How Correct Was Our Forecast for the China-EU Express Rail in 2022 in Light of the Ukraine War?

Hussein Askary (Vice-Chairman, Belt and Road Institute in Sweden)

While almost every “expert” was predicting the collapse of the traffic along the China-EU Rail Express (CEER) transiting Russia and Belarus following the outbreak of the war in Ukraine in February 2022, the Belt and Road Institute published an article in July, stressing that the CEER will not be affected by the war, and in reality, will increase in volume of freight traded between China and the EU. Our investigation was not based on so-called experts in specialized websites, nor think tanks and media outlets, but on actual information. That information was gathered through both contacting shipping companies, forwarders and rail operators, or monitoring their activities and plans. We also investigated the “alternative routes” and found them to be more time consuming, more expensive and fraught with difficulties.

We used the information gathered both to make a forecast that is useful for policy makers and corporations, but also to strike against a very dangerous phenomenon that is a result of the geopolitical tension between the West and both Russia and China. That is: “wishful thinking, and hidden agendas, magically turn into intelligence assessments, leading policy makers and corporations to take wrong decisions”. We published the article on July 27, 2022 under the title “The China-EU Express Railway Roaring on: Putin Did Not Kill China’s Eurasian Dream!”

We chose for this purpose what the prestigious American Council of Foreign Relations and their Foreign Policy Magazine published about this matter as a case study, because it is considered one of the most important sources of analysis in the U.S. and around the world. Foreign Policy Magazine had published an article on March 1st, 2022 (six days after the start of the war!) titled “Putin’s War Has Killed China’s Eurasian Railway Dreams”, which we proved to be entirely flawed and lacking in basic information and data for making such a dramatic statement.

The accuracy of our assessment was verified this week in a press conference (links below) held on January 3rd by the China National Railway Group (CREC), which stated that “in 2022, 16,000 China-Europe trains were launched and 1.6 million TEUs were sent, a year-on-year increase of 9% and 10% respectively.” In 2021, the CEER broke all previous records rising to 15,000 trains, an increase by more than 30% compared to 2020. The fact that in the first 6 months of 2022 the volume increased “only” by 3% does not mean that the route has collapsed but continued despite the war to function and increase in volume. Our forecast that in the second half of 2022, will witness a dramatic rise, brought the percentage for the whole year to 9%.

This is an important lesson for all analysts to look at reality not propaganda. Economics is an entirely different science. Propaganda is not natural science.

Links to CREC 2022 rail fraigh results: