Khorgos Dry Port - China spoor

SCO summit could bring border crossing developments between Kazakhstan-China

Khorgos Dry Port. Dianne Huijskens

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit, which took place on 15 and 16 September in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, seems to be a milestone for developments in Central Asia and the Silk Road. Its economic and geopolitical significance touched upon many aspects, one of them being the possible opening of a new border crossing between Kazakhstan and China.

While there are no palpable developments on the end of Russia-China cooperation, the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, made sure that the SCO summit would bear some fruits in the Central Asian sphere.

The summit took place in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. However, Xi didn’t miss the opportunity to visit the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan for the first time after 2017 before arriving in Uzbekistan to sign several agreements, including transport development between the two countries.

New border crossing in the making?

According to the Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Xi and Kazakh President Tokayev “agreed to continue engaging in high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, speed up the alignment of development strategies, and promote pragmatic cooperation in the fields of trade and economy, energy, railway and connectivity”.

Wang Yi especially highlighted the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway project in this sense, even though it does not directly involve Kazakhstan. However, the Kazakh Ambassador to China, Shakhrat Nuryshev, disclosed that the two countries have something more specific in the pipeline.

The independent Kazakh publication Ulys Media reported on the summit’s sidelines that Nuryshev mentioned a third railway border crossing between China and Kazakhstan in the making. He said, “we are actively discussing the issue of opening a third railway crossing on the Kazakh-Chinese border. We believe that this will help deliver goods between China and Europe even faster”.

Possible location already known

It must be noted that so far, China-Kazakhstan long-haul railway traffic takes place via two major border crossings, Dostyk-Alashankou and Khorgos. Regarding the third border crossing, the two partners aim to invest in a northern location and, specifically, in the region of Almaty and Tacheng. The area does not lack infrastructure since, in Tacheng, there is a road-rail border crossing used for regional transit until now.

As a result, the joint development will focus on utilising existing resources, not only to facilitate China-Europe traffic but also to help the northern part of the Xinjiang region in China develop economically.

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

Nikos Papatolios is editor of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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