The Chinese government has been watching the situation in Kazakhstan with a wary eye, as large numbers of people have taken to the streets following a corruption scandal. The Kazakh president says he is not going anywhere and that his resignation was only for show. China’s leaders are likely paying close attention to what happens next.,
China is watching Kazakhstan’s recent political unrest with a wary eye, reminding the world of its own history. The Chinese government has reportedly just announced that they will be cutting Kazakh imports by 25%, citing security issues stemming from the capital city Astana.
The “Beijing Watches Civil Unrest in Kazakhstan With Wary Eye” is a news article about the civil unrest in Kazakhstan that has been taking place. The article talks about how China is watching this with a wary eye.
TAIPEI— Should the unrest in Kazakhstan continue or devolve into civil war, China stands to lose a lot. For the time being, Beijing is mostly on the sidelines while Moscow, an ideological partner with whom it shares many Central Asian aims, performs the more difficult work of quelling unrest in their oil-rich neighbor.
China is experiencing military turbulence on its western border for the second time in six months. And, similar to when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August of last year, Beijing is taking a wait-and-see strategy, preferring not to take the lead in a complicated and unpredictable geopolitical terrain in which it lacks expertise.
The stakes are considerably bigger here. The 1,100-mile border between China and Kazakhstan is significantly longer than China’s tiny 47-mile border with Afghanistan, and the existence of a substantial ethnic Kazakh community in the northwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang amplifies the risk of a sentiment spillover.
Kazakhstan is also increasingly important to Beijing’s regional geopolitical goals. In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping launched an early version of his enormous infrastructure initiative, the Belt and Road Initiative, in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana.
Despite this, China’s reaction has been subdued as Russia, the traditional hegemon in Central Asia, intervenes to quell a wave of uprisings in a key nexus for Beijing’s efforts to expand economic and political clout westward throughout Eurasia.
In 2013, then-Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev met with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
XINHUA/ZUMA PRESS photo
According to China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency, Mr. Xi expressed his support for Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Friday, saying that he “resolutely opposes external forces deliberately creating turmoil and instigating a ‘color revolution’ in Kazakhstan,” referring to protests that erupted across Central Asia in the early 2000s.
Mr. Xi complimented Mr. Tokayev for being resolute and “taking strong steps at important periods,” but he did not say if those commendable measures included encouraging Russian military participation.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, stated on Friday that “China supports any measures that would assist the Kazakh authorities in restoring calm as quickly as possible,” but stopped short of committing to act. Mr. Wang had previously labeled the unrest as a “internal matter” in Kazakhstan.
Mr. Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin may have discussed the danger to Kazakhstan’s authoritarian rule, but it has not been made public. As a result, observers like Sergey Radchenko, a Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies specialist on Russian and Chinese foreign and security affairs, believe that China and Russia lack a clear consultation framework for resolving crises like this.
“China has been completely left out of this,” he added.
During the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan last year, China and Russia hurried to ramp up security measures in the area, however it was Russia that provided the country with the most extensive military help. Meanwhile, China has concentrated its efforts on bringing Central Asian nations together in conversation via the Shanghai Cooperation Body, a Beijing-based regional security organization that includes Russia as a member.
Oil pumps at Kazakhstan’s Uzen oil and gas field. Around 17% of the oil produced from Kazakhstan is owned by Chinese corporations.
PAVEL MIKHEYEV/REUTERS/PAVEL MIKHEYEV/REUTERS/PAVEL MIKHEYEV/RE
Now, Russia has opted to intervene via another regional organization, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which has sent a military battalion to Kazakhstan that is nearly completely made up of Russian troops. China is not a member of the organization.
Despite China’s reluctance, the demonstrations’ escalation and Russia’s assistance are sure to give Beijing concern. Kazakhstan is located directly over the border from China’s resource-rich but volatile Xinjiang province, where authorities are waging a coercive assimilation drive against Turkic Muslim minority communities, ostensibly to combat religious extremism.
