China Looks to Fill a Void in Central Asia
As the Group of Seven met at the end of last week in Hiroshima, Japan, China organized a summit with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, marking a new chapter in Beijing’s engagement with the region. Central Asian states are looking for a new partner to help ensure their own security against domestic rebellions, as Russia’s war in Ukraine has limited Moscow’s ability to fulfill a longstanding role as a guarantor of domestic stability in the region. While most of the summit’s public discussion focused on economic and trade issues, China noted that it would help Central Asia enhance it’s law enforcement and security capabilities, which aligns with Beijing’s intensifying campaign for “global security.”
Central Asia Needs a New Approach to Security
After three decades of independence following the fall of the Soviet Union, Central Asian countries continue to face challenges to their stability and governance. Last year saw large-scale domestic unrest in three of the region’s five countries — Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — and a devastating cross-border conflict between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan was the largest ever trans-boundary escalation in the region. Many of these events follow similar patterns: growing tensions and grievances among citizens lead to protests, which are met with a harsh and disproportionate response including the use of lethal force by security forces, feeding into further mistrust between authorities and the population.
Blinken Debuts New U.S. Approach in Central Asia
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan this week, where he signaled that Washington is changing tact in the region. For nearly two decades, U.S. engagement in the region focused on how it could help Washington in Afghanistan. Following the Afghanistan withdrawal, U.S. policy in Central Asia should be more modest, focused on helping these countries achieve balance in their relations with each other and the outside world, particularly in an era of great power competition. After all, these countries are neighbors of Russia and China and can’t afford to choose sides.