Russia And China In Central Asia Changing Great Powers
Russia and China are very significant economic partners of Central Asian countries in the Asian region. Both powers are very influential in Central Asian states’ decision-making, especially Russia, but since the collapse of the USSR, the power roles of these countries have entirely changed. Despite some positive short-term indicators contemporary Russia is broadly an economic failure, whereas China is already a second great power in the world, but if it keeps on developing that rapidly, it will undoubtedly become a leader in economic, political and strategic spheres. Notably, meanwhile Central Asian Republics are still very dependent on Russia in the sense that to a different extent they do often consult with Russian part before making any important decision that might influence the region’s geopolitical configuration. While Russia has been most influential in those states most dependent on its support (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan) and least so in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, China has swiftly opened its trade opportunities with the whole of Central Asia, so that masses of Chinese consumer goods promptly flooded into the region. China is developing extremely fast, whereas Russia is badly lacking economic resources to restore its status of the Greatest Power in the Asian Region.
Consequently Kyrgyzstan has established pretty stable relations with three countries: USA, China and Russia. However, recent diplomatic mistakes of our authorities in regard to US forces in Bishkek and the statement that Kyrgyzstan is going to support Japan in the Security Council, have left unpleasant impressions about our country on three international partners (or actually on two of them). Kyrgyzstan is trying to be in good relations with everyone at once, having the so-called multi vector foreign policy, and concentration of three powers (US, Russia and China) in our country leads to foreign and inner confrontation, therefore it can be eliminated trough a new triangle of powers (Japan, India, and Germany), suggests Valentin Bogatyrev. Well, perhaps that would be an outcome, but it is evident that cooperating with Japan would lead to total breakup with China, which is now going through economic boom and in a correct approach will be a very beneficial source of support for our country.
India, I believe, does not have tough terms with any of three Kyrgyzstan’s partners. So Kyrgyzstan could cooperate with India not even necessarily breaching up with USA, Russia and China. The same thing is with Germany; it might also be a reasonable partner.
Now, I think, Kyrgyzstan does not need to shift its attention towards another triangle, and with that destroy the relations built for many years with Russia, centuries with China, and considerable period of time with USA, especially since they are very influential in the Asian region. Instead of trying to deal with other countries and diverse with previous partners, we could cooperate with those who are going to be really helpful for ourselves. In short, Kyrgyzstan should learn to be selfish and rational, but at the same time run foreign policy reasonably. Breaking up with China is simply a doom to a failure, since Chinese are going to cooperate with us, since the project of Kyrgyz-Chinese railroad is being discussed now, and it is important to note that this road would be extremely beneficial for us, we do not have a right to destroy these economic plans with China.
Notably, unlike Washington, China is indifferent to human-rights violations of Central Asian governments or to their lack of political accountability. Beijing likely views the domestic problems of the regional states in terms equivalent to its own ethnic problems in Xinjiang or Tibet, and is more than willing to approve forceful measures to maintain “stability”. Well, I believe that Beijing has mainly economic interests in Central Asia. The fact that Chinese cheap and of poor quality consumer products have already occupied the Central Asia market reveals trade relations and economic purposes of China to sell off its goods. The fact that China has provided modest military assistance to Kyrgyzstan in 2000, when our local military proved unable to fight Islamic militants, might mean that China is very interested in stability and territorial integrity of its own borders. So, perhaps it has more extended political interests as well. Be it as it may, China is a very important economic and strategic partner for Central Asian states.
Generally, China is trying to cooperate with Kazakhstan more rather than with other four Central Asian states. So, Kyrgyzstan should not loose its chance to develop economically. I do not know exactly but as far as economic scholars state, Kyrgyzstan, located by the countries China and Kazakhstan, having their inflation decreasing and GDP increasing, technically should not have inflation increase even with no control over it. If no inflation, there are less economic and social problems. So, situated very strategically convenient, near the Great Economic Powers, Kyrgyzstan could have successfully become a transit country, and get access to China, Iran, towards Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan. The road through Kyrgyzstan will definitely be much more convenient to use than that through Kazakhstan. I believe, this is the most important chance ever, for Kyrgyzstan. Hence, while China wants to cooperate with Kyrgyzstan, we need to be very attentive in diplomatic statements and deeds, and make weighted decisions. Managing all those tasks, hopefully, we will get out of economic crisis.
We see that Kyrgyzstan is in a very complicated situation. A “tiny mountainous state” is having three greatest powers concentrated on and pursuing their own interests and competing with each other for dominance in the region. Russia and US have settled their air forces, China does not approve US presence in Central Asia, whereas US and Russia are trying to balance each other’s powers, struggling for strategic interests in the Central Asia. The New Great Game has established Central Asia to be an “apple of discord” between three greatest states. Unlike US, which has appeared in Central Asia because of war on terrorism, China, I guess, has been interested in Central Asian region for considerable time, but could not act because of its own weakness and USSR existence. Since USSR collapsed and China has got power and got the better of economic crisis, it has developed a determined policy to satisfy its needs for gas and oil. Well, unfortunately Kyrgyzstan has neither gas nor oil in sufficient quantities, but it has got coal, uranium, and gold, which it can profitably export. It must do it as fast as possible, because the Western part of China needs coal, and it could buy Kyrgyz coal in beneficial terms. Technically Kazakhstan could have exported coal to China, because it has sufficient coal reserves. However, according to Internet sources the largest coal producer in Kazakhstan Bogatyr Access Komir’s main partner is Russia, so it does not yet export coal to China, which is a chance for Kyrgyzstan to establish coal trade relations with Western China. Well, of course, everything here would depend on our government’s diplomatic grip, and ability to attract China to invest its capital in Kyrgyz natural resources.
Central Asian states, having joined the SCO, have got a chance to improve relations with China. All three Central Asian state have solved their dispute borders with China, Kazakhstan even managed to benefit from that. SCO has proved to be pretty successful regional organization, which has let the regional countries cooperate either with each other or with China on economic and security issues.
Consequently, the extent of Chinese control will, however, not be possible to determine, as it will depend on the scale of the American interest and investment in the region, as well as China’s internal situation. Meanwhile, China and Russia have joined and work in unison to control the American dominance in the Central Asian region. The Chinese strategy is, however, not to dominate in a negative way, but rather to influence the states to the degree that they would, voluntarily or by necessity, view China as the main actor in the region once more. So, I think, China will be increasing its influence in our region, only through economic cooperation, investment, but never through military supplies, since it is not in their interest. Americans are still in, and supposedly are going to be here for uncertain time more. Some scholars do not deny the possibility of a Cold War between China and the US on the issue of who is going to be dominant figure in the Central Asian area. I do not really think that it is going to happen. China, which is developing substantially, does not really need to acquire any international rival to disrupt its internal policy, integration with the nearby region, and put in risk its not that strong (compared to US forces) military army.
In short, Central Asia is a region of greatest powers’ interest. The future of our states is in the hands of the local leader, if those states that have plenty of natural resources manage to cooperate and export them effectively, if they manage to avoid corruption, collapse or the so-called Holland syndrome, they will get economic development and stability. Whereas the poor states, like Kyrgyzstan, for example, do not have anything except of relying on its own initiatives, skills to cooperate, establish effective terms with neighbors and non-neighbors. And what is more desirable, is to try to avoid thoughtless, only short-term expressions on the diplomatic scope.