Analysis & Opinions - Insight Turkey

The Silk Road between a Rock and a Hard Place: Russian and Chinese Competition for Central Asia's Energy

| Oct. 01, 2018

China’s displacement of Russian economic influence in Central Asia is generating great interest in Western academic and policy circles, but this research has, as yet, yielded few analytical nuances. This article attempts to shed light on the under-researched question of what explains Central Asian governments’ failure to more effectively capitalize on the growing Central Asian rivalry between Russia, China, the United States, Turkey, Iran, South Korea, Japan, and other regional powers that, since the early 1990s, has been overwhelmingly directed towards strategic energy considerations and hydrocarbon interests.

For centuries, from the first Tsarist-era conquests in the 18th century and through 70 years of Soviet dominance in the 20th century, Russia ruled the massive but thinly populated region of Central Asia. Central Asia is composed of arid steppes and mountains running from Siberia in the north, to the Pamir and Karakoram Mountains in the south and the Caspian Sea in the west. This massive area was generally known as Turkestan until the Soviet Union began to create smaller composite republics composed loosely along linguistic lines. Five republics were founded under the Soviet principle of economic collectivization, centralized political institutions and the Russian language as a lingua franca. Central Asia’s abundant resources –including oil, natural gas, minerals andcotton– went toward sustaining the Soviet economic machine, and road, railway, and pipeline networks linked the region to Russia.

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For Academic Citation: Skalamera, Morena.“The Silk Road between a Rock and a Hard Place: Russian and Chinese Competition for Central Asia's Energy.” Insight Turkey, October 1, 2018.