CASI RESEARCH SEMINAR: Major Powers and Regionalism in Central Asia

CASI RESEARCH SEMINAR: Major Powers and Regionalism in Central Asia

January 27, 2016

January 27, 2015

Peter Krasnopolsky,
PhD candidate, University of Nottingham, School of International Studies, China, CASI Visiting Scholar


After the dissolution of the USSR, post-Soviet Central Asia had predisposition and capacity to emerge as a coherent region. However, in the past decades the degree of cooperation and exchanges between the five states has declined. The literature generally agrees on internal (inter-regional) constraints to cooperation among Central Asian states. However, there is little consensus regarding the roles played by major powers, particularly Russia and China, on Central Asian regionalism. The research aims to explain how the nature of these two countries’ engagement affects the degree of regional cooperation among the five Central Asian states.

The study utilizes rationalist approach and looks at various networked sectors which have the capacity to enhance regional connectivity. These include transportation, energy, finance, telecommunications and institutions building. In each sector the projects which have been financed or promoted by Russia and / or China are examined and the outcomes of these projects’ effect on regional cooperation and connectivity are analyzed.

Russia-led Eurasian integration and China’s “Silk Road” rhetoric, as well as multilateral regional initiatives promoted by both countries (e.g. Shanghai Cooperation Organization) are commonly viewed as mechanisms for enhancement of regional ties. The initial research suggest that Russia’s support for projects is directed towards its institutional allies at the Eurasian Union, largely disregarding ties with other Central Asian states, i.e. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. At the same time, China-led and funded projects have no consistent effects on regional cooperation in Central Asia. Chinese engagement may facilitate regional cooperation, but may also hinder it or do nothing to it. Despite its economic power, China is not always able to promote projects of regional significance.

Studying the nature of Russia’s and China’s engagement in post-Soviet Central Asia is important both for assessing Sino-Russian relations and for understanding regional politics in the heart of Eurasia. The research would contribute towards understanding relations between Central Asian states and determine whether Central Asia is the area for cooperation or competition between the two major powers. This research also aims to contribute towards broader IR research theme on the nature of regionalism and the roles attributed to major powers in this process.

Short bio:

Peter is a PhD candidate at the University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China. His research focuses on multilateral cooperation in the post-Soviet Central Asia. Peter aims to explain how the nature of China’s and Russia’s engagement in the region affects the degree of connectivity between the five Central Asian states. He studies projects promoted and financed by China and Russia in sectors which have the ability to influence regional cohesion. In Bishkek he is conducting semi-structured interviews with experts, officials and business representatives.

Peter obtained his Master’s in International Relations from Nanyang Technoogical University in Singapore and Bachelor’s in Business Management from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey in the USA. He lives in Beijing, China.

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