The U.S. Central Asia power plan intersects with BRI
Li Zheng
Editor's note: Li Zheng is an associate research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, Institute of American Studies, and director of the American Security Center, Institute of American Studies. The article reflects the author's opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.
According to local media, Tajikistan launched a U.S.-led power network project – the Central Asia-South Asia power (CASA 1000) project. Its first phase aims to achieve the interconnection of the power grids among the four countries in Central Asia. The long-term goal is to open up the connection between Central Asia and South Asia and significantly solve the power shortage in the region.
The project is supported by the U.S. Department of State, USAID and the World Bank, and is one of the pillars of the U.S.-sponsored Greater Central Asia Partnership. The U.S. hopes that the power interconnection will reduce the energy dependence of Central Asia on Russia and China. Another hidden purpose of the plan is to increase the influence of the U.S. in the region. Apart from the war on terrorism, the U.S. has not made any contribution to Central Asia.
The United States also hopes that India can join the project and introduce India's influence into Central Asia to hedge China, Iran and Russia. In the end, the United States hopes to form a broader and more independent geographical region of Central Asia.
These geopolitical factors allow observers to believe that the U.S. plan is to compete with China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). These concerns have put the Central Asian countries in an awkward situation. These countries need the support of the U.S. to build power networks, as well as the support of other countries to improve other important infrastructure. 
The cooperation between China and Central Asian countries also involves the construction of power facilities and the upgrading of power grids. Central Asian countries do not want conflicts between Chinese and American projects.
A construction site of Rogun hydroelectric power station on the Vakhsh River ahead of the launch of its first turbine, east of Dushanbe, Tajikistan, November 14, 2018. /VCG Photo

A construction site of Rogun hydroelectric power station on the Vakhsh River ahead of the launch of its first turbine, east of Dushanbe, Tajikistan, November 14, 2018. /VCG Photo

In fact, these concerns are not necessary. Although the U.S. has different geopolitical considerations, China and the U.S. share common goals in helping Central Asia escape poverty and backwardness. 
Both countries hope to reduce the risk of becoming a source of terrorism by eliminating poverty in the region and turning it into the next promising market. From this perspective, China welcomes the U.S. Central Asia power project, which does not seem to have a political premise or is an exclusive project.
It does show the new posture of the U.S. in Central Asia. As the date of withdrawal from Afghanistan approaches, the U.S. is trying to transform its image in Central Asia from a tough terrorist striker to a flexible builder. The U.S. is aware that any military presence cannot last long and is not welcome. 
In contrast, electricity, clean water, education, and transportation can leave a longer legacy in Central Asia and fundamentally change the environment in the region. This is precisely the original intention of China to promote the Belt and Road Initiative and enhance the interconnection and intercommunication in the region.
Consistency in philosophy does not necessarily lead to cooperation, but the reality of the demand inevitably links the U.S. power plan to Chinese projects. A large number of cables, steel and infrastructure equipment are required to complete the power plan. 
Due to the inconvenient transportation and high transportation costs in Central Asia, the most economical solution is to establish local factories and produce related equipment locally. Many Chinese and Central Asian capacity cooperation projects will involve power equipment and power construction. Projects in the U.S. will allow these new plants to quickly generate profits and jobs.
In addition, grid projects have increased demand for power plants in Central Asian countries, and China is one of the main contractors in the region. China has mature capabilities in construction services and post-maintenance, which can help American projects to be completed faster and maintain long-term stability.
The completion of the power grid will help China expand its investment in Central Asia and accelerate the modernization and industrialization of the region. If the United States recognizes and accepts these opportunities for cooperation, Central Asia may become a model area for Sino-U.S. cooperation in international development. 
Since the United States has bravely made its first step in building Central Asia, it should also view the common interests of China and the U.S. in this region from a creative perspective.
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