China is increasingly active in Central Asia, building pipelines and infrastructure projects, as well as expanding its diplomatic and cultural presence in the region.
At the same time, Beijing is shoring up its control over Xinjiang, the restive province that borders formerly Soviet Central Asia, relying on ambitious development projects, encouraging settlement by China's majority ethnic Han, and acting aggressively to contain expressions of indigenous Uyghur nationalism.
But it has been difficult to divine the main motivation in China's so-called Western policies. Scholars and analysts studying China's activity in Central Asia differ on what is the driver: whether the effort to pacify Xinjiang is intended to build that region into a secure platform from which to expand economically into Central Asia, or the opposite – that Beijing is building up its Central Asia ties in order to more strongly bind Xinjiang to the rest of China.
To read the full story
Joshua Kucera is a Washington, DC,-based writer who specializes in security issues in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East. He is the editor of EurasiaNet's Bug Pit blog.