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(Opinion) China's Central Asian Opportunity

2015-02-05 08:28:31       source:The Diplomat

By Ankit Panda


February 05, 2015


"Earlier this week, I penned an admittedly pessimistic take on Central Asia's short-and medium-term economic fortunes owing primarily to the collapse of the ruble. Even though the current crisis should be an important reminder of the risks of economic over-reliance on Russia, these states should seize the opportunity to appeal to China's westward impulses. Critically, by attracting Chinese trade and investment at a time of economic need, these former Soviet republics could bring some much-needed balance to their economies. Given China's strategic interest in Central Asia, perhaps best captured by Beijing's "March West" concept, attracting Beijing should not be an insurmountable task for these countries.


Beijing's interest in marching west, toward Central Asia and Eastern Europe, is in part due to a desire to hedge its current over-reliance on Asia's fragile sea lanes-fragile in the sense that Beijing is entirely vulnerable to sea-based interdiction by hostile foreign powers. Beijing's massive land borders with the Central Asian republics and Russia carry none of the inherent geographical risk of the increasingly volatile South China Sea. Beijing has already invested in a China-Central Asia gas pipeline which starts at the Turkmen-Uzbek border city of Gedaim and runs through central Uzbekistan and southern Kazakhstan on its way to China's Xinjiang province. As of late 2014, China had concluded several inter-governmental agreements with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan."


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