China's influence in Central Asia: a challenge to the West?

By Saud Faisal Malik | Gwadar Pro Apr 27, 2023

Editor's Note: The author is Saud Faisal Malik, CEO of Daily CPEC. The article only reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily of Gwadar Pro.

China has been making great efforts to develop its political and economic connections with Central Asia. China has maintained friendly relations with the five Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan for the past three decades.

The West is worried about the region's power dynamics as a result of China's expanding influence in Central Asia. Some commentators are concerned that China's growing influence will undermine Western interests in the area as China spends extensively on infrastructure projects and develops its relations with the five Central Asian nations on a cultural and economic level.

Recent talks between China and the foreign ministers of Central Asia at the the fourth China-Central Asia Foreign Ministers' Meeting held on Wednesday, have brought attention to the country's continued efforts to broaden its influence in the region. China and the five nations decided at these discussions to increase their cooperation in many areas, including trade and investment, connectivity, green agriculture, medicine and health care, energy, and minerals.

These agreements show how China and Central Asia are becoming more economically interdependent. China gives infrastructural development and technical support in exchange for the region's market for its goods and investments. Some critics contend that this reliance may allow China to dominate the region's politics and economics, thereby weakening the sovereignty and independence of the Central Asian countries. Nevertheless, China has consistently vowed to respect the independence and sovereignty of Central Asian countries and to aim for win-win outcomes in its engagement with the area.

China has been involved in Central Asia for economic and security reasons rather than to counterbalance Western dominance there. To increase commerce and investment along the historic Silk Road trade routes, China sees Central Asia as a crucial component of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The region's infrastructure has benefited greatly from China's investment, which has also helped to spur economic growth and raise living standards for many locals.

Another significant point is that China consistently maintains the legal frameworks of the Central Asian countries with whom it cooperates. China has demonstrated its commitment to promoting regional peace and stability by working with Central Asian countries to address shared security concerns, such as terrorism and extremism.

The region's enhanced cultural variety and improved opportunities for travel and education have both benefited from China's rising connection with Central Asia. People from China and Central Asia can interact and communicate more effectively thanks to the growth of the Chinese language and culture in that region.

Overall, the West should not view China's influence in Central Asia as a threat, but rather as a development that will benefit the area and international collaboration. China's collaboration with Central Asian nations will surely continue to provide prosperity and stability to the area as long as they continue to strive towards mutual benefit and respect one another’s sovereignty and independence.

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