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Eastern Express 21.06

Russia’s full-scale aggression against Ukraine has intensified China’s long-standing policy of consistent economic, political, and military infiltration of Central Asian countries and gradual construction of an alternative to Russian influence there.

In the face of sanctions imposed on Russia, an alternative route of the new Silk Road bypassing the territory of the Russian Federation was launched in April. Furthermore, there are plans to start the construction of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railroad.

Vladimir Putin’s insistence on restoring Moscow to its former glory may well lead to a further decline in its influence: not only in Europe, but also in Central Asia. Little attention was paid to the potential impact of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in a region that Russia has traditionally considered its backyard. The country was already uncomfortable with China’s rapidly growing presence in the region, as well as Turkey pushing for greater influence among the Turkish nations of Central Asia.

Situation in Kazakhstan

Over the 30 years of the Kazakh independence, its ties with China have intensified. Yet, they do not match the dynamics of Kazakh-Russian relations. In addition to the economic factor, the situation is affected by Russian imperialism and its manifestation of interference in the internal affairs of neighboring countries – the former republics of the Soviet Union.

Will Uzbekistan lean towards China?

Uzbekistan may seek to strengthen strategic cooperation with China to address a number of economic issues as its main foreign trade partner, Russia, has faced Western sanctions. That is why the country has set its sights on connecting to global transportation and trade routes.

However, there is a risk of a Chinese trap.

It is no secret that Chinese capital is expensive. Over-reliance on Chinese markets and investment poses serious risks. Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries are well aware of this. Soft loans for infrastructure projects and technical support require that at least half of the materials, equipment, technology and services purchased come from China. Uzbekistan needs Chinese loans because of its economic difficulties and geographical location.

The episode’s guest was Stankomir Nicieja from the University of Opole.

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