Think again: the China-Russia split in Central Asia

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A look back at the uneasy, love-hate story in China-Russia relations, in particular when it comes to geopolitical influence in Central Asia. While the former continues to maintain its Soviet-like stature through establishment of numerous multilateral initiatives which tie countries ranging as far from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, to Turkmenistan, the latter, altogether with its rising GDP, and insatiable hunger for more natural resources control, is also making use of its economic boom to entice these countries’ leaders with promising investment in mega-projects worth tens of billions of US dollars, one that Russia, given its stagnating economic growth, is lacking of. For this reason, Central Asia remains a point of contention in the bilateral relations, and also one of the illustrations of the ongoing rivalries taking place between two Eurasian great powers.

Read the complete analysis in Al Jazeera.




Putin’s regional integration project will likely not prevent, but rather pave the way for Chinese comprehensive economic expansion. While Russia needs Central Asian states in the Customs Union for the purpose of maintaining its geopolitical presence, China pursues its economic benefits. Russia relies on its military might and traditional soft power in the region, whereas China applies its financial clout.

So while Beijing refrains from all out confrontation with Russia’s interests (as opposed to PRC’s hawkish approach to its neighbours in the East and South-East Asia), Chinese policymakers certainly take advantage of the Kremlin’s missteps and limited capabilities.

China takes note of the stagnating Russian economy  that is gradually losing positions in the region. Russia and Central Asia overall trade turnover reached $27.3bn in 2011, when China’s commerce with Central Asia topped $46bn in 2012. Single-handedly, Beijing has become a main trade partner to all former Soviet states of Central Asia, except for Uzbekistan, where it is the second.