While attention in Central Asia in late August was fixated on the looming leadership transition in Uzbekistan, another event with even greater potential to reshape the region occurred in Kyrgyzstan: an apparent suicide bomber attacked the Chinese embassy in Bishkek, killing himself and wounding at least three others.
If this does turn out to be a terror attack against China, the consequences for the regional balance of power could be significant. While China has overtaken Russia as Central Asia’s leading economic power, Beijing to date has been more cautious in projecting its political and military influence, sensitive to the feelings of the region’s traditional power, Russia.
Nevertheless, China has been gradually building up its security presence in Central Asia, and it is easy to imagine that the August 30 bombing of its Bishkek embassy could prompt Chinese leaders to adopt a significantly more aggressive posture in the region.
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Joshua Kucera is a Washington, DC-based freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East. He is the editor of EurasiaNet's Bug Pit blog.