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What does China want from its partners in Central Asia?

CIIS Time:10 22, 2018 Writer:Cui Hongjian Editor:Wang Jiapei



Chinese Primer Li Keqiang concluded his visit to Tajikistan by calling for more solidarity and cooperation in various fields between China and its Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) partners in order to oppose any form of unilateralism and protectionism. This was also the strong consensus of the SCO Heads of Government Council meeting held in Dushanbe.

The SCO has developed to become a comprehensive regional organization with the biggest population and territory in the world. Therefore, as a huge economy with nearly 43% of world population and 21% of global GDP, it is the time for SCO to play a more active role in regional and global governance with more will and greater ability. Current international and regional changes have also placed greater demands on the role of the SCO. Regional cooperation requires it to be a successful example of maintaining safety and promoting development, and then providing stability for the uncertain world.

China has always sought comprehensive, balanced and sustainable development in the SCO rather seeing it as a tool for geopolitical confrontation. Therefore, when some suggest possible confrontations between the SCO and other blocs, the recent SCO summit in Qingdao shows the organization's will to strengthen international cooperation and engage in dialogue with other regional or international organizations instead.

So what China wants in Central Asia is regional peace and prosperity rather than expansion and confrontation in the area. This is the unshakable direction of the SCO that China and its partners are trying to move in.

Meanwhile, China's goodwill in promoting cooperation in Central Asia must be reflected in its determination to maintain a benign international environment and to promote reform in the global governance system. Members of the international community have formed a deep interdependent pattern, in the face of challenges such as slowing development, volatility in financial markets triggered by unilateralism and protectionism, and other risks, including international terrorism and regional conflicts. 

Countries in the region should help and support each other, otherwise, they will lose the ability to further develop, which could even lead to a new round of turmoil. So what China wants in Central Asia is to build consensus and the capacity for independent development, and to work with partners in other regions to build and maintain a peaceful, fair and healthy international order.

The experience of cooperation between China and Tajikistan fully showcases China's intentions and behaviors in Central Asia. Tajikistan prior situation was bad due to lack of resources and inconvenient transportation; it used to be one of the poorest and least developed economies in the region and it had territorial disputes with its neighbors. 

Under the principle of mutual respect and friendly coexistence, China and Tajikistan resolved their border issues and established a comprehensive strategic partnership, a model of peaceful coexistence between neighboring countries. On the basis of high mutual political trust, the Chinese government and the country's enterprises have supported Tajikistan's strategy for industry development. Tajikistan has established a nationwide road network and power grid with China's help and China has become both Tajikistan's main trading partner and the largest source of investment.

But some are concerned about China's policy in Central Asia and worried that the country is "turning Tajikistan into its own vassal." Based on the practical experience of some countries, these "concerns" seem to be reasonable, because expanding the sphere of influence with economic and military control over other countries is how they operate.

But the truth is that China doesn't interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, nor does it impose on Tajikistan when developing its economy. This situation has indeed transcended colonial and Cold War mentalities. What China wants is to transcend the outdated international order and develop a new community with a shared future by developing its relations with Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries. 

 

 

Cui Hongjian is the director of European Studies of CIIS.

 

 

Source: CGTN, October 14, 2018.

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