Rising Anti-Chinese Sentiment in Central Asia: A Harbinger of Regional Unrest?

This paper suggests that understanding China’s broad strategy, the reasons for rising Sinophobia, and Beijing’s capabilities, are of critical importance for projecting the geopolitical future of the region.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has affected the world in an unprecedented way, affecting production, supply chains and the mobility of people and goods. This includes China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). While Beijing’s soft power is expanding in Central Asia, economic and diplomatic dependence on Beijing has given rise to a widespread anti-Chinese sentiment among the local population. This paper suggests that understanding China’s broad strategy, the reasons for rising Sinophobia, and Beijing’s capabilities, are of critical importance for projecting the geopolitical future of the region. This discussion paper is divided into three parts. The first section details China’s strategic logic behind its interests in Central Asia by providing historical context, and its stated geopolitical and economic objectives. The second section evaluates the characteristic of China’s Central Asian Projects. The third section sheds light on up-to-date local reactions of the Central Asian countries and identifies the reasons for rising anti-Chinese sentiment amidst rising geopolitical rivalry in the region.

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