While nobody says so openly in Beijing, Chinese policymakers and Central Asian scholars are confident that Beijing will replace Russia as the region’s most influential and powerful actor, albeit ‘non-aggressively’. Beijing is already the largest trading partner of many countries in the region and its investments into Central Asian energy infrastructure are too massive not to translate into political dominance and hegemony rather sooner than later.
China is an ardent supporter of the regional non-democratic status quo and does not intervene in the region’s regimes’ oppressive policies contain-ing democracy or anything resem-bling it. In return Beijing wants (and largely gets) support for its own oppressive policies to contain Muslim and Islamist separatist movements in the Chinese province of Xinjiang. In order to secure region-wide support for what Beijing calls the region’s ‘three evils’: terrorism, separatism and extremism, China provides the region with generous enough economic, financial support and territorial concessions.
From Russia’s view, Beijing is an uninvited guest challenging Russia’s influence in its strategic backyard. Consequently, Moscow’s enthusiasm for Chinese-driven and financed regional integration in the fields of politics and security remains limited at best, unless it serves to contain Western (above all US) influence and interference. Moscow is wary about China’s rapidly military modernization and remains categorically opposed to the establishment of Chinese military bases in Central Asia.