According to political observers, Beijing is acutely aware of the potential for foreign political and ideological influence in Xinjiang, and is frightened by the rapid rise in anti-government sentiment in Kazakhstan. Ethnic Kazakhs, one of the minority groups targeted in China’s Xinjiang assimilation effort, cross the border often.
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Since the early days of Mao Zedong’s regime, when Chinese authorities worried the Soviet Union might attempt to invade Xinjiang, Moscow and Beijing have fought for influence in the province. Mr. Xi has been cultivating Kazakhstan as a key node in his trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, his centerpiece foreign policy initiative, in recent years.
Russia’s activities, according to Niva Yau, a senior fellow at the OSCE Academy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, might be concerning for Beijing, which was likely already taken off guard by the turmoil.
“Having Russia dominate such a crucial transit and commerce route poses a threat to China,” she added. “The main objective of the Belt and Road [in the area] was diversification away from large countries like Russia,” Ms. Yau noted.
According to Ms. Yau, the worst-case scenario for Beijing would be for Moscow to use the situation to pressure Kazakhstan into allowing the Eurasian Economic Union, a trading bloc of former Soviet states favored by Moscow as a counterbalance to the European Union, to impose tariffs on oil and gas originating in and transiting through Kazakhstan. She said that such a step, which would apply to supplies heading for China from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, would be aimed at giving Russia more control over China’s energy imports from Central Asia.
A cross-border highway truck departing China for Kazakhstan. A 1,100-mile border separates the two nations.
XINHUA/ZUMA PRESS photo
According to 2019 estimates from the Carnegie Moscow Center, Chinese businesses extract roughly 17% of the oil produced in Kazakhstan, compared to 3% for Russian companies and 30% for American companies. According to Carnegie statistics, Kazakhstan’s overall trade with China in 2020 will be $21 billion, compared to $10 billion with Russia and $2 billion with the United States.
So far, Chinese official media agencies have downplayed the possibility of any damage to Chinese investments in the nation, while praising China and Russia’s capacity to cooperate. On Twitter, Hu Xijin, a famous nationalist commentator, stated, “Russia and China will not allow the US and the West to force Kazakhstan into long-term unrest.”
According to some observers, China and Russia share many of the same aims in their shared backyard, and Beijing may come around to a Moscow-led operation, however startling it may seem at first. Both nations want to see the United States’ influence in the area fade, and they are concerned about the growth of Islamic extremism, which may lead to terrorist action.
Raffaello Pantucci, a senior scholar at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, stated, “To some degree, Beijing knows that some help is required to calm the situation.” “Russians stabilizing the tillers may not be such a terrible thing.”
Following days of protests over fuel prices and falling living standards that snowballed into violent rallies and looting in some of Kazakhstan’s biggest cities, health authorities say 160 people have died. PAVEL MIKHEYEV/REUTERS/PAVEL MIKHEYEV/REUTERS/PAVEL MIKHEYEV/RE
In general, Western officials and security analysts think Russia and China are working together more closely than they have in decades, especially on defense issues.
Mr. Radchenko of Johns Hopkins University remarked, “People have been forecasting the breakdown of Sino-Russian ties over Central Asia for 20 years.” “However, the fact that they have granted each other leeway on basic interests has worked to strengthen their relationship.”
For the most part, Russia has succeeded in keeping its historical position as a security guarantee in the former Soviet Union’s nations. In the meanwhile, despite Chinese paramilitary soldiers operating in Tajikistan near the Afghan border in recent years, Beijing has mainly avoided any threats to Russia’s security control.
Meanwhile, Moscow has discreetly allowed China to expand its regional influence via trade and infrastructure investments.
“Right now, it’s an issue of stability,” said Alessandro Arduino, a research fellow at the National University of Singapore. “Once that’s accomplished, the two nations may resume battle for economic dominance.” China, he claims, has the upper hand in this area.
Chao Deng can be reached at [email protected]
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The “Beijing Watches Civil Unrest in Kazakhstan With Wary Eye” is a piece on the civil unrest that has been happening in Kazakhstan. The article discusses the relationship between China and Kyrgyzstan. Reference: kyrgyzstan in chinese.
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