Over the past few years, the lion’s share of the countries in Central Asia (CA) have been undergoing a period involving social, economic, and political transformation. The region desperately needs to put transportation and social projects in place, create new jobs, industries, and energy facilities, and improve the quality of education and healthcare, all of which entails tremendous financial costs that the governments of these young countries are not ready to spend due to the glaringly obvious lack of funds. That is why the leadership in Central Asian countries has objectively been forced to turn to various players on the outside for help resolving their domestic troubles, and to obtain outside investments.
Although the scope of financing allocated by the World Bank and its organizations is measured in tens of millions of dollars per year for this or that country across Central Asia, that is usually targeted toward very narrowly focused projects, and cannot influence the overall economic situation. The volumes of loans and financial assistance provided by the IMF are somewhat larger, but they are most frequently used to help balance a country’s budget, and cannot be something that drives growth either.
In this situation, that country pins the bulk of its hopes on other countries that it partners with. Rather significant assistance is provided through the EAEU, but the total amount of resources that this organization has at its disposal is still relatively small.
In these conditions, from among the main external players that are present in this region – Russia, China, and the United States – the role played by the PRC in recent years has taken on the most prominence since, unlike the United States, China’s strategy in Central Asia has not changed for several decades, and is based on three main rules: not to interfere in the domestic affairs of countries, or their relations with each other; to focus on economic cooperation; to strive to boost its international reputation. The policy China espouses in Central Asia completely suits the current leadership in that region’s countries.
As a result, China has bolstered its position in the region as its largest and most important investor in recent years, especially since Central Asia is of particular importance to China. Beijing’s interests are underpinned by three considerations.