Central Asia-China Relations and Their Relative Weight in Chinese Foreign Policy

  • Jean-Pierre Cabestan
Part of the The Sciences Po Series in International Relations and Political Economy book series


Ever since they declared their independence from the Soviet Union in late 1991, the five new Central Asian nation-states have kept Chinese foreign policy decision-makers busy—probably busier than they initially imagined they would be, not only because of the fresh challenges that this new reality triggered but also because of the unanticipated opportunities it brought in. There is also little doubt that, as far as Central Asia is concerned, security has been Beijing’s top priority: border security, impact of these independent states on the situation in Xinjiang, as well as in Pakistan and Western Asia, in particular Afghanistan. The key role played by China in the creation of the Shanghai Group in 1996 and of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in June 2001 has been a much publicized illustration of this persistent preoccupation. The 9/11 attacks and the United States’ “global war against terrorism” have brought security issues into sharp focus in China’s relations with Central Asian countries. However, the world’s sacred union against Al Qaeda has also put the SCO under stress, compelling China to work out a more complex balance to the benefit of the latter, between, on the one hand, this multilateral arrangement and, on the other, the bilateral relations it had developed with each Central Asian country as well as with Russia. The growing danger of Islamic terrorism has also convinced Beijing to “walk on two legs” and place a bigger emphasis on economic cooperation and trade with Central Asia, a major factor contributing, in its view, to security on its western borders as well as in Xinjiang.


Security Objective Chinese Authority Central Asian Country Shanghai Cooperation Organization Chinese Foreign Policy 
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Copyright information

© Marlène Laruelle, Jean-François Huchet, Sébastien Peyrouse, and Bayram Balci 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean-Pierre Cabestan

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