The New Silk Road is no longer just a dream. In places as remote from each other as Sri Lanka and Poland, planners are designing and building huge projects they think, or hope, will provide housing and jobs for thousands. Soon, when Beijing’s imperial-scale trade and communications initiative starts moving trains, trucks, and ships to new, bigger, better ports full of Chinese goods, and good-will.
A phrase one often hears in these places goes, “X years ago there was nothing here,”Forbes contributor Wade Shepard writes in his tour of some outstanding stops on the New Silk Road.
One of those is Khorgos, on the China-Kazakhstan border, once a major market town on the ancient Silk Road, now an enormous “dry port” in the making.
Fifty thousand homes are being readied for workers once the port is up and running. Horgos, the city in the making on the Chinese side, is expected to eventually house 200,000 people.
These new towns will sink or swim depending on the volume of trade. “Dozens” of new China-Europe rail lines pass through here, as well as the Western Europe-Western China Highway, Shepard writes.
Terespol, Poland, is also putting logistics at the heart of its New Silk Road ambitions. Railways that link China and Europe run through the town, as does the E30 expressway from Berlin to Moscow and Siberia.
Plans for Terespol include a new town for 30,000 people, a duty free zone, a free industrial zone, and a large logistics area being built with investment from DHL, Shepard says.
New Silk Road terminals are planned on both shores of the South Caucasus. In Anaklia, Georgia, a $2.5 billion deep sea port is under construction.
“By 2020, the new facility is set to be a major hub on China’s Maritime Silk Road, one of the spokes on the One Belt One Road initiative,” Global Trade Review wrote in February.
Across the Caucasus in Azerbaijan, a new seaport and special economic zone are rising from barren land at Alyat, 70 kilometers south of Baku.
Shepard describes the project as “a fundamental part of Azerbaijan’s national strategy to break free from their reliance on oil and develop a more diverse economy that’s based on transportation and trade.”
The head of the Khorgos free-trade zone, Vassily Ni, faces a charge of taking a $1 million bribe to ensure approval of a hotel in the zone. On 8 September an Almaty court ordered Ni to spend two months in detention, OCCRP reports.
Promoted as “a huge new city of the future at the intersection of two civilizations,” much of the promised infrastructure at Khorgos – hotels, amusement centers, restaurants – has yet to break ground, according to Invest in Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan is the keystone of the highway portion of the New Silk Road. Nearly 3,000 kilometers of the total 8,500 kilometers of planned new or improved highways lie in the country.
Compiled by Ky Krauthamer