CHINA’S POLICY TOWARDS CENTRAL ASIA AND THE SHANGHAI COOPERATION ORGANISATION
At the beginning of the 21st century the Chinese leaders considered Central Asia a region of vital importance. When China emerged again as one of the “key players” in the world, Central Asia become one of its priorities in foreign policy. China aims at re-establishing of its historic ties with this region exercising a more flexible, co-operative and restrained policy towards the Western neighbours. China’s engagement in Central Asia, and in the process of the creation the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, as well as its strengthening, constitute an important part of Beijing’s diplomacy. Today Chin’s overall diplomatic strategy has two aims: 1) the creation of an international environment favourable to its economic development, in particular around the borders, and 2) fostering a widely accepted Chinese regional leadership.
China’s policy towards Central Asia has more specific objectives: to legitimise its positions on major international principles and issues; to strengthen its relations with Russia; and to counterpoise the United States.
In addition to these one can enumerate several other, more practical objectives. First of all, China wants to prevent any political changes in the region that could disturb her stable and peaceful internal development. Her presence in Central Asia aims at maintaining stability on her 7,000 km borders with the neighbours. The co-operation with other SCO members offers a suitable framework for the common struggle against terrorist organisations and radical Islamic movements in the region. Such actions are intended, in particular, to weaken or eliminate the political and logistic bases of support for separatist Uyghur movements in the Xinjiang province. China is ready to assist the Central Asian republics in their efforts of confronting their domestic security challenges, including terrorism, separatism, religious extremism and drug trafficking which also threat China itself.
Being the world’s number two primary energy consumer, and developing so fast, China must take care of her increasing energy demands. Central Asia, rich in such natural resources, is of crucial importance in this respect. The petroleum and gas supply from Central Asia is also important from a strategic point of view. The diversification of the foreign sources of energy is seen as a crucial factor in the Chinese economic policy. The co-operation within the SCO has to serve this objective as well.
In the foreseeable future China will continue to promote its interests in Central Asia. Various obstacles on this way will not halt its efforts, in particular as the long term interests are concerned. China is committed to steadily expanding its presence in Central Asia and the SCO’s will serve as a main regional entry port for its multilateral policy in the region