In the two decades since the countries of Central Asia declared independence, China has become one of their main partners, eclipsing many other actors. This has impacted the international relations of the new states, and structured their economic development. China's influence in the region has, however, raised many questions, ranging from issues of national integrity to economic stability and geopolitical policies.
In terms of economics, hydrocarbons and trade are at the forefront of Chinese activity in the region. Beijing has become a key positive element in the development of a service economy and new technologies, while China's geographical proximity has supported regional development and the insertion of Central Asian countries into world markets. However, Beijing also has played a negative role by using the local economies as mere sources for raw materials and by destroying, through dominating competition, the already very fragile post-Soviet industrial fabric.
On the geopolitical level, how does Central Asia handle its relations with a diverse array of international actors and thus competing interests in order to achieve a positive balance? Central Asian governments have been playing a careful balancing game between the two main actors, Beijing and Moscow. However, many Central Asians argue for countering what they see as an impasse in their countries' partnerships with Russia and China by developing relations with other actors, particularly Muslim countries (such as Turkey, Iran or the UAE) and Western countries. This presentation will address questions at both the economic and geopolitical levels, where Beijing has made it possible to act as a catalyst for political debates about the choices made by Central Asia governments.
Sebastien Peyrouse is the Research Professor of International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs of The George Washington University. He was a doctoral and postdoctoral Fellow at the French Institute for Central Asia Studies in Tashkent (1998-2000 and 2002-2005), a Research Fellow at the Slavic Research Center, Hokkaido University in Sapporo (2006), and a Research Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington (2006-2007). In 2008-2012, he was a Senior Research Fellow with the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program (SAIS, Johns Hopkins University, Washington D.C.) and with the Institute for Security and Development Policy (Stockholm). He is an Associated Scholar with the Institute for International and Strategic Relations (IRIS, Paris), and with the Fundación para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Diálogo Exterior (FRIDE, Madrid) and a member of the Brussels-based EUCAM (Europe-Central Asia Monitoring).
Dr. Peyrouse is the author of Turkmenistan. Strategies of Power, Dilemmas of Development (M. E. Sharpe, 2011), and the co-author of The 'Chinese Question' in Central Asia. Domestic Order, Social Changes, and the Chinese Factor (Hurst, Columbia University Press, 2012) and of Globalizing Central Asia. Geopolitics and the Challenges of Economic Development (M.E. Sharpe, 2012). He has also co-edited China and India in Central Asia. A new "Great Game"? (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), and Mapping Central Asia: Indian Perceptions and Strategies (Ashgate, 2011). His articles have appeared in Europe Asia Studies, Problems of Post-Communism, Nationalities Papers, China Perspectives, Religion, State & Society, Journal of Church and State. He has authored or co-authored seven books on Central Asia in French.