China’s Strengthening Position in Central Asia

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi addresses the opening ceremony of the Fifth Silk Road International Exposition and the Investment and Trade Forum for Cooperation between East and West China via video link in Xi’an, capital city of northwest China’s Shaanxi province, on May 11.
Xinhua/Wei Xiang/Getty Images

China’s Strengthening Position in Central Asia

‘No other external actor is capable of matching China’s economic capacity and investment potential in the region.’

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met in Xi’an on May 12 with the foreign ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in the latest sign of China’s strengthening position in Central Asia.

During the high-level talks, Wang called on the nations to increase cooperation in medicine, agriculture, science and, above all, the infrastructure projects that connect these nations and others involved in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Among the specific infrastructure projects he discussed were the China-Europe freight train, the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway, and various transnational railways. Wang stressed that Central Asia should continue working with China to hasten the completion of these mammoth projects.

Meanwhile, an Asia Plus report published on May 18 shows that accumulated Chinese investment in Tajikistan exceeded $3.1 billion at the end of last year, which eclipsed previous levels and represents more than 35 percent of Tajikistan’s total foreign investment. And China’s trade with and investment into Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are also steadily rising.

Over the last 30 years, China’s foreign direct investment into Central Asia has increased more than 100-fold, and the trend shows no sign of slowing.

“No other external actor is capable of matching China’s economic capacity and investment potential in the region,” Aleksey Asiryan wrote for the Diplomat. As a result, China has “cemented its position as a consequential actor in Central Asia.”

China’s power in the region is not limited to economic influence. The Chinese are also increasingly providing security to Central Asia and even establishing a military presence in parts of the region.

This all points to an increasingly tight grip Beijing is establishing on Central Asia.

It is true that many Central Asians harbor anti-China sentiments. This is due mainly to the Chinese Communist Party’s systematic human rights abuses of peoples that Central Asians are ethnically, culturally and religiously linked to: Uyghurs, Kazakhs and Kyrgyzs minorities in Xinjiang, China. But Central Asian governments generally suppress anti-China demonstrations among their people in order to continue receiving Chinese investment. The Chinese are also operating soft power campaigns to improve their image in the region. And a recent ponars survey shows that despite prevalent Sinophobia among the peoples of Central Asia, a majority are now more likely to approve of Beijing than to disapprove.

There is another potential obstacle China faces that could be termed “the bear in the room”: The fact that the region is former Soviet space and Russia continues to see it as its sphere of influence.

Early in his presidency, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the Soviet Union’s collapse the 20th century’s “greatest geopolitical catastrophe.” The Soviet Union included Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. It placed the peoples of these Central Asian countries—along with those of nine other republics in Russia’s periphery—under Moscow’s control. Putin’s statement reveals that he yearns for the time when all those nations were forged into one colossus beneath the Soviet hammer. He wishes the Soviet Union had not ever busted apart. And among his highest priorities as leader of Russia has been to hammer as much of it as he can back into place.

This priority was clear with his 2008 invasion of Georgia and his campaigns against Ukraine beginning in 2014. In both instances, Putin reversed part of that “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” by returning segments of these former Soviet states to Russian control.

Would his goals for the Central Asian nations be any different for those related to other former Soviet countries?

Some analysts have argued that Russia’s Soviet legacy in the region and its ongoing strategic interests in Central Asia could clash with China’s increasing interests. But in reality, Beijing and Moscow have come to an understanding about their interests in Central Asia, partly by approaching the region jointly—through the multinational security alliance called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. This massive bloc, dominated by Russia and China, includes India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Asiryan wrote:

While China has the upper hand in its dealings with Russia, Beijing has been very sensitive to Moscow’s strategic and political interests in Central Asia. Russia, on the other hand, had to loosen its economic grip over the region. Whether by choice or out of necessity, the Russia-China tandem continues to peacefully coexist. Institutions like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (sco) became an integral part of this framework. … While China’s military presence in the region is not an ideal scenario for Russia, it is unlikely to turn the two against each other. Russia-China military cooperation is only gaining momentum. It is in the interests of both countries to continue this trend.

So China is well positioned to keep overcoming both anti-Chinese sentiments in Central Asia and potential frictions with Russia, the region’s former hegemon. “Overall,” Asiryan writes, “China finds itself in a very good position to consolidate its economic control over Central Asia.” As such it will likely continue to cement its “position as a consequential actor in Central Asia.”

China’s deepening influence in Central Asia and beyond is rebalancing the world economy. The bri and related initiatives are helping end the era of a unipolar world and are propelling China along the fast track toward superpower status. And these trends take on deep meaning when viewed through the lens of Bible prophecy.

Prophecy shows that in the era shortly before the return of the Prince of peace, a worldwide era termed “the times of the Gentiles” will start. Jesus Christ Himself used this term in Luke 21:24, saying: “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”

In the Trumpet’s February 2020 issue, editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote, “These ‘times of the Gentiles’ are yet to be fully realized. However, we are in the outer edges of this catastrophic storm” (“The Climax of Man’s Rule Over Man”).

The term Gentile, he explained, means “non-Israelite peoples.” And Israel “refers to a lot more than just the little nation in the Middle East.” In end-time prophecies, it predominantly describes modern-day America and Britain. (For a complete explanation, order your free copy of The United States and Britain in Prophecy, by Herbert W. Armstrong.)

Mr. Flurry continued: “Once you understand who Israel is, then you can see how the Gentiles—the non-Israelite peoples—have started to take charge of the world already.”

For decades, American and British leadership stabilized much of the word and advanced civilization. But during the times of the Gentiles, America and Britain will be broken powers and the world will be run mainly by tyrannical rulers that lead two main groups of non-Israelite nations. “While there are many Gentile nations around today,” he wrote, “when this prophecy is completely fulfilled there will be two major powers—one revolving around Russia and China, and the other around Germany.”

China’s deepening influence across Central Asia represents a notable boost in Beijing’s global power. It is also being accomplished in a way that continues to reinforce the China-Russia bond. As such, this trend is a significant development helping set the stage for these “times of the Gentiles” to be fulfilled.

To understand what this means for you, and to learn about the profoundly good news connected to these developments, read Mr. Flurry’s article “The Climax of Man’s Rule Over Man.”