SOME ASPECTS OF CHINAS POLICY IN THE CAUCASUS

David BABAYAN


David Babayan, Ph.D. (Hist.), Independent Expert


Introduction

For centuries, one of the perceptible points of contact between China and the Caucasus was the Great Silk Road. However this contact related primarily to trade and economic and cultural relations and the Caucasus has never previously been an element of Chinas geopolitical interests. Nor would it be entirely true to say that the Caucasus has become a priority vector of Chinese geopolitics today either. For example, neither the president nor the prime minister of China has ever made an official visit to the region. Even Chinese ministers rarely visit the region. The Chinese delegations that have come to some of the Caucasian countries on official visits are usually headed by deputy ministers. Nevertheless, in the near future relations between China and the Caucasian countries could undergo a new boost, since, due to its geographical location, the Caucasus is destined to court Chinas involvement in its geopolitics.

The PRC has elaborated its own specific geopolitical style, which can be quite clearly seen both in the Caucasus and in the nearby regions. This style is based on what can be described as a cluster approach, the gist of which lies in the fact that, by developing cooperation with one of the countries of the region, Beijing inescapably establishes relations with the countries contiguous to it, which often act as its rivals and competitors. Chinas comparatively low level of historical experience in terms of geopolitical contact with the Caucasian countries is very conducive to this approach, since it makes it possible to sidestep the political, historical, psychological, and other types of antagonism that exist between the countries and nationalities of the region with relative ease.

Chinas activity in the Caucasus at present is primarily oriented toward strengthening economic relations with the region and improving the socioeconomic situation in the regional countries, thus decreasing the influence of such ideologies as Islamic fundamentalism and pan-Turkism that China finds undesirable. Moreover, both Russia and regional countries such as Iran find Beijings stronger position in the region to their advantage.

For Moscow, a stronger China in the Southern Caucasus and its closer relations with the Northern Caucasus are beneficial both in terms of their joint geopolitical resistance to Turkey and the West and in the context of improving the socioeconomic situation in the North Caucasian republics, which is having a positive influence on the fight against extremism. While for Tehran, Beijing is a natural ally in the geopolitical standoff with Turkey and the West.

The Southern Caucasus

The Southern Caucasus, with its unresolved conflicts and serious contradictions, is one of the most problematic regions on the planet. China is trying to distance itself as much as possible from political problems, primarily from settlement of the conflicts existing in the region. Chinas activity in this sphere is mainly limited to official statements indicating the need for peaceful settlement of.


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