China recently hosted its first in-person summit with the five Central Asian states known as the C5 (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan), signalling its growing clout in a region traditionally dominated by Russia.
Asked about the strengthening of economic and security ties between China and the C5, Pan Guang (潘光), the former director of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS) and now a senior researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, made the following assessment:
“Over the years, relations between China and Central Asian countries have developed relatively quickly. The reason for this is that we have complementary economies and common interests in such areas as countering terrorism and opposing colour revolutions. Of course, the current Russo-Ukrainian war is also an important factor … China and the five Central Asian countries are basically on the same page when it comes to this conflict. Central Asia was once a part of the Soviet Union. It does not want the Russo-Ukrainian war to continue and will of course not be recognising Russia’s ‘referendums’ pertaining to these territorial issues.”
Although optimistic about the future of China’s ties with the C5, Pan acknowledges that certain difficulties still lie ahead, highlighting both anti-China sentiment at the grassroots level and the influence of the West in the region.