Pacific Prospective features the research of graduate students.
By Mendee Jargalsaikhan – mendee [at] interchange.ubc.ca
The 12th annual meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) which includes China, Russia, and four Central Asian states, concluded in Beijing on June 7th. Growing Chinese influence and “soft power,” emphasizing persuasion over force, were much on display.
SCO states have been spared the worst of the global financial crisis due in large part to increasing economic interdependence with China. But China’s interests run beyond economics as it aims to win the hearts and minds of Central Asian states. Supporting its call for “harmonious” regional cooperation, China is offering ten billion dollar (USD) loans to members to build the economic and financial infrastructure to meet SCO objectives. It will train 1,500 experts over the next three years and over the next decade provide 30,000 government scholarships and invite 10,000 Chinese language teachers and students from the SCO member states to study in China.
The meeting accepted a new observer, Afghanistan, and a dialogue partner, Turkey. Despite Russia’s support, India failed to gain membership, largely because of Chinese resistance.
Russia is playing an important but junior partner’s role in the SCO. Putin conducted a three-day summit with Chinese leaders on the eve of the SCO meeting. To meet election promises of GDP growth and development of the Russian Far East, he needs China’s support. But his push for a Eurasian Union with former Soviet republics runs against China’s vision.
Russian remains the regional lingua franca of the SCO. Russian political, economic, and cultural influence over Central Asian states shows no signs of decline. Central Asian states rely on Russian investment, technology, market, and security cooperation. The economic infrastructure and financial network between China and Central Asian states remain underdeveloped.
For the moment Russia does not seem to be losing ground in Central Asia. Even as China’s economic role increases, Central Asian states appear to be hedging against with the same objectives as China’s maritime neighbours.
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- SCO Beijing summit concludes, Xinhua, June 7, 2012.