Skip to main content

Kazakhstan on China’s Diplomatic Silk Road

The Diplomat


A new report highlights Kazakhstan as receiving the greatest volume and diversity of Beijing’s public diplomacy activities in South and Central Asia.

Catherine Putz
Kazakhstan on China’s Diplomatic Silk Road

Nazarbayev attending the 2019 Belt and Road Forum in Beijing a month after resigning from the Kazakh presidency.

Credit: Jason Lee/Pool Photo via AP

Since its 2013 launch, China’s Belt and Road Initiative has become Beijing’s flagship foreign policy initiative. Sometimes it seems that all things are BRI and BRI is all things. 

As the authors of a new report on Chinese public diplomacy writ large note, “Beijing’s diplomacy… dwarfs its other public diplomacy tools in terms of sheer scale and visibility.” 

The BRI instigated a growth in the volume of financial diplomacy — encompassing infrastructure projects, budget support, debt relief and humanitarian assistance — particularly in South and Central Asia. Chinese funding of development projects pre-dates the initiative, of course, and increased sharply as early as 2008.

In a new report, titled Silk Road Diplomacy: Deconstructing Beijing’s toolkit to influence South and Central Asia, a group of scholars at William & Mary’s AidData research lab, supported by the U.S. State Department and in partnership with the Asia Society Policy Institute and the China Power Project of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), analyze a mountain of data regarding Chinese public diplomacy since 2000, “to illuminate which tools Beijing deploys, with whom, and to what effects in the SCA region.”

The report is worth diving into in full, but I want to highlight a few specifics that were particularly interesting regarding Chinese financial diplomacy and Kazakhstan. Financial diplomacy, with BRI as its contemporary flagship, is an oversized aspect within China’s broader public diplomacy efforts. Several of the report’s major findings — for example, that “Beijing’s financial diplomacy is associated with a higher number of Chinese migrants and new Chinese firms” and that its financial diplomacy efforts “can incur a public backlash” — are not necessarily surprising. But they do help explain a cyclical and cynical pattern in which Beijing’s public diplomacy efforts, including financial diplomacy, are deployed “as a means to win over foreign publics and advance its national interests” but certain aspects, in certain countries, are counterproductive. 

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

Kazakhstan is a prime example. China has directed more than a quarter of its financial diplomacy investments to Kazakhstan which has had its share of anti-Chinese protests. The report references both the 2016 land code protests and the 2019 protests. But these negative sentiments exist alongside positive perspectives on China as a partner, whether for infrastructure investment, educational and work opportunities, or trade.

Citizens in South and Central Asia more broadly, the report authors note, “hold more polarized views when it comes to Beijing’s financial diplomacy: these efforts are associated with both lower approval and disapproval of Chinese government leadership.” (emphasis mine). Put more simply, it appears that the more engaged China is in a given country, in both financial diplomacy terms and also with regard to elite visits, the more intense public attitudes.

The report cites studies that suggested that China allocated more of its financial diplomacy efforts to areas where public opinion about China, at baseline, is more favorable. “If this is the case,” the report authors write, “then financial diplomacy efforts may be diminishing and even reversing some of these favorable attitudes over time.” 

Interestingly, the report notes that China has placed “a disproportionate emphasis on wooing two countries—Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan —with its exchange diplomacy in the form of sister cities and student scholarships.” Perhaps this is a counterweight to the negative attitudes generated by infrastructure projects, in part due to the abovementioned higher numbers of Chinese migrants and firms associated with Chinese financial diplomacy. 

“Kazakhstan receives the greatest volume and diversity of Beijing’s public diplomacy activities out of the 12 SCA countries we examined,” the report notes. That volume and diversity is reflected in strong attitudes, as noted above: positive among elites courted by China and trending more negative among the general public. Interviewees, the report states, said this disconnect — success in bolstering support among political elites and lagging behind in “strengthing ties with the average Kazakh” — stems from “‘a fundamental misunderstanding of Kazakhstan in China,’ arguing that Beijing fails to anticipate and respond when decisions taken by political elites are seen by the public as benefiting Beijing at the expense of Kazakh people.”

Check out the full report here.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

SSG Commando Muddassir Iqbal of Pakistan Army

“ Commando Muddassir Iqbal was part of the team who conducted Army Public School operation on 16 December 2014. In this video he reveals that he along with other commandos was ordered to kill the innocent children inside school, when asked why should they kill children after killing all the terrorist he was told that it would be a chance to defame Taliban and get nation on the side. He and all other commandos killed children and later Taliban was blamed.
Muddassir Iqbal has deserted the military and now he is  with mujahedeen somewhere in AF PAK border area”
For authenticity of  this tape journalists can easy reach to his home town to interview his family members or   ISPR as he reveals his army service number”
Asalam o Alaikum: My name is Muddassir Iqbal. My father’s name is Naimat Ali. I belong to Sialkot divison (Punjab province), my village is Shamsher Poor and district, tehsil and post office  Narowal. Unfortunately I was working in Pakistan army. I feel embarrassed to tell you …

China's Raise as a Maritime Power

China's Rise as a Maritime PowerOcean Policy from Mao Zedong to Xi JinpingTAKEDA Jun’ichiSenkaku IslandsApr 23, 2014 PDF Download1. IntroductionThe international community has been viewing China's recent moves relating to the seas as representing "maritime expansion," and the Chinese themselves have come to talk about making their country a maritime power. In the political report he delivered in the autumn of 2012 to the eighteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which stands at the top of the country's power structure, General Secretary Hu Jintao declared, "We should enhance our capacity for exploiting marine resources, develop the marine economy, protect the marine ecological environment, resolutely safeguard China's maritime rights and interests, and build China into a maritime power."1 This was Hu's final report as the top leader of the CPC; after delivering it he stepped down from his posts as general secretary and chairm…

Guardians of the Belt and Road

Guardians of the Belt and RoadThe internationalization of China's private security companiesby Helena Legarda and Meia NouwensFollowing the build-up of infrastructure and investment projects along China’s extensive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), private security companies from China are also increasingly going global – to protect Chinese assets and the growing number of Chinese nationals living and working in countries along the BRI, in sometimes unstable regions. Out of the 5,000 registered Chinese private security companies, 20 provide international services, employing 3,200 security personnel in countries like Iraq, Sudan and Pakistan.The impact of this newly developing Chinese activity abroad is analyzed in this MERICS China Monitor. Chinese private security companies’ international activities pose a challenge to European interests as they are often largely unregulated and their security staff are often inexperienced in dealing with serious conflict situations and combat. EU …