Central Asia–China Pipeline Politics: Turkmenistan at a Crossroad

The announcement of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013 revealed China’s ambitious plan in Central Asia. As demonstrated by the construction of the Central Asia–China Gas Pipeline, China has been skillful in maneuvering various strategies and toolkits to address the country’s energy problem. By using loans and other investment mechanisms to access Turkmenistan’s gas fields, Beijing creates the conditions for reaching bilateral agreements and forming joint ventures to hold individual countries accountable for supplying and transiting energy to China. With the creation of a hub-and-spoke system for regional development, China’s diplomacy is bilateral in means but multilateral in ends. However, the prospect for Turkmenistan is less optimistic following the suspension of Line D of the Central Asia–China Gas Pipeline. Therefore, this paper argues that despite the initial attempt to diversify energy export, Turkmenistan’s current loan repayment arrangement and heavy export dependence on China have locked up the country. In the foreseeable future, Turkmenistan has no other viable options to address its current dilemma.

Authors: Hao Tian