The “New Silk Road”: Exploiting China’s largesse – the Kazakh experience.

Held on Wednesday, November 8, 2017


  • Prof. Alexander Van de Putte (IE Business School)

  • Dr. Kairat Kelimbetov (Astana International Financial Centre)

  • Nurlan Kussainov (AIFC)

  • Daniel Widdicombe (China Construction Bank)



The term “New Silk Road” was, apparently, coined by Alexander Van de Putte and colleagues in 2005, when he was head of scenario planning, global risks and country competiveness at the World Economic Forum. It was presented as a geo-economic scenario at Davos in January 2006, and was then picked up by (among others) Hillary Clinton – finally ending up as President Xi Jinping’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative in 2013.

Quite a pedigree. And, given China’s ability to put theory into practice, it is clearly an initiative that could change the world – or at least what we had better start thinking of as Eurasia. After all, two-thirds of the global population live along the path that links China and Western Europe. And bang-slap in the middle of that intercontinental highway lies the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan – now well on the way to becoming a full-fledged and dynamic market economy. According to the IMF, GDP growth this year will be 2.5%, increasing to 3.4% in 2018 – which beats most of Western Europe.

Kazakhstan promises to be one of the major beneficiaries of the New Silk Road/OBOR initiative, and its ambitions are reflected in its plans for an international financial centre in Astana, based on trade finance and on transnational value chains.

It is potentially very exciting. But realising that potential is not going to be easy – even for the Chinese, who have a lot of other things on their plate. We are, therefore, delighted to have been able to put together a distinguished panel for this breakfast meeting:

  • Alexander Van de Putte is, as I mentioned, the co-originator of the New Silk Road concept. He is currently a professor at the IE Business School in Madrid and MD of the Sustainable Foresight Institute in Belgium. He is also chairman of the Academic Council of the Astana International Financial Centre. 
  • Kairat Kelimbetov is the Governor of the AIFC. He is a former Governor of the National Bank, deputy PM, finance minister and CEO of Kazakhstan’s sovereign wealth fund. He has a Doctorate from the diplomatic academy of the Russian Federation and a Masters from Cambridge.
  • Nurlan Kussainov is the CEO of the AIFC, having previously been deputy Governor of the National Bank, CEO of the Kazakhstan Development Bank and head of the Country’s WTO accession team in Geneva. He has an MSc from Stanford.

To add a broader context, I have asked an old China hand, Daniel Widdicombe, to give his view on how all this fits into Chinese outbound investment and the OBOR initiative in particular. Daniel is the head of investment banking at the China Construction Bank in London; before joining CCB in 2009, he spent 18 years in China, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, including a spell as head of Asian equity research at Bear Stearns.

The New Silk Rd/OBOR initiative is real – and the opportunity immense. Kazakhstan is in the forefront of those who plan to benefit, and it is clear that the government is fully behind the AIFC initiative. If you (or a colleague) would like to join us for what I am sure will be a lovely – and potentially profitable – discussion, please let us know by emailing or by calling us on 0207 621 1056. I can promise lots of tea, coffee and sticky buns.

Sincerely yours,

Andrew Hilton