Results of the Belt and Road Initiative Summit for Transport Connectivity in Eurasia

12.27.2023

The 3rd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation that was held on October 17-18 in Beijing can significantly influence transportation and transit in Eurasia.

On the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), this megaproject has been materially affected by the conflict in Ukraine and the Western sanctions against Russia. These circumstances can lead to the strengthening of the Eurasian Land Bridge Corridor in the BRI, which overlaps with the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR). Indeed, given the growth of trade and transit between Russia and China, the China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor (CMREC) road and rail routes can develop via the BRI.

While the Maritime Silk Road aims to construct new ports or enhance existing ones along the sea routes connecting China’s coastline, the objective of the Silk Road Economic Belt is to enhance China’s land-based transportation connections to Europe and Asia through six major corridors within the BRI. These include the Eurasian Land Bridge Corridor, the China — Central Asia — West Asia Corridor, the China — Mongolia — Russia Corridor, the China — Pakistan Economic Corridor, the China —Myanmar — Bangladesh—India Corridor, and the China — Indochina Peninsula Corridor. The conflict in Ukraine, extensive Western sanctions against Russia and transit restrictions splitting Russia from the eastern European Union have had a direct and negative impact on the Northern Corridor of China’s BRI.

Indeed, the negative impacts of the conflict in Ukraine stand in the way of Beijing’s ambitions to make a China-Europe Railway Express an important part of the BRI. In the wake of the conflict in Ukraine, Russian Railways are under EU and US financial sanctions, and it’s tricky to insure products being transported through Russia because of the war and sanctions." Under these circumstances, TITR is a rail alternative linking China to Europe that bypasses Russia. However, this route features «combined transportation»; cargo and goods are transported from the ports of Aktau in Kazakhstan and Turkmenbashi in Turkmenistan by ship via the Caspian Sea to the port of Baku.

The next result of the 3rd Belt and Road Forum will be the strengthening of land and rail routes between China and Russia. Although China’s transit and trade route to Europe is blocked from Russia amid the conflict in Ukraine, the volume of bilateral trade and transit between Russia and China has increased significantly. In 2023 bilateral trade is likely to total about US$235 billion.

One of the possible results of the 3rd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be the strengthening of China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor in the process of developing transit and trade relations between China and Russia.

On the other hand, the beginning of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine consolidated Russia’s «turn to the East» in the Arctic. The interaction between Russia and China on the development of the Arctic region is becoming one of the important areas of Russian—Chinese «comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation for a new era». Under such circumstances, the «Arctic Blue Economic Corridor» is a new route for trade and transit from China to the northwestern parts of Russia and also northern Europe which bypasses Russian land and railways routes.

The third result of the 3rd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be China’s investment in infrastructure and new transport and transit technology in Eurasia.

Finally, China’s major challenge in advancing the Belt and Road Initiative in Eurasia will be coordinating and combining the goals and interests of this initiative with The International North—South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and also the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and BRICS.

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