Some might call it a branch of the Silk Road. But most major routes on the Silk Road bypassed modern Tajikistan altogether. Only recently – and with major Chinese help — has the dream of traveling directly from the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, to the northwestern town of Khojand, over treacherous mountains in all weather, started to become a reality.
[Slideshow: photos by David Trilling for Eurasianet.org, captions abbreviated for CDT, see original photos here]
The road construction, one of Tajikistan’s major infrastructure development projects, makes up part of the roughly $720 billion in Chinese investment in the country, according to the Chinese news service Xinhua. China presented much of the money to the Tajik government in the form of long-term, low-interest loans.
But commerce, rather than charity, drives this assistance program.
Since the opening of a pass between Tajikistan and China in 2004, trade between the two countries has steadily increased. Tajikistan’s economy is growing at eight percent per year – says Central Asia pundit Ahmed Rashid – and the capital is experiencing a building boom. Attracting resources from Central Asia and opening
local markets to Chinese goods, the Chinese construction projects are part of a broad network the Chinese government and other countries are building to expand industry and commerce in the region. [Full Text]