China’s Li Qiang Calls for Progress on Central Asia Railway

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Chinese Premier Li Qiang called for accelerated cooperation on a planned international railway linking China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan during a visit to the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek on Wednesday, Russian and Chinese state media reported.

China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan reached a basic agreement in September 2022 on an international railway connecting the three countries. Construction was expected to begin this fall, but China reportedly decided to postpone the project due to differences over construction cost sharing.

With a struggling economy, Kyrgyzstan is unable to bear the huge expense of the project. The country already has significant external debt after receiving massive aid loans from China. Constructing the new railway could increase its reliance on Beijing.

The planned railway, part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, would have a total length of 454 kilometers and is expected to cost $3 billion to $6 billion.

It is part of China’s outreach to resource-rich Central Asia, a region long under Russian influence that is seeking to improve its connections with the global economy.

The primary overland route from China through Central Asia to Europe and the Arabian Sea now runs mostly through Kazakhstan. Achieving rail transport through Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan would help increase transport volume and contribute to the development of routes that avoid Russia.

Li is on an official visit to Kyrgyzstan this week and met with the country’s Prime Minister Akylbek Japarov on Wednesday. On Thursday, he will attend a leaders’ meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, whose members include China, Russia and Central Asian countries.

Source : Nikkei