The Quiet Path China Walks in Tajikistan
Tajikistan is one of many Central Asian countries that is uncovering the advantages of implementing reforms in the transportation sector, most certainly when done with neighboring countries in the region. The Eurasian Research and Analysis Institute think tank hosts a project named “The Central Asia Watch,” (CAW) which follows intra-regional developments.
CAW researchers have identified 26 routes that have been created, resurrected, or proposed between January 2017 and December 2018—all through the national media outlets of the five Central Asian countries.
China may sometimes be seen as being at the center of Tajikistan’s transformation. Tajikistan is awash in Chinese investments, housing multiple Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects, which span from roads and railways to pipelines and power plants. With the introduction of these projects, China even replaced Russia as its largest source of foreign investment. There are currently 61 BRI projects within/involving Tajikistan (see the infographic).
The economy developed rapidly as it attracted $645 million in 2018 foreign direct investments, of which $326 million was to be used towards the development of industry, construction, exploration, and development of mineral deposits, according to the State Committee on Investments and State Property Management of Tajikistan. This is a staggering increase from approximately $500 million brought in in 2017. The lower number had caused President Emomali Rahmon to order the nation’s National Bank to take urgent measures to attract domestic and foreign investment in the country.
Currently, 69 investment projects are being implemented in the Republic, which total an approximate $3.23 billion; China and Russia stand as the two major investors. Half of the total amount of these projects were disbursed ($1.64 billion), and the State Committee’s report continued to note that $467 million specifically came from China’s Eximbank.
China continues to invest in Tajikistan, and will likely not slow down any time soon. Over $3 billion has been invested in the Central Asian nation over the past two years. China is also ready to invest in the creation of large industrial enterprises with a full cycle of progressive technologies and equipment, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Tajikistan reports. China participates in the implementation of over 50 investment projects in Tajikistan, and there are about 70 enterprises with Chinese capital and more than two hundred Chinese companies in the Tajik market. China’s signature foreign policy initiative of investment provides many benefits to the Tajik people—many no longer having to struggle through winter seasons without heat and power.
However, President Rahmon may need to be wary of their northern neighbor’s investments over time. According to the National Development Strategy of Tajikistan until 2030, the country plans to increase the gross domestic product 2.6-fold in the next eleven years. Unfortunately, the nations has already faced dilemmas stemming from Chinese investments. Tajikistan once borrowed more than $300 million from China to build a power plant. Unable to pay its debt, the country transferred ownership of a gold mine to China in order to pay off the liabilities.