Since China’s announcement of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013, commentary on China’s activity across Eurasia and beyond has proliferated. English-language media tends to depict China as an aggressive power devoted to projecting its geopolitical influence, and portrays the BRI as a new and potentially threatening project.
Before China’s Belt and Road: Central Asian Connectivity Through Time challenges these prevailing assumptions about the BRI. It places the BRI in the context of the historical relationship between China and its neighbours, focusing on the Central Asian countries, whose close economic links with China long predate the BRI. The authors argue that the BRI does not constitute a new approach on the ground. Throughout Central Asia’s past, bi- and multilateral cooperation, regional institution building and person-to-person trade all have played enduringly central roles. Before China’s Belt and Road shows how these phenomena are also central to the BRI framework, suggesting that the BRI’s implementation is by no means an entirely top-down intervention by Beijing.
Rachel Kay is a researcher in Lord Robert Skidelsky’s parliamentary office. She holds an MPhil in Development Studies from the University of Cambridge. During her MPhil she researched the trade of bazaar goods between China and the Central Asian states, focussing on the transnational relationships created by bazaar trade.
Yingfeng Ji is a PhD student in Development Studies at the University of Cambridge. She is researching the content and challenges of China’s Belt and Road Initiative based upon empirical evidence from BRI power projects in Central Asia.
Chapter 1.A History of Economic Connections Across the Asian Landmass
Chapter 2. Asia Divided: China and Central Asia During the Soviet Era
Chapter 3.Five Independent States: 1991-2013
Chapter 4.The BRI: Central Asian Case Studies
9/9/21, Choice: This book was included in a feature highlighting forthcoming Asian and Asian American Studies titles.