The Kazakh city of Khorgos is one of the most important land transport hubs planned for China’s new Silk Road initiative. But despite hundreds of millions of dollars of investment, the majority of traders in the border city still rely on sea ports hundreds of kilometers away to receive imported goods, the Financial Times reports.
“I would rather my goods take 10 times as long to get to Khorgos but be sure they arrive on time,” says Jia Xiubing, a trader who imports European snacks through the Chinese ports of Qingdao and Tianjin, 4,000km east by road or rail, told the Financial Times. Traders say Khorgos’s showpiece free trade zone is blighted by chronic delays, high costs and import restrictions.
With investments ranging from ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka to high-speed railways in east Africa to gas pipelines in central Asia, China’s Belt and Road Initiative is possibly the largest overseas investment drive ever launched by a single country. But the problems, along with the logistical difficulties of transporting goods through central Asia to Europe, illustrate the shaky ground beneath China’s ambitious plans to boost its global influence and bolster slowing economic growth at home.