Recent years have seen dynamically growing China’s resurging aspiration towards the ”great geo-economic game” – advancing in the direction of oil and gas fields in the energy resources rich Central Asia, and particularly the Caspian region. Driving force of the Chinese strategy has become the ever-growing demand for energy resources that stems from extremely high economic growth. By the start of this century China significantly expanded its contacts, both politically and economically, with all the five littoral Caspian states, especially with Kazakhstan, pursuing far-reaching geopolitical objectives in the ”Central Asian” direction.
When it comes to the South Caucasus and Azerbaijan in particular, in the last decade there has been a growing keen interest and business activity on the part of the Chinese business circles. Use of Azerbaijan’s infrastructure, namely the Caspian ferry connection in the directions of Manchuria-Russia-Azerbaijan, China-Kazakhstan-Russia-Azerbaijan and China-Alatau-Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan draws China’s particular interest.
Growth of China’s interest towards the Caspian region in the last two decades was impelled by the fact that first, China is apparently cautious of the establishment of the U.S. geopolitical control over the region and expansion of America’s zone of influence to its immediate borders, and second, given the sharp import growth of oil and petroleum products, China aims to secure some sort of oil and gas access in the Caspian, in line with the general objective of ensuring its energy security.
All in all, China has fundamental geo-economic and geopolitical interests in this region and thus, as the time passes, its engagement, especially in