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Contrary to the widely held simplified view – Teil V der Sino-Pak Serie


5. Ausgabe der Sino-Pakistan Serie

Teil I

Teil II

Teil III

Teil IV

Der Mangel an ernstzunehmenden Analysen zur bilateralen Beziehung zwischen Pakistan und China wurde wiederholt dargelegt. Auseinandersetzung mit China’s Zentralasien Politik ist dagegen schon fast zu populär. Niklas Swanström hat als Teil der Silk Road Studies Program Serie ein weiteres Paper in diese Richtung vorgelegt (China and Greater Central Asia: New Frontiers? Silk Road Paper, Dezember 2011). Nichts weiter neues oder besonders lesenswertes, manchmal auch etwas zu viel der Starr’schen New Silk Road Gebete (Zuglinie zwischen Tajikistan und Pakistan, whatever…), aber er richtet seinen Blick auf Greater Central Asia (GCA), zählt dazu auch Pakistan und macht einige wichtige Bemerkungen.

China’s Intentionen – ‘more than the sum of its parts’

Contrary to the widely held simplified view of China, there is no single strategy towards the region. There are significant differences between the central government in Beijing, local governments and private business, differences that could spoil or complicate relations with different actors in GCA. For example, the government in Beijing has one strategy of engagement, Xinjiang has another strategy, which is not always but often, interlinked with the one from Beijing, while other regions also have different policies. This is complicated by the very fact that companies in China are increasingly, and to a great extent, conducting their own business oriented towards economic returns rather than towards increasing China’s soft security.

Swanstroem basiert diese Aussagen auf eigene Interviews in Xinjiang, leider werden solche Quellen selten offengelegt. Aber es reflektiert doch einen Punkt, der in einem Grossteil der ‚China und seine Nachbarn’ Analysen nicht erwähnt wird – China praktiziert seine Außenpolitik nicht als ein Hegemon, sondern ein Staat mit vielen Akteuren und Interessen. Das ist auch für Pakistan der Fall, die Beziehung China – Pakistan auf PLA – FWO zu reduzieren erfasst nur einen Bruchteil der Thematik.

Swanstroem dehnt diese Kritik konkret auf die bekanntesten Narrativen aus, und zweifelt selbst an, ob eine ‚konkrete Strategie’ überhaupt besteht.

John J. Mearsheimer’s call for containment of China in his Tragedy of Great Power Politics was one of the most influential contributions to this debate, while others, such as Alastair Iain Johnston and Robert Ross have argued that China is best integrated into the international community. What has been missed out on to a certain extent is that China has for long been implementing integration policies in the GCA region, as well as in other regions. Certainly the extreme sides that debate frequently among U.S. policymaking and academic circles have failed to capture the nuances in between these polarized views. In fact, a recent Congressional Report points out that the grand strategy behind Beijing’s new use of “soft power,” such as trade and investment, remains largely uncertain even to insiders, if such a grand strategy exists at all. This is something that becomes more evident when looking at the division within China itself and the policy confusion between the three layers and other actors. Regardless of intentions or lack thereof, trade, infrastructure and investments will unavoidably bring a great amount of influence that could be used in whatever way Beijing considers to be in its national interests.

China und Zentralasien – keine neuen Nachbarn

Sich vor allem auf Perdue’s China marches West beziehend (das im letzten Teil vorgestellt wurde), bemerkt Swanström, dass China und seine westlichen Nachbarstaaten fließend ineinander übergehen. Beziehungen die hier heute ‚aufgebaut’ werden, sind meist schon einige Jahrhunderte alt bzw. die zwei Parteien beziehen sich teils sogar auf eine gemeinsame Geschichte.

In fact, it could be argued that the tribes and empires that today form the states in GCA have been heavily involved in the very formation of China and its current political, military and economic outlook. It could even be argued that modern China was built on the very existence of the GCA peoples’ engagement, both negative and positive.

 China vs. der Westen – Zeit und Uhren

China does not rule out a democratic development in the region, on the contrary it is often assumed that such development will happen but Beijing has a more realistic and long-term perspective. Even in the case of the April 2010 “revolution” in Kyrgyzstan, there are more obstacles than positive steps if true democracy is to be established, the Russian involvement being one of the negative factors.


Even if the United States is perceived as having negative goals, the European policy is at best perceived as confusing and at worst aggressive (in terms of regime change, human rights demands, etc.). It is possible that the Lisbon Treaty will change this over time, but in the short-term the EU policy will continue to be fragmented and uncoordinated. Moreover, the European post-modern attitudes do not impress the GCA states, which are still in a very realist environment and have problems relating to the European lack of understanding.

Sino-Russische  Beziehungen – noch eine diffuse Angstquelle

Er geht auch auf ein Thema ein, das in mehreren Posts in letzter Zeit auf Registan diskutiert wurde – China oder Russland als großer Bruder (das betrifft natürlich nur die zentralasiatischen Staaten, Pakistan-Russische Beziehungen sind nicht wirklich vorhanden)?

Increased but weak multilateralism in the region, including Russia, was the preferred strategy, as it would give Beijing increased leverage without being too offensive. Criticism has been made, especially in the West, of the SCO and the reluctance of

Russia to engage in true multilateralism. In the eyes of Beijing, this is not an issue and in many ways China has accepted the idea that Russia views SCO as simply a control mechanism regarding China’s expansion into the region. This is not something entirely negative. Zhao Huasheng, one of China’s foremost analysts of Russia and Central Asia, has on the contrary claimed that this is something positive, as it reduces Russian fears and could even prevent more problematic conflicts.


What is striking in all this cooperation, with the possible exception of Pakistan, is that they are all open for interpretation. This has been a conscious strategy on the part of Beijing, since by keeping all of these agreements open-ended and leaving them intentionally vague, China has managed to keep relations with the United States, Russia, India, Pakistan and Iran on a fairly good footing. This will continue to be the Chinese policy, but it will be increasingly hard as some issues, primarily Iran and Pakistan, are difficult to handle in a neutral way. This does not indicate that China is ready to surpass Russia in the GCA in the short-term, on the contrary, China finds Russia both more powerful in the GCA (excluding Pakistan) and more ready to act, as we have seen in Kyrgyzstan.

Der Artikel stützt die These, dass man nicht viel weiss, oder zumindest versteht. Aber deswegen auch nicht einfach viel erfinden sollte.

About Jakob Steiner

... lived, worked and studied in Australia, Europe and Asia.


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January 2012


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