Most attention on China's Belt and Road Initiative has so far centered on northern rail routes through Russia and Central Asia and investments in Mediterranean and Indian Ocean seaports. But policymakers in Beijing have long dreamt of an alternative that would more closely align China's land and maritime trade strategies. They may have found it in the route from Piraeus, Greece, to Khorgos, on Kazakhstan's border with China.
Of all the potential Belt and Road corridors between the European Union and China with a land component, Piraeus to Khorgos involves the smallest land element, passing through only three intermediate countries -- Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. This is the smallest number for any proposed land bridge between the EU and China that also avoids Russia. But the route depends on cross-Caspian Sea ferry logistics and better rail links across the Caucasus.