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Facebook Live: Central Asian Perceptions of Great Powers: A Prototype for the Post-Unipolar World?

Date & Time

Jul. 21, 2020
1:00pm – 1:45pm ET


Central Asia may serve as a prototype for the post-unipolar world. Indeed, three great powers – Russia, China, and the U.S. – all have varying degrees of interest in the region. How do ordinary citizens of Central Asia view these great power players? How will opinions change in the coming years?

Our speakers aim to explore Central Asia's multivectoral policies, the Sino-Russian relationship, and the loss of influence of the U.S. in the region.

This conversation was the seventh in an occasional Kennan Institute series featuring discussions with leading experts and thinkers on Russia and Eurasia.

View that conversation here.

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Selected Quotes

Marlène Laruelle

“...All these Chinese efforts don’t necessarily translate into a Sinophilic position by Central Asians. We have research done on young Central Asians studying in Confucius Institutes. Everyone wants to learn Chinese because that’s a guarantee for professional opportunities, but that doesn’t make people pro-China.”

“In Kyrgyzstan, for example, there is a real feeling of disappointment in the U.S. because there has been a gap between what the U.S. has been saying about its own interests for the region and its own engagement for the region and whether the people have been perceiving as being well, in fact quite low engagements, the U.S. is only interested in Central Asia because of Afghanistan, or because of Iran, or because of China, Russia, but not really for the region. I think the U.S. has been sending very mixed signals about the reason of their engagement in the region and therefore that contributed to a kind of disillusionment pattern.”

“We have very clearly in the Gallup data that you don’t have any geopolitical division pro-U.S., pro-Russia, pro-China. You have people who are open to any kind of international influence and people who are isolationists, so statistically, if you are pro-Russian, you are also pro-U.S. and pro-Chinese or if you are anti-one-of-the-three, you are anti-the-three-of-them. What is interesting is that this kind of isolationist position is mostly visible among the ethnic majority. If you are a rural, Kazakh-speaking Kazakh, you have more chances to be anti-U.S., anti-China, anti-Russia. If you are an urban elite, Russian-speaking, you have much more of a chance statistically to be in favor of the three powers. The division is really multi-vectorism or isolationism, but not really a geopolitical choice one country against the two others.”

Bradley Jardine

“It seems to be becoming clear that we are entering an era of Great Power rivalry. America’s post-Soviet unipolar moment appears to be rapidly coming to an end, so in this context, Central Asia offers something of an interesting case study, bordering many of the Great Powers and being right in the epicenter of a rising Asia, not just in terms of China, but also with other powers and actors in the region such as India and also increasingly Korea and Japan being active in the region more broadly.”

“One thing that was interesting in your report is there seems to be a correlation between having friends and relatives in the target country. In Russia, they help reinforce the positive view of Russia in a sense, but in China, it can really be a double-edged sword where you have friends and relatives being possibly sent to reeducation camps or at least having their communications cut with their family. I imagine that reinforces negative perceptions in the region.”

“The one place where Russia seems to be losing a little bit of ground to China is Uzbekistan, which is gaining a lot of interest with its post-Karimov reforms ongoing and the fact that it’s such a powerful actor in the region. A lot of people are eyeing it.”

Hosted By

Kennan Institute

The Kennan Institute is the premier U.S. center for advanced research on Russia and Eurasia and the oldest and largest regional program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Kennan Institute is committed to improving American understanding of Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the surrounding region though research and exchange.  Read more

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