The construction of a dry port in the border town of Khorgos between Kazakhstan and China has been touted by China as a stunning success of the Belt and Road, but the reality on the ground is the opposite.

By Jordan Bekenstein, Analyst

Overland transport is an essential part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which seeks to link China to Europe and create the infrastructure necessary for burgeoning interregional trade. The Khorgos Gateway Dry Port in the China-Kazakhstan border town of Khorgos is a centerpiece of China’s BRI. The project was announced by former Kazakh president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, in 2011, and became part of the BRI in 2013. Construction began that year, and the dry port was in operation by 2015. In total, the project cost approximately 200 million USD, and is the largest dry port in…


America’s two largest oil companies have significant investments in Kazakhstan, yet Kazakh media overwhelmingly favours Chevron over ExxonMobil.

By Sharanya Rajiv, Senior Analyst and Manager of Operations

Source: Chevron

American oil giants, Chevron and ExxonMobil, have been leading investors in Kazakhstan’s oil and gas sector for almost three decades. Both companies arrived in Kazakhstan in 1993, soon after the country’s independence, and between the two of them, have stakes in the country’s three largest oil and gas fields. They first invested in TengizChevrOil (TCO), which operates the giant Tengiz oil field. TCO is a consortium of companies led by Chevron that holds a 50% majority stake, while Exxon Mobil holds a 25% stake. Chevron also holds an 18% stake in…


Kyrgyz society is forced to confront what they value more: the rights and protection of women and girls or preserving an abusive practice that is falsely revered as a cultural tradition.

By Elizabeth Lewis, Analyst

Slogans like “Shame! Shame!” and “How many of us have to die before the kidnapping stops?” rang out in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan on April 8, 2021 after Aizada Kanatbekova joined the list of women who have lost their lives to bride kidnapping and poor policing. Ala kachuu, the Kyrgyz term for bride kidnapping or bride abduction, is defined as the act of abducting a woman for the purpose of marriage. Kyrgyzstan outlawed “kidnapping a person for the purpose of marriage against their will” in its Criminal Code in 1994. …


Lessening media emphasis on cotton reform could be indicative of the lasting phenomenon of waning government interest in its own pet policies.

By Elizabeth Lewis, Analyst

Uzbekistan is ranked sixth in the world for cotton production, yet is not represented in the top ten cotton exporting countries. This disparity is due primarily to a boycott of Uzbek cotton that was introduced in 2006 in response to the use of forced labor in harvesting cotton. As a result of the boycott, which is supported by brands such as Calvin Klein, Amazon, Adidas, Zara, and Ikea, Uzbekistan sells the bulk of its cotton on Asian markets at prices lower than what it could be sold to Western markets, limiting growth opportunities and export volumes…


Although Kazakhstan has not met its emissions reductions targets under the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement, their significance for Kazakhstan extends beyond what’s strictly on paper.

By Jordan Bekenstein, Analyst

Kazakhstan’s effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions has failed thus far. Based on current policies, Kazakhstan’s emissions are expected to reach 426–439 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2030, compared to 1990 levels of over 402 megatons, or an increase of 6%-9%. This is in contrast to its non-legally binding commitments under the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions by 15%-25% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

This goal seems reasonable at first glance, since Kazakhstan’s greenhouse gas emissions dropped rapidly throughout the 1990s, similar to Russia and other post-Soviet states. When international agreements limiting…


Countries with a stronger cultural memory have not bought into the idea of China’s initiative recreating the ancient Silk Road.

By Sharanya Rajiv, Senior Analyst and Manager of Operations

Central Asia plays a key role in the Silk Road Economic Belt, the continental half of China’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Right from Chinese President Xi Jinping’s 2013 speech unveiling the BRI in Kazakhstan to the 2016 Health Silk Road reveal in Uzbekistan in 2016, the imagery of the historical Silk Road has been central to China’s outreach in Central Asia. …


Russian oil shipments to China through Kazakhstan have grown over the years. Is this trend sustainable and meaningful for the Sino-Russian relationship?

By Jordan Bekenstein, Analyst

Kazakhstan is a key transit state in the Sino-Russian oil trade, with Russia sending around 10 million tons of oil to China per year through the Kazakhstan-China Pipeline (KCP). While being a transit state brings in revenue, in order to be profitable, the relationship has to be long-term to pay off initial infrastructure costs.This is especially worrisome in a world where the long-term effects of COVID-19 on oil demand are yet to be seen and the seriousness of China’s 2060 net zero emissions pledge is yet to be tested. …


Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Tajik media is neither enhancing public awareness about climate change by making expert reports more accessible to the local population nor advocating for climate action using their platform to highlight actions that need to be taken.

By Sharanya Rajiv, Senior Analyst and Manager of Operations

Photo by Thomas Lipke on Unsplash

Tajikistan is the most climate-vulnerable country in the Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region due to its relatively weak social and economically productive structures and low adaptive capacity. High poverty rates among rural communities of Tajikistan increase people’s vulnerability to climatic shocks and stresses, and is further compounded by food insecurity, high rates of labor migration and poor provision of services. Moreover, climate change in the country threatens the entire Central Asian region. Tajikistan’s Pamir glaciers, coupled with Kyrgyz glaciers in the Tien Shan mountain range, provide around 50% of the…


Cheap electricity prices and favorable local sentiment has sent cryptocurrency miners flocking to Kazakhstan. Questions of regulation and Kazakhstan’s unique economic model could slow this trend.

By Alex Clark, Analyst

As countries around the world race to understand and even control cryptocurrency, digital currencies that have become one of the most volatile asset classes, Kazakhstan stands out as an unlikely outpost fueling bitcoin and the broader cryptocurrency speculation. According to Reuters, Kazakhstan currently accounts for 6% of all cryptocurrency mining and the government wants to attract 300 billion tenge worth of investment to further expand mining operations. After all, the more Kazakh citizens who mine — and subsequently own bitcoin — the more control over the asset’s price the country will gain.


With a friendly partner and pro-Kremlin media in Tajikistan, Moscow has a strong foothold in shaping the country’s political and security dynamics.

By Alexander Clark, Analyst

Since the Tajik Civil War in the 1990s, Russian military forces have operated out of the 201st base in Dushanbe and Bokhtar to provide security guarantees against local terrorist threats. With the 201st being Russia’s largest overseas military base, the Diplomat has labeled Tajikistan “Russia’s bulwark on the Afghan border.” In recent years, the 201st base’s prominence has grown alongside Russian security and intelligence networks operating against U.S. interests in neighboring Afghanistan. Last year, the New York Times implicated Tajikistan’s Russian intelligence assets as allies of a Taliban commander, Mullah Abdul Salam, who fought against the…

Hillhouse Analytics

Hillhouse Analytics specializes in data driven analysis on issues related to sustainable development, infrastructure, and energy in frontier markets.

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