Accepted paper:

D.Trump's presidency and the implementation of the Chinese BRI in Central Asia


Akram Umarov (University of World Economy and Diplomacy)

Paper abstract:

The announcement of China's Belt and Road Initiative (henceforth, BRI) left a significant mark for the Eurasian continent, in particular, for Central Asia. Beijing's initiative has provided a chance to many states within the continent to receive substantial investments into a number of wide-scale infrastructure projects. The latter is essentially challenging to implement without the support of external funding and international partners. Beijing considered the decision of Obama's administration to strengthen the military, trade, and economic cooperation with Asia-Pacific countries as a threat to Chinese interests in the region and suggested the BRI. Thus, the Chinese government wanted to intensify cooperation with countries on the Eurasian continent to compensate for potential losses in the Asia-Pacific region. D. Trump's accession to the power in the USA seriously alters the existing balance of powers in the Asia-Pacific region and these changes may be transmitted to the Central Asian region. D. Trump's decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, together with his statements on the decisive revision of existing US trade agreements can fundamentally augment the current state of international affairs. Concurrently, Xi Jinping in his speeches implicitly stated readiness to uptake a leading, active, and crucial role in this new environment. In this light, Central Asia can face two scenarios for the development of the BRI project. First, if Beijing concludes that weakening cooperation between the USA and Asia-Pacific countries reduces the threat of encirclement from the western direction, the attention and determination of China to implement the BRI project may decline. Subsequently, Central Asia's importance for the Chinese leadership may plausibly diminish and result in the plummeting of the volume of investments into large projects, deterioration of the regional economic performance, and strengthening the influence of Russia and other actors in the region. Secondly, China may view the willingness of the new administration in Washington to concentrate primarily on solving domestic issues as an opportune moment to expand its influence throughout the world and particularly in Central Asia. Even greater intensification of Beijing in the region may have contradictory consequences: considerable financial injections in the region and alleviation of the main economic problems on the one hand and a breakdown of the contemporary balance in Central Asia and a new confrontation between large external forces for supremacy in the region on the other hand.

panel POL-05
Challenges and Opportunities of finding Regionalism in Eurasia