China in Uzbekistan: an investigation into the effects of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) on trade, migration, and Chinese language education 

China's Belt and Road Initiative was launched by China's president Xi Jinping in 2013. It is heralded as one of the biggest investment and infrastructure projects the world has ever seen and constitutes a declared "pivoting away" from the Pacific towards China's immediate west.

Originally presented as a strategic investment into areas along the former Silk Road, in the years since its declaration, BRI has morphed into a geographically more loosely defined umbrella term for Chinese investment projects in developing parts of the world.

Ideologically, the BRI is closely linked to the leadership of Xi Jinping and to China's soft power expansion which includes the promotion of Chinese language and culture through the establishment of Confucius Institutes and classrooms and the generous provision of scholarships to study in China. Economically, BRI is linked to China's domestic economic slowdown and its need for international markets to offset its surplus capacity.

This project very simply asks what impact BRI has had on Uzbekistan in the field of trade, migration, and Chinese language education and aims to provide a preliminary evaluation of this impact on the Uzbek population. The main objective of this project will be to map out Chinese presence in Uzbekistan since 2013 to find out whether there has been a marked increase of activity following Xi Jinping's declaration, and, more recently, whether Covid19 has had a significant detectable impact in the areas we investigate.

A multi-lingual team of researchers based at University of Westminster (London) and Westminster International University in Tashkent jointly work on the following research aims:

  • to map out different types of investment (Chinese government investment/loans, State-Owned Enterprise investment, private investment) into relevant sectors over the last ten years;
  • to map Chinese migration to Uzbekistan associated with the development of BRI;
  • to map the establishment of Confucius institutes and classrooms, and to analyse data in relation to Chinese language learning and teaching as well as the need for Chinese language interpreting and translation;
  • to map media coverage of China and BRI in two main Uzbek publications.

If you have first-hand experience of Chinese trade or investment in Uzbekistan, if you are learning Chinese in Uzbekistan, or have recently moved from China to Uzbekistan and would be willing to speak to us about these experiences as part of our research project, please get in touch at [email protected].

Conference June 2021

A Central Asian Perspective on the BRI: Chinese Investment, Migration, and Language Education in the Shadow of COVID-19 More information and CFP soon.