The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) stands as a seminal infrastructure endeavor of substantial scale within contemporary global development efforts. A decade ago, the inaugural announcement of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative in the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana, resonated as a pivotal moment. This initiative epitomized the spirit of fruitful collaboration and mutually advantageous ties between China and Kazakhstan.


Since its inception, the “One Belt, One Road” initiative has evolved into a hallmark of Chinese diplomatic engagement, serving as a tangible mechanism for fostering international cooperation amidst contemporary geopolitical complexities. This initiative has effectively engendered new catalysts for economic advancement, thereby facilitating the realization of a collective human destiny through the establishment of a more interconnected global community.


May 20 this year President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev received Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. During the meeting, the Head of State emphasized the extremely important role of Chinese diplomacy in world politics. According to him, Chinese initiatives shape the global agenda and make a significant contribution to maintaining international peace and stability. He called China a recognized leader in many areas, including production and export of goods, technological innovation, economic growth, international investment, etc.


Speaking of economic cooperation, Kazakhstan is actively involved in expanding transport corridors connecting Kazakhstan and China with Central, Western, South Asia and Europe.


From a geopolitical point of view, the implementation of railway corridors will further strengthen Kazakhstan’s multi-vector strategy. Kazakhstan can become a key transit hub between East and West.


Thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative, joint construction of a Kazakh terminal at Lianyungang International Port began, which provided access to international trade by exporting Kazakh high-quality wheat to Southeast Asia, which would otherwise have been impossible due to landlocked conditions.


Another route known as China-Europe Express. It all started when the metropolis of Chongqing sent its first freight train to Duisburg, Germany, via Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland. In 10 years, it has reached more than 5 million containers, covering 50,000 types of goods.


China’s massive Belt and Road Initiative is constantly evolving and adapting to changing conditions. The Russian-Ukrainian conflict and other geo-economic and technical challenges are having a significant impact on changes in global geopolitics and the restructuring of the Eurasian political and supply chain map with significant impact. Therefore, neighboring countries should develop alternative transport routes.


In particular, the Middle Corridor or Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR) turned out to be a more profitable and faster route for multimodal transport. The middle corridor starts from China, passes through Kazakhstan, the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and further to European countries. Its importance has increased significantly after the introduction of sanctions against Russia and Belarus, becoming the main source of access for China and the EU.


It is expected that Chinese cargo will pass through Kazakhstan twice as fast (6 days instead of 12).


Regarding the Belt and Road connectivity, China and Kazakhstan understand the importance of strengthening and upgrading bilateral transport capacity and eliminating logistics bottlenecks.


Thus, during the cross-border cooperation forum held in Kazakhstan last year, the parties discussed ways to improve the efficiency of checkpoints, logistics centers and transport infrastructure along the border.


An agreement was reached to modernize the trade infrastructure and border control system at the Khorgos International Center for Cross-Border Cooperation, as well as to build a trade hub in Urumqi and Almaty to create a better infrastructure environment and create more favorable conditions for trade.


Another example of a new logistics project is the launch of a Kazakh terminal on the territory of the Xi’an International Dry Port , which is becoming China’s most important hub on the New Silk Road.


In addition, railway leaders from China and Kazakhstan signed an agreement to exchange freight data. Issues of cooperation between railway ports, strengthening infrastructural connectivity, and promoting paperless transportation of international intermodal cargo were also discussed.


In February 2023, Kazakhstan, the EU and China signed an agreement to create an international e-commerce logistics corridor to facilitate cross-border trade in Eurasia.


It is well known that the world has a large infrastructure gap that is holding back trade, openness and future prosperity. Much of the global investment gap is in key communication sectors important to the Belt and Road , such as transport, energy, water and telecommunications. Meeting these needs will therefore remain a top priority in the international development agenda to support economic development and transcend geographical boundaries.


China’s proposal to further promote liberal trade and broad cooperation is consistently shaping the “Asian version” of globalization. The prediction that the 21st century will be Asia’s century has now become a reality. 30% of global GDP is already concentrated in Asia.


Despite political tensions, sanctions and trade wars, trade within the Belt and Road is growing. For example, in 2023, China-Kazakhstan trade volume increased by more than 30% year on year, reaching a new historical record of $31.5 billion.


The world is increasingly gravitating towards geo-economics and joint development. The Belt and Road Initiative is more than just a set of new opportunities for economic cooperation. This initiative reflects the strong historical need of more than 150 countries around the world for security, free trade and prosperity. Indeed, thanks to the efforts of China and all partners involved, the modern Silk Road is becoming a belt of stability and development.


Last year’s China-Central Asia Summit in Xi’an marked a new stage in regional connectivity, trade and investment cooperation. In 2023, regional trade turnover between China and Central Asia reached US$90 billion.


The “5+1” regional dialogue (Central Asia plus China), promoted by Beijing, is aimed at making the development of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative systemic, which should also ensure the further development of transit routes through Central Asia. By integrating into East-West transport communications, the problem of continental isolation is eliminated and strong preconditions are created for intraregional cooperation. Thus, with China’s support, Central Asia today has the opportunity for economic revival.


Kazakhstan is advantageously located in the very center of Eurasia. To strengthen the existing transit potential, the national economic modernization program “ Nurly” is being implemented zhol “, which was passed in 2015 to boost the economy through greater infrastructure construction and improved connectivity between East and West.


China and Kazakhstan have identified the main directions of joint work to integrate the Kazakh Nurly Zhol program with the One Belt, One Road initiative. The priority areas of both megaprojects are transport, logistics, industry, energy, agricultural exports, infrastructure, education, human capital development, support for small and medium-sized enterprises.


Today, the territory of Kazakhstan is crossed by 13 transcontinental routes. Over the past 10 years, Kazakhstan has invested about $30 billion in the development of infrastructure, transport and logistics assets and competencies. Kazakhstan plans to gradually move from agriculture and energy to a diversified service economy based on transshipment, logistics, warehousing and value-added production.


The implementation of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative is strategically beneficial for Kazakhstan. Thanks to cooperation with the PRC, Kazakhstan gained access to the sea, facilitating cross-border exchange between East and West.


Kazakhstan, in accordance with its geographical position in the heart of Eurasia, strives to maintain commercial, economic, investment, political and cultural relations between its surrounding regions and beyond. It is obvious that the modern Silk Road is changing the world order and creating a new global reality.



The China Studies Centre