Handbooks of Research on Contemporary China series
Edited by Carla P. Freeman
Chapter 18: China and Greater Central Asia
China has begun to adopt a more assertive role in international affairs, not least in the developing world. Greater Central Asia (GCA) is no exception in this regard, being a region in which Chinese influence has increased significantly over the last two decades. This has come at the expense of Russian influence, which has decreased since the Central Asian states’ independence in 1991. With the demise of the Soviet Union and the severing of the economic lifeline between the former center (Russia) and the Central Asian republics, China stepped in to supply the region with much needed consumer goods and general economic support. China’s economic role marked the modest beginning of what has become a rather quick pivot back by Beijing to the region. Indeed, China’s role in GCA after a century of exclusion – which could be regarded as somewhat of an historical anomaly and ‘return’ to the region – has opened up old trade and cultural links. However, while these links restore ancient ties and present new opportunities, they also bring with them modern challenges, from extremism to organized crime, and the threat of domestic instability.
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