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Since Xi Jinping visited Kazakhstan in 2013 to unveil the “One Belt, One Road” strategy, China has spent nearly USD 1 trillion in development assistance and infrastructure financing in more than 60 countries. This massive and multi-faceted project—since renamed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)—has set in motion social, economic, and political transformations with the potential to reshape the globe. While there has been no shortage of analysis about the project’s origins and initial trajectories, the main aim of papers within this panel organized by the “Belt and Road in Global Perspective project” (https://munkschool.utoronto.ca/beltandroad/), is to generate a conversation about the BRI’s downstream effects. The articles view the BRI as a potential engine of transformations that are varied and difficult to predict; they set our sights on what occurs downstream, i.e., not in the minds of policymakers and project planners but on the ground in specific contexts. Based on the authors’ geographical expertise and disciplinary perspectives the papers explore questions such as how do we might best conceptualize the BRI and its emergent effects in Central Asian?
In analyzing how Chinese foreign direct investments (FDIs) influences Kyrgyzstani workers’ well-being, Pengshan Pan explores the BRI’s downstream effects on Kyrgyzstan’s labor market. He finds that Beijing’s growing FDIs in the state’s local infrastructure do not necessarily serve local laborer’s interests.
Linda Tjia Yin-nor in her article looks at Sino-Kazakh joint ventures and the way in which they have evolved from infrastructure and pipeline enterprises to sustainable energy and food processing projects.
In contrast to the other papers, that focus on the BRI’s downstream effects, Jasmin Dall’Agnola examines how the Covid-19 pandemic has fueled the spread of Chinese CCTV cameras across Central Asia, in investigating the wider public’s support for smart cameras in public places. In doing so, her paper discusses what the BRI has come to mean in the context of Central Asian people’s privacy and security.
KEY WORDS: BRI; Central Asia ; FDIs; CCTV