China, Russia and the Balance of Power in Central Asia

By Rumer, Eugene B. | Strategic Forum, November 2006 | Go to article overview

China, Russia and the Balance of Power in Central Asia


Rumer, Eugene B., Strategic Forum


Key Points

Russia and China increasingly seek to offset U.S. influence in Central Asia through enhanced cooperation conducted under the banner of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). While its impact is often exaggerated, the SCO does offer certain benefits to the states of the region, as well as to Moscow and Beijing, that the United States can ill afford to ignore.

The United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies play a critical role in Central Asia through their stabilizing presence in Afghanistan, something that neither Russia nor China can match. Central Asia's geostrategic qualities keep America strongly interested in retaining access and building cooperative, stable relations with regional states. Russia and China oppose U.S. democracy promotion as naive or subversive (or both). Yet neither has articulated a vision for systemic change and long-term stability in the region.

Russia's influence is a matter of its imperial past, economic interdependence, and trading routes. Russia depends on Central Asian energy resources and labor, but its control over both gives it leverage over the region. China's influence has been growing due to expanding trade, acquisition of energy resources, and overall rise as a major power.

China and Russia will remain significant actors in Central Asia, and advancing U.S. interests in this region will become more complicated if Russia and China are ignored. Dialogue and limited cooperation with both countries in areas of mutual interest should be important elements of a successful U.S. strategy for the region.

The SCO Record

Since the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) called upon the United States to commit to withdraw its military personnel from Central Asia at its July 2005 summit, the SCO has acquired the reputation as a significant obstacle to U.S. policy. However, this reputation obscures the real state of affairs. Notwithstanding press reports about the challenge posed by the SCO to U.S. policy in Central Asia, a close look at the organization, the behavior of its members, their motivations, and the practical impact of their declarations suggests that the SCO's challenge to U.S. interests and policies in Central Asia is less than meets the eye.

But ignoring the SCO simply because of its limited capabilities for action and concrete results would be a mistake; it is more than a paper tiger. As a political organization, it is an important vehicle for Russian and Chinese diplomacy aimed to counter U.S. influence in the region. The SCO also provides a forum where Central Asian states, dwarfed by their giant neighbors, can sit at the table with them as equals, at least nominally. For all these reasons, the SCO is worth the attention of the United States. The question is what kind of attention we should pay to it.

The SCO has its origins in the April 1996 meeting of the heads of the Shanghai Five states--China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan--to address border management issues, enhance cross-border cooperation, and promote confidence-building measures. In an effort to put the legacy of Sino-Soviet tensions behind them and to avoid new friction arising from the uncertainties of the post-Soviet era, the heads of the Shanghai Five states signed the Treaty on Deepening Military Trust in Border Regions in 1996 and the Treaty on Reduction of Military Forces in Border Regions in 1997. The annual meetings of the Five continued until 2001, with the addition of Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov as a guest in 2000. Beyond the annual gatherings and the two initial treaties, however, the Five's record of accomplishment was quite slim.

In June 2001, the original five states and Uzbekistan established the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and issued a declaration in which they pledged to work together to enhance mutual security and stability in their region. In 2003, a joint counterterrorism center was established in Shanghai; in 2004, a Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure was established in Tashkent; and in 2006, SCO members agreed to establish a new institute to fight transnational crime. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

China, Russia and the Balance of Power in Central Asia
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.