Shortly after the China-Central Asia Summit, Kazakh segment of cyberspace began discussions dedicated to a layout of the future railway from China to Kyrgyzstan and then Uzbekistan with an option to have extended towards Iran, Turkiye and Europe.
Mr. Adil Kauklenov, famous Kazakh Orientalist discusses above in his telegram-channel:
Trans-Siberian Railway Overloaded
In the course of public discussions of the project, they emphasized that the new railway was supposed to bypass Russia and some of them expressed concerns in the spirit of “May Day!”. Both of them show signs of exaggeration and alarmism.
First of all, the new road is thousand kilos away from Russia and its mission is to connect Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. When that particular segment of the road is laid, we could discuss plans to extend it towards Middle East.
Secondly, there is a similar railway running to Iran thru Kazakhstan (China-Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran). That is railway is far from posing any threat to the Trans-Siberian. Besides, the Trans-Siberian is overloaded.
Thirdly, based on data from operation of the railway running via Kazakhstan onwards to Iran, one could see that reaching out for Turkiye is one big challenge, because Iran under sanctions and relations between Iran and Turkiye are not that easy.
Which means, that the new railway is not the one to bypass Russia – it is more of a road bypassing Kazakhstan, and the Kazakh segment of the China-Iran railway will have to compete with the future one.
Benefits to Kazakhstan
But the new road is not supposed to hard Kazakhstan. The matter is that all Kazakh railways are overloaded beyond all limits of the reasonable. That is why, Kazakh Government declared construction of the new railroad connection – Bahty-Chuguchak, as well as announced plans to refurbish and modernize the Dastyk-Alashankol connection.
Healthy competition is not a problem. Talks regarding the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway connection were circulating on air for 2 decades now, but there was no progress. Because of numerous political and economic obstacles, most of them being in Kyrgyzstan.
In Russia, they have a historic stigma about all trade routes bypassing Russia. Stigma was founded by the Russian merchants from Tomsk, who had their own trade route, as an alternative to the Trans-Siberian Main, in the result of which Novosibirsk became Siberia’s metropolitan hub. Tomsk was left outside of the new traffic.
When back in 2013, the One Belt-One Road initiative came into public spotlights, Russian scientists immediately recollected the Tomsk story, fearing that Siberia and Russian Far East would be left outside the new initiative.
Tomsk, however, did not fade away and still is Russia’s major education and R&D hub. That is why, all those fears about routes bypassing Russia are exaggerated.
The Road-Belt initiative was not at all to the detriment of the Russian transit traffic. Russian companies today are seeking for new trade infrastructure.
The new railroad is thousand kilos away from Russia. Its purposes is to connect countries that have no borders with Russia and pose no threat to Russian trade routes. That is why, the following question goes to alarmists – In Africa and South America, does China build roads, to deliberately bypass Russia?