Friday, April 3, 2020

A Hard Touch of China’s ‘Soft Power’ in Central Asia

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Since gaining independence in 1991 and embarking on the path to economic development, Central Asian countries that were once a part of the former Soviet Union became a very attractive target for Chinese investment, especially in the infrastructure sector. While the development of infrastructure is a prerequisite of economic growth and such initiative should be viewed positively, China’s investments in the Central Asian region create challenges and issues.

Dr. Gül Berna Özcan, a Reader in International Business and Entrepreneurship at Royal Holloway, University of London, conducted research on the impact of growing Chinese business expansion and influence on the five countries comprising the Central Asian region: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. She presented the results of her research that traced “the footprint of China” in the region at an event at the Wilson Center in Washington on Feb. 20.

Epoch Times Photo
KTZE-Khorgos Gateway Dry Port, a logistics hub on the Kazakh side of the Kazakhstan-Chinese border, on April 15, 2019. (Abduaziz Madyarov/AFP via Getty Images)

China’s Belt and Road Initiative

China launched its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to make use of its “surplus capital and excess productive capacity,” James Nolt, professor of international relations at New York University, told The Epoch Times in 2017. “With a high savings rate in China and a slowdown in industrial investment at home, they are looking for overseas projects that can be financed and a new outlet for Chinese exports,” Nolt said.

Özcan also noted that China has an overcapacity of its labor force and wants to gain access to critical trade routes, as well as secure its access to strategic natural resources, and these are also important reasons for carrying out the BRI.

Building infrastructure in Central Asia plays an important role in the BRI because “Central Asia sits at the heart of Eurasia and, historically, made up half of the ancient Silk Route,” according to a paper published by Observer Research Foundation. The region is also rich in natural…

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