Descriptions of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) often center on China’s agency in other countries—its investments, loans, and even soft-power. However, Azerbaijan’s Baku International Sea Trade Port in Alat, a retroactively labeled “BRI” infrastructure project, is anything but centrally controlled by China.
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In China, where high-speed rail and brand-new highways are visibly transforming the lives of workers and families, the potential of the Belt and road is apparent. However, outside of China, the BRI remains largely hype for now.
According to EBRD Vice President Pierre Heilbronn, the bank is eager to expand cooperation with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in Central Asia.
When operational, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway could unlock new trade patterns and shift Eurasia’s economic center of gravity inward. The potential gains are significant, but so are the obstacles in laying the Middle Corridor of the New Silk Road.
A trans-Caspian bridge could transform the landlocked condition of Central Asia and Kazakhstan, a revolutionary change psychologically and materially.
The South Caucasus is an important corridor connecting Europe to Asia and a source of and transit route for Caspian oil and gas. Yet today, violence continues to lurk just below the surface, jeopardizing efforts to build new transit corridors through the region.
In pursuit of its goal of becoming a hub for trade between East and West, Georgia has emphasized the development of transit infrastructure and its involvement in initiatives aimed at the integration of regional transport and energy infrastructure.
Azerbaijan's strategic location and vast energy reserves are two of its most valuable assets, and Baku seeks to leverage them as part of its quest to become a major trade and transit hub for the wider Eurasian region.
New infrastructure projects built across the South Caucasus over the past two decades have largely bypassed Armenia, causing the country to miss out on the benefits of connectivity that are otherwise transforming the area into an increasingly important corridor for east-west trade and transit.