ARKANSAS, Oct 19 (Future Headlines)- The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) marks a significant milestone as it celebrates its 10th anniversary. Over the past decade, BRI projects have not only connected regions, but they’ve also transformed the lives of people and fueled global trade and economic cooperation. Central Asia, once landlocked and remote, has now emerged as a thriving hub of international trade, thanks to projects like the China-Railway Express.

Have you ever considered that the pasta you savor in Italy might have its origins in Central Asia? Kazakhstan, a grain-producing powerhouse in Central Asia, exports a substantial portion of its yearly grain harvest. Among its many international customers, Italy stands as a prominent importer of Kazakh wheat. This remarkable feat is now possible due to a well-connected railway network, especially the China Railway Express (CR Express), which has made the transportation of Central Asia’s products to Europe, China, Southeast Asia, and beyond more efficient and cost-effective.

Boosted by investments from Chinese companies like Xi’an Aiju Grain and Oil Industrial Group, Central Asia’s iconic agricultural products have found their way to Chinese households. The thriving cooperation spans across various sectors, including agricultural production, clean energy, oil refinement, gas exploration, high-voltage power distribution, financial innovation, and cultural heritage restoration.

Clean Energy: The Zhanatas wind farm, a 100-MW energy project under the China-Kazakhstan production capacity cooperation framework, has significantly alleviated power shortages in southern Kazakhstan. This initiative has transformed the region, ensuring a stable power supply for residents.

Oil Refinement: The PKOP Shymkent refinery in Kazakhstan, vital for the supply of high-quality refined oil products, underwent modernization and upgrading by China Petroleum Engineering & Construction Corporation (CPEEC). It now plays a pivotal role in the region.

Electricity in Tajikistan: Chinese firms have brought relief to Tajikistan by constructing and operating the Tajikistan Dushanbe No. 2 Thermal Power Station, guaranteeing a stable electricity supply even during the harshest winters.

Energy Independence: Kyrgyzstan has witnessed the Datka-Kemin 500kV power transmission and transformation project enhancing electricity reliability and stability, paving the way for energy independence.

Gas Pipeline: The China-Central Asia Gas Pipeline project has not only fueled a green transition in China and neighboring countries but also unlocked abundant natural gas reserves in Turkmenistan, ensuring regional energy supply.

Samarkand, an ancient Silk Road node, has reemerged as a modern city and a key player in the Belt and Road Initiative. The planned China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan (CKU) Railway, once completed, will revolutionize trade opportunities for Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. It will directly connect China to the Middle East and Europe, reducing freight travel by 900 kilometers and saving seven to eight days in transportation time. This railway will transform the entire region, offering cheaper products and quicker delivery for people along the route.

At the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, China unveiled plans to build a comprehensive Belt and Road connectivity network, emphasizing the high-quality development of the China-Europe Railway Express and participation in the Trans-Caspian International Transportation Corridor. This corridor, traversing China, Kazakhstan, the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Europe, presents an opportunity to evolve Central Asia into a “continental bridge of the Belt and Road.” It will significantly reduce cargo transportation time and costs, leading to more affordable products and faster delivery for people along the route.

The Belgrade-Budapest railway, located in the Balkan region of Europe, has simplified life for Serbs, Hungarians, and all travelers in the area. This rail project demonstrates the global reach and transformative power of the Belt and Road Initiative. It connects lives and enables prosperity while promoting international cooperation.

The Belt and Road Initiative has rewritten the narrative of Central Asia, transforming it from a remote and landlocked region into a dynamic hub of global trade and economic collaboration. From agriculture to energy, from cultural heritage to transportation, BRI projects have improved lives and brought prosperity to the people in Central Asia. As we celebrate a decade of the BRI, the future holds the promise of further growth, development, and connection for regions around the world, highlighting the remarkable journey of the initiative and its transformative power in connecting lives and prosperity.

Reporting by Alireza Sabet; Editing by Sarah White