China’s Belt and Road: Debt trap – for China?
Andrew Collier | Oct 15, 2018
I spent three days at the end of September in the city of Astana in Kazakhstan, at a conference that was part of a larger effort by Nazarbayev University to create a China Centre. Kazakhstan is feeling pressure due to its location between China and Russia and is seeking greater depth of knowledge on China from western experts, who are considered neutral players between Russia and China.
One large focus during the meeting was the impact of China’s Belt and Road policy on central Asia. Is China going to be helpful or controlling in the relationship? Is China going to contribute to the growth of Central Asia or simply use it as a dumping ground for excess domestic production capacity and as a means to extend its regional security capacity?
I left Central Asia with a few thoughts:
- Kazakhstan is the largest country in Central Asia. Due to its size and natural resources (mainly oil and gas), it is in a better position to meet China as a quasi-equal than many of its neighbors and even some countries on the belt and road route in Southeast Asia.
- Most locals view China’s BRI as a security policy. But, as sophisticated sinologists, they are aware that the BRI title has been thrown over a loose array of policies and investments and may be less concrete than the rhetoric would imply.