Central Asia: China Replaces Russia


November 17, 2010: Although Russia dominated Central Asia for centuries, China, and the booming Chinese economy, is now moving in. Chinese traders and businessmen are all over the place. The traders offer the best prices and the widest variety of goods. The Chinese businessmen offer the most attractive deals, although Kazakhstan turned down a Chinese proposal to rent a million hectares (2.5 million acres) of unused farmland, and allow Chinese farmers in to work it. This sort of thing scares Central Asians, who have a population of less than 65 million, compared to 1,400 million Chinese. But the Chinese are being allowed to build highways and railways that will connect all of Eurasia, as well as oil and gas pipelines carrying energy to China. This is all good, as long as the Chinese don't try to export a lot of people. This is a real fear, because Russia conquered Central Asia in the 19th century, and held on to it until the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991. China could replace Russia, and there isn't a lot the people of Central Asia could do about it. Despite that, the Central Asian states believe that the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) may help keep the Chinese under control. The SCO consists of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, with Mongolia, Pakistan, India and Iran as associate members, or "observers". Russia, and the Central Asian states, are trying to get India made a member, as a counterbalance to China. The SCO, unofficially, exists to keep the peace between China and Russia over economic activities in Central Asia. At the moment, China is winning the race to develop large oil and gas fields in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. China needs the energy, and is willing to pay whatever it takes. Since the Central Asian nations are run by corrupt leaders, often dictators, the Chinese have an easy, if expensive, way to gaining control of natural resources. At the moment, Russia is more concerned with halting, or much reducing, the flow of opium, hashish and heroin from Afghanistan to Russia. These drugs have created millions of addicts and major social problems. Russia has supplied the United States with extensive information on the drug gangs in Afghanistan, and throughout Central Asia, and how the smuggling networks operate. Russia is also trying to get more cooperation from Central Asian governments as well. But in many of these countries, senior officials are on the drug gang payrolls.

Kyrgyzstan finally (two weeks ago) reported the results of the October 10 elections. Five parties each got more than five percent of the vote, and qualified for a share the 120 parliamentary seats, but none have a majority and a coalition has not emerged to form a new government.

Tajikistan has declared  the recent uprising by the UTO (United Tajik Opposition) and IMU (Islamic Union of Uzbekistan) defeated. The IMU was operating but in the southeast, about 80 kilometers from the Afghan border. The UTO were in the north. The government claims these opposition groups are Islamic terrorists, but many of the "terrorists" are more upset about corruption and other grievances. There is a lot of popular opposition to the government. Only about two-thirds of the conscripts needed by the armed forces can be rounded up, with most eligible young men avoiding the draft.

November 10, 2010: Tajikistan forced 134 of its citizens to return from Egypt, where they were studying at Egyptian universities without Tajik government permission. The government feared that the young Tajiks would be radicalized by Islamic terror groups in Egypt. The parents of the students paid to get their kids to the Egyptian schools because they were cheap, and provided a religiously approved education as well.


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