The Emerging Political Economy of OBOR

The Challenges of Promoting Connectivity in Central Asia and Beyond

This report explores the implications of China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative on the politics and economics of Central Asia. The analysis calls into question the underlying assumption that large-scale investments in transport infrastructure, such as those at the heart of Xi Jinping’s signature initiative, can automatically promote economic development without a nuanced consideration of individual sectors, local political actors, and project governance. Scholars and policymakers should instead analyze the unique conditions facing participants, including OBOR’s Central Asian partners, as they develop responses to the initiative and its various challenges, costs, and impacts.
Photo credit: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

Alexander Cooley

Director, Harriman Institute, Columbia University; and Claire Tow Professor of Political Science, Barnard College