The five countries in Central Asia — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan — all display varying degrees of authoritarian rule. Across the region, local economies are stymied by corruption, resulting in a dissatisfied and increasingly vocal populace (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 18 October 2019). In two of the republics, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, election-related demonstrations have altered the political landscape, but across the board, state directed-force and mob brutality are rife.
In this paper, we explore the third strategy in China’s toolkit by examining the activities of Chinese PSCs in Central Asia, a region of vital importance to the success of the Belt and Road Initiative.
The U.S. is largely exiting the region as a security partner, while Moscow continues to retain a strategic edge over Beijing. But the gap is closing, and, if the trends continue, Moscow may find its influence further undermined in the coming decade.