CHINA IN CENTRAL ASIA

Vladimir PARAMONOV, Aleksey STROKOV, Oleg STOLPOVSKIY


Vladimir Paramonov, Ph.D. (Political Science), Independent Expert (Tashkent, Uzbekistan)

Aleksey Strokov, Independent Expert (Tashkent, Uzbekistan)

Oleg Stolpovskiy, Independent Military Analyst (Tashkent, Uzbekistan)


Introduction

For over a century, or over 130 years to be more exact, Central Asia remained part of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union which replaced it and was treated by China as such. The sudden disintegration of the Soviet Union into independent states confronted Beijing with the need to deal with several of them in Central Asia, which required a new vector of its foreign policy.

The over 20-year-long history of Chinas policy in Central Asia can be divided into three periods:

1. 1992-1995.

2. 1996-2001.

3. 2001the present.

At the first stage, in the early 1990s, Beijing took its time to acquire a clear idea about the new reality, establish and then develop diplomatic contacts, build up mutual confidence, create a base of treaties and other legal documents, and address the accumulated security-related problems.

At the second stage, the mid- and late 1990s, 2000, and the larger part of 2001 (up to the 9/11 events), Central Asia acquired mechanisms and institutions of multisided cooperation (of which the Peoples Republic of China was a part); China was expanding its economic presence in the region.

At the third stage, which started on the tragic day of 9/11, China demonstrated inordinate activity and launched an offensive along all lines clearly determined to take a tighter grip on the region.

The First Stage (1992-1995)

Early in the 1990s, China had to disentangle itself from a knot of complicated domestic issues and foreign policy problems. The third generation of the Chinese leaders headed by Jiang Zemin worked hard to prevent revision of the countrys political system in the extremely adverse international context: the West responded harshly to the Tiananmen events of 1989, which cooled its relations with China; the communist regimes in Eastern Europe collapsed along with the Soviet Union.

Early in the 1990s, Beijing needed as favorable an international context as possible, as well as a stability belt along its borders to push forward the social and economic reforms launched at the turn of the 1980s. On the international scene, China demonstrated caution and flexibility very much in line with the 24 Character Strategy of patriarch of..


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