A Kyrgyz customs officer talks on a radio in front of workers as they reload cargo from a Chinese truck to Kyrgyz one at the Irkeshtam border crossing in southern Kyrgyzstan. Courtesy Reuters/Vladimir Pirogov.
Chris Rickleton, a Bishkek-based journalist, has a fascinating piece up on EurasiaNet about prospective Chinese rail construction in Kyrgyzstan. The piece cuts directly to tough political choices—namely, the push and pull between Russian and Chinese interests in Central Asia and, more important, how politicians in landlocked countries, like Kyrgyzstan, must try to balance among the larger countries on whom their economies depend for transit.
I’ve written a lot on efforts to reconnect trade and transit routes across continental Asia. You can read some of what I’ve argued here, here, here, here, and here.
But Rickleton’s piece got me thinking about two questions:
(1) Since the obstacles to continental trade and transit are so high, is the game really worth the candle?
This is especially relevant because Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is vigorously promoting a “New Silk Road” concept, drawing heavily on a decade of prior efforts and experiences.
(2) With so much focus on the interests of the outside powers—Russia, China, Iran, and the United States, among others—what about the interests of the landlocked countries themselves?
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