One Belt, One Road: A New Source of Rent for Ruling Elites in Central Asia?
(University of Central Asia)
Although One Belt, One Road (OBOR) is being hailed as one of Beijing's grandest flagship projects, it may have a bumpy start in Central Asia. As the leaders of Central Asian states struggle to advance good governance and curb corruption, rent-seeking schemes emerge as an important part of political processes. Ruling elites in the region are infamously experienced at capturing the state, directing state resources toward personal enrichment. The Silk Road Economic Belt, which will provide an unprecedented influx of funding into poor Central Asian republics, has the potential to become a new source of rent for Central Asia's ruling elites and cause divisions between different Central Asian clans. Thus, this work attempts to pragmatically assess the threats of rent-seeking for the successful implementation of the Silk Road Economic Belt project in Central Asia. It seeks not only to expose illicit practices that exist in the domestic politics of Central Asian states, but also to illuminate that Chinese modes of foreign investment do not often comply with the normative expectations of responsible development, instead exacerbating the problems of political accountability and economic governance in Central Asia. One of the most paramount questions to explore is how China's peculiar and non-transparent modes of foreign investment, along with their indigenous social practices (such as guanxi) will evolve in the graft-prone region of Central Asia. Not only can such a way of doing business jeopardize the deliverables and reputation of OBOR, but it can also antagonize national communities and feed the rapidly growing sinophobia in Central Asia.
Foreign Policy Challenges in Central Eurasia