Policy Memos

China's Challenges in Central Asia: Fallout from the Georgian War, the Financial Crisis, and the Xinjiang Riots

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In the past year, China’s Central Asia policy has weathered several external and internal shocks, which have proven to be interconnected in unexpected ways. Although some differences emerged between China and Central Asian states over Russia’s support for the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the financial crisis provided an opportunity for China to deepen its economic engagement in the region, particularly in the energy sector. Economic integration has turned out to be a double-edged sword for China domestically, however. On the one hand, expanding energy ties with Central Asian neighbors has facilitated Beijing’s domestic goal of developing its western provinces and turning Xinjiang into a new center for the Chinese energy industry. On the other hand, economic development has highlighted inequalities within the province and unleashed social tensions that erupted into riots in the provincial capital of Urumqi in July 2009. The interethnic violence in Xinjiang may have long-term consequences for both the stability of Central Asian states with Uighur minorities and perceptions of China in these countries. [...]

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About the author

Professor, Department of Political Science and Law; Senior Research Scholar
Montclair State University; Columbia University