents an important step forward for the relationship between the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).