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Yerkin Baidarov: "Soft Chinese Power". Part 2. Central Asia

CIACR-South Caucasus represents the expanded commentary by Erkin BAYDAROVA, leading researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies. R.B.Suleimenova Scientific Committee of the Ministry of Science and Education of the Republic of Kazakhstan

Erkin Baidarov

The pragmatics of the "Silk Road Economic Belt" as part of the initiative for Kazakhstan and the countries of Central Asia consists in the necessity of integrating the states of the region into the world economy. For Kazakhstan, which is almost in the center of Eurasia, this is all the more important as it allows them to open the way to the Celestial Empire for other countries and to be the "gate" for China to the western part of the Eurasian continent. That is why the aspiration of Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries to fully utilize the potential of economic multi-vectority is so grounded. The "Silk Road Economic Belt" opens for the countries of the region the possibility of gradual inclusion in the world market through modernization of transport and logistics infrastructure, attraction of investments and transfer of advanced technologies.

Unfortunately, recently in the media (for example, in Russian) there are quite a few publications where the Belt and the Way are seriously criticized. They refer to "the Pitchers of the Silk Road»Or what is it?became rubbery» By many experts, the initiative is perceived as an element of "containment" of Russia's influence in the Central Asian region as a condition for a balanced, sustainable development of Central Asian countries in the process of modernizing their economies. Agreeing to some extent with this thesis, it is also worth emphasizing that the "Silk Road Economic Zone", designed to stabilize a secure environment for Central Asia, as well as the western regions of China, is very important for Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries.

For almost thirty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Beijing has skillfully and gradually built up its relations with the countries of the region, having achieved impressive results in this direction of foreign policy. To make sure of this, read it only in the media and on the Internet. Even the fact that for the first time about the initiative "Belt and Path" was stated in one of the capitals of Central Asia (Astana, 2013) speaks of a lot. For almost six years, it has been done, not enough. There were no new approaches and methods in the last few years. Beijing does not at all tend to change approaches and methods so often that they bear fruit. Especially since "One belt, one way" has support in the capitals of the countries of Central Asia.

Crossing the interests of China and Russia in the Central Asian region

The interests of China and Russia in the region naturally intersect. This is not surprising. For the countries of Central Asia, cooperation with China and Russia is of great importance. At the same time, the countries of the region are trying to conduct a political dialogue with Beijing and Moscow in accordance with their national interests, often not taking into account the interests of their neighbors. In this issue, it seems to me, Central Asian states need to develop a mechanism that takes into account the interests of all countries in the region. In turn, the interaction of Beijing and Moscow in the Central Asian direction can contribute to the development of logistics projects involving Caspian and Black Sea states. An example is the "Transport Core Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia" (TRACECA), whose prospects largely depend on the plans of the official Beijing to implement the concept "One Belt - One Way". If it is important for Russia today to regain its influence in the region, then for Central Asia, China is primarily a resource for the development of the national economy, primarily the Sinjian-Uigur Autonomous Region (SUAR) and Inner Mongolia. Diversification of sources of natural and energy resources, as well as markets for goods and services, plays an important role here.

At the same time, Beijing acts in accordance with international law and does not seek to dominate Central Asia. This is confirmed not only by the nature of his relations with the Central Asian countries, but also by the call for Moscow to cooperate in the region. The Chinese stratagem "to win without fighting" is the main formula for the current foreign policy of Beijing. Especially since, as noted in his book "China - Russia 2050: Co-development Strategy Boris Kuzyk and Mikhail Titarenko (M., 2006) "China's foreign policy strategy for the next 50 years is defined. It is aimed at ensuring the national interests of the country, its integrity and stability. " Even if the interests of China and Russia in the region of Central Asia are crossed, then, according to the head of the Russian Foreign Office Sergei Lavrov, expressed to him on the foreign policy philosophy of Russia, in Moscow is convinced that in the views of leading international players, the most pressing problems of the modern world are still more general than divergences. Especially in that it concerns not tactical approaches, but ultimate goals. This comment also applies to China's activities in Central Asia. Especially since the President of Russia Vladimir Putin during his visit to China in May 2014 stated that Russia considers China's important initiative to form the EPHS "and appreciates the readiness of the Chinese side to take into account Russian interests during its development and implementation". Summarizing this issue, we note that, despite the clear achievements of China in Central Asia, Moscow still does not recognize the challenge of its influence on the part of Beijing.

The China Belt and Path Initiative is a large-scale initiative aimed at creating railroads, ports and energy infrastructure linking China with Europe, Africa, and the Asian regions. Despite the fact that the project has been criticized by the United States and many EU countries, against the backdrop of economic globalization, OPOP provides unprecedented historical opportunities for the present and future deepening of economic and trade cooperation between the countries of the South Caucasus and Central Asia.

With the help of the initiative, it is possible to implement those projects that are currently under implementation or "ideas":

- Transport Corridor Afghanistan-Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey (Lazurit Corridor);

- Creation of a corridor on the route Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Caspian Sea-South Caucasus with access to the European and Middle Eastern markets;

- use of modern infrastructure of the International seaports in Turkmenbashi (Turkmenistan) and Aktau (Kazakhstan), Baku and seaports of Georgia (Batumi, Poti and Anakliya);

- Establishment of a railway communication on the route Central Asia-China;

- construction of the Armenian-Iranian railroad and others.

Synergy from such an interaction to the benefit of all interested parties. Using the opportunities of the initiative and its promising development programs, the countries of the South Caucasus and Central Asia integrate into global markets and the world economy.

In my opinion, China is largely able to push the West out of Central Asia both politically and economically. In particular, the words of the First President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, which he recently said in an interview, can be mentioned here. the official media of China that China, unlike the West, "never dictates its conditions and does not say" live how we live ".

Of course, the influence of the West on the region as a whole is still significant. The United States and the EU are trying to play their game in Central Asia, promoting their programs, etc. The same Washington launched the "C2015 + 5" format in 1, which holds regular meetings between the US Secretary of State and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the countries of Central Asia, where current issues of cooperation in the field of economics, environment and security are discussed. Washington's super-task here remains the same and reduces itself to minimizing Russian influence. If the West works point-blankly through NGOs and the civil sector, then Beijing acts through economic aid, by providing loans and through a more effective mechanism of "soft power".

By doing everything possible to limit Russian influence here, the West at one point simply missed the same Chinese factor. And today, this factor expresses itself with all its strength, demonstrating to its rivals how easy it is possible to bypass the obstacles encumbered by politicians, if opposed to them seductive economic, or even simply logistic alternatives.

China has been working intensively with Central Asian elites for many years, trying to get them into their orbit with predominant influence. Naturally, investing in the South Caucasus and Central Asia region of Beijing will, whether it is liked by anyone or not, to defend the interests of Chinese capital in the space between the Black Sea and Central Asia. Especially since China has been working intensively with the South Caucasus and Central Asian elites for many years, trying to get them into their orbit with a predominant influence.

The Chinese experts attach great importance to the initiative in the Central Asian region (as opposed to local experts) and emphasize the strategic importance of its implementation in Central Asia. For Beijing, the development of the economy is the key to solving many, if not all, problems. For this purpose, it is necessary to provide soft gun support for such a grand project as "One Belt - One Way." Unlike the United States and the European Union, the Chinese approach is distinguished, above all, by its effectiveness. So, the main tool for using China's "soft power" in the Central Asian region is the Confucius Institutes and Classes, where students learn Chinese, history, spiritual and cultural values ​​of China. Thanks to this, China's perceptions for the better are changing. China is getting closer, clearer, more friendly to people. The cultural and civilization environment of Central Asia introduces the value elements of Chinese worldview, spirituality, including the ideas of Confucianism. By spreading culture and language through the Confucius Institute, Beijing is trying to strengthen the attractive force of China, eliminating the bias, hostility and feelings of threats that existed from China as against the background of "synophobia" from the past.

Already, Chinese has gained the second place in English after studying and is becoming more and more popular among young people. Most likely, in the language plan, Central Asia will follow the formula "to develop Chinese, to keep Russian, to learn English".

China has provided 250 with thousands of grants to train students from the Silk Road Economic Zone countries, thereby expanding the cultural and civilization sphere of China's influence in Central Asia, including the formation of a Middle Eastern-oriented elite, successfully combining modernization and innovation initiatives with the core values ​​of China and similar civilizational bases of the Central Asian countries. In this approach, they do not contradict each other, but on the contrary their opposition to globalization leading to the unification of cultures, the elimination of their national features, and global universalism is reinforced. It also creates opportunities for eventually overcoming the world order by the western model.

At the same time, unlike in the West, and in order to avoid conflicts caused by cultural expansion, in Beijing, efforts are made to ensure that its cultural-civilizational presence in Central Asia is not perceived as a manifestation of hegemony, but only as a partner interaction in for the purpose of mutual participation in the development of multi-civilizational relations. The resulting intercivilization synthesis contributes to national, regional and global security, as well as to the non-conflict development of humanity.

Beijing is so purely "Chinese" and uses "soft power" in Central Asia.

Prepared by Seymour Mammadov (Baku, Azerbaijan), specially for CIACR-South Caucasus