Central Asia’s Triangular Geopolitics: Russia, China, and the West

cc China News Service, modified, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:China-Central_Asia_Summit_20230519_02.jpg

Central Asia is forging fresh alliances to navigate the nuanced relationship between regional giants Russia and China, opening new avenues for engagement with the EU and US.

With their geopolitically significant positioning between Russia and China, the Central Asian Republics (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan) frequently tread a delicate balance. China seeks their natural resources, while Russia aims to uphold dominance within the post-Soviet economic, military, and diplomatic spheres.

The historical tie to the Soviet Union naturally links the republics to Russia. Many use the Cyrillic alphabet and have integrated Russian vocabulary into their languages, facilitating wider integration with Russia. Moreover, their technology, equipment, and military systems are predominantly Russian-based, bolstering prospects for cooperation. Russian soft power surpasses that of China or the United States in the region, notably as the favored destination for study abroad or labor migration. For instance, in Kazakhstan, 78% of Kazakhs studying abroad choose Russia.

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