Sino-Russian Relations in Central Asia: Challenges, Concerns and Cooperation

Almir Mustafic, Hamza Preljevic


The goal of the paper is to analyze the Sino-Russian relations in Central Asia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The analysis will briefly touch upon the relations between Beijing and Moscow in general but the focus will remain on their relations in the post-Soviet era in Central Asia. Today, China and Russia are BRICS member states. They are united in opposing US unipolarity and they are among the largest and most populous countries in the world. Their border is over 4.000 km long and they are both veto powers on the United Nations Security Council. However, relations between China and Russia have always been complex. At times they waged wars and had border disputes, only to become close allies shortly after. Period of severe conflicts between 1917 and 1950 was followed by a progressive era of oil exploration, student exchanges and various other partnerships. Their rapprochement ended in 1960 and started again in 2008. But the question is: How long wills the rapprochement last? They currently have many things in common but Central Asia remains a potential area of dispute for both countries. Analyzing some accounts on Chinese investments in Central Asia (e.g. Tiezzi, 2014), it becomes obvious that Beijing is highly unlikely to withdraw from the region in case of Russian pressure. On the other hand, Russia is highly unlikely to continue tolerating the rising Chinese influence in Central Asia, as its role has already been significantly reduced in this region. The pipeline that was supposed to connect Siberia with the Chinese province of Xinjiang has been postponed because Putin believes that it could give China leverage over Russia’s internal, as well as external political processes. Putin’s decision will certainly not stop China’s expansion in Central Asia and the Russian Federation will try to avoid a subordinate position in its former republics. This situation complicates their relationship in Central Asia, especially if growing US investments in the region are taken into account. This is why selecting a single IR theory to analyze the Sino-Russian relations in Central Asia is not a simple task. Considering the current circumstances and initiatives by both countries in their internal affairs, as well as in Central Asia, neoclassical realist approach to Sino-Russian relations might give the best results and it will therefore be applied in this paper.


international relations; constructivism; liberalism; realism; neoclassical realism; Sino-Russian relations

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