CAREC may have a little known history as a prototype for the Belt and Road Initiative.

The Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Program (CAREC) was inspired by the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) GMS programme of connectivity and cooperation in SEA and followed by South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation programme (SASEC). The improvement of regional connectivity via the formation and construction of international transport corridors was a central feature of these programmes, aside from trade and investment promotion. CAREC projects are functionalist: although not expressly promoting regional integration or trade with the projects’ sponsor (unlike the Belt and Road Initiative, BRI), they seek to remove existing bottlenecks by focusing on field specific (customs, transport, trade etc.) technical regional cooperation among landlocked developing states with poor interconnectedness, facilitating its access to seas and international trade routes.

CAREC demonstrated impressive progress between 1997 and mid-2010s, evolving from the initial idea of improving regional cooperation between China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan (ADB 1998) to six fully-fledged connectivity corridors among ten countries. The similarities between CAREC and more recent BRI disprove the interpretation of Japan’s recent infrastructural initiatives as purely catching up with China.

Please click here to read the full “Not-so-new silk roads: Japan’s foreign policies on Asian connectivity infrastructure under the radar” article at the Australian Outlook, written by Griffith Asia Institute Visiting Fellow, Dr Nikolay Murashkin.