Accepted paper:

Belts and roads of development: Chinese investments in Central Asia through the lens of new structural economics


Oyuna Baldakova (Free University of Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

The paper analyses the BRI applying New Structural Economics and offers a qualitative study of Chinese investments in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. It suggests that proposed investments and their linkage to national development programs could be a precursor for regional economic growth.

Paper long abstract:

China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has attracted a heightened international attention and inspired polarizing interpretations. Critics believe that the initiative could be a 'debt trap' and has a capacity to extract geo-strategic concessions from its debtors. Whereas admirers contend that China, drawing from its own experience, could help countries of the Global South tackle their structural bottlenecks and eventually enable them to repeat the trajectory of China's rapid economic growth. This paper presents an original analysis of the BRI with an application of Justin Lin's New Structural Economics theory (2010) and offers a study of Chinese investments (concessional/non-concessional loans and private finance) under the BRI framework in two countries of Central Asia - Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, with the use of qualitative methods. The paper argues that the BRI can be described as an extension of China's domestic industrial policy or a geo-industrial strategy. It suggests that proposed investments in infrastructure building, international industrial transfer/capacity cooperation, and special economic zones creation in the two countries and their linkage to national development programs could offer a fertile ground for regional economic growth. To carry out this analysis, relevant primary documents, secondary literature, and statistical datasets of relevant national agencies were analysed. Furthermore, during my fieldwork at Peking University in China and KIMEP University in Kazakhstan from February till October 2018, I conducted semi-structured interviews with more than 60 experts and practitioners of different academic and institutional backgrounds.

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Transnational political economies of development
The political economy of development under the Chinese Belt Road Initiative (BRI) [paper]