The People's Republic of China is taking a growing interest in improving economic relations with Central Asian states. Indeed, there are indications that China harbors aspirations of replacing Russia as the dominant economic force in Central Asia, thus placing Beijing in better position to address its domestic security concerns.
Top Chinese leaders made several visits to Central Asian states in July, underscoring China's search for new economic opportunities. During visits to Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, Chinese President Jiang Zemin signed agreements to strengthen security ties and bolster trade. Meanwhile Vice President Hu Jintao traveled to Kazakhstan in late July for talks on the construction of a proposed 3,000-kilometer (1,800-mile) oil pipeline. The project, which was first proposed in 1997, would cost an estimated $3 billion.
Already, China has made considerable investments in Central Asia. In Kazakhstan, for example, China's direct foreign investment reached $1.1 billion in 1999. Meanwhile, Beijing's Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Li Jingxian, indicated that China is eager to create new opportunities in Central Asia. Speaking specifically about Uzbekistan, Li said in an interview broadcast July 30 on Uzbek television: "It is important
Morris Rossabi has recently completed a lengthy study of Sino-Mongolian relations since 1986. This article is derived from that study.