COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF RUSSIAN AND CHINESE INTERESTS IN CENTRAL ASIA

Ahmet TOLGA TÜRKER


Ahmet Tolga Türker, Assistant Professor, Department of International Relations, Istanbul Arel University (Istanbul, Turkey)


Introduction

In addition to the recent violent ethnic conflict in Kyrgyzstan, some of the other events attracting attention to politics in Central Asia are the Georgian-Russian war, the Color Revolutions, the Andijan events in Uzbekistan, the Karimov governments subsequent decision to end U.S. basing rights, Kazakhstans economic rise, and the leadership change in Turkmenistan. At the same time, the security situation in Afghanistan and the growing insecurity about energy supplies has heightened the interest in security and economic cooperation in Central Asia. Russia and China have been reacting to these same pressures.

On the one hand, they have reached a broad agreement on the priority of regime security and the need to limit the long-term military presence of the United States in Central Asia. On the other hand, their agreement and priorities should not be viewed as entirely cohesive. The divergent interests within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), among the Central Asian states, and especially between Russia and China serve to limit any coordinated foreign policy toward Central Asia by the two powers.

This paper aims to establish a framework/background for a comparative analysis of Russian and Chinese policies on Central Asia based on a perspective that combines the interest-oriented realist school with value-driven or ideology-based foreign policymaking. To do that, I will first focus on those arguments that are most important for shaping foreign policy in the context of the growing pressure of globalization and the creation of new national identities and diverse constituencies. Second, I will compare the official state-sponsored values chosen by Russia and China in formulating their policies toward Central Asia. Third, I will look into how these state-sponsored values facilitate relations with Central Asia. Finally, I will examine the relationship between the states interests and official state values and evaluate the effectiveness of Russian and Chinese foreign policies in Central Asia, as well as the Central Asian reaction to the power play between these two rising nations in their region.

I. The Role of Values in Foreign Policymaking

Traditionally, foreign policymaking studies share the assumption that states are rational actors and that they follow their own interests. Today, states still prioritize their interests by seeking to maximize their security and economic wellbeing. However, in the post-Cold War era this alone is no longer a sufficient explanation of foreign policy formulation. Instead, classical realist assumptions have been challenged by the rise in standards and ideas that call for.


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