Russia cannot compete with China
In return, China will work to shield most of Central Asia’s authoritarian leaders from economic and political pressure from Western countries trying to move them toward democracy, and to protect their sovereignty and territorial integrity from any Russian adventurism. Will do During the summit, 54 agreements were signed, 19 new cooperation mechanisms and platforms were created, and nine multilateral documents were prepared, including the Xi’an Declaration. While Russia has long been a partner in Central Asia, it can no longer match China’s investments in the region, which have totaled some $70 billion since 2005.
Increased political closeness with China
Shift from Russia to China The shift towards China is reflected in the declining importance of Russia’s regional integration project – the ‘Eurasian Economic Union’, compared to China’s global ‘Belt and Road’ initiative. The ‘Belt and Road’ program of infrastructure investment was launched by Xi in Kazakhstan in 2013 and since then the region has drawn closer to China not only economically, but also politically. With the Russian ‘Northern Corridor’ now largely closed as a result of Ukraine war-related sanctions, the so-called ‘Middle Corridor’ has become increasingly important not only to China but also to the G7 countries. The central corridor starts in Turkey and passes through Georgia and Central Asia.
What is the role of Afghanistan?
Another option with equal geopolitical importance is transport through Afghanistan to the Arabian Sea via the Pakistani port of Gwadar. In the long term, a route through Afghanistan is in the interest of both China and Central Asia. It will contribute to (but also depend on) stability and security in Afghanistan. The enthusiasm with which the presidents of the five Central Asian countries have welcomed these initiatives shows their willingness to move closer to China. However, it remains to be seen how sustainable or popular this approach will be given the anti-China sentiment in the region.
(Stephen Wolfe: Professor of International Security at the University of Birmingham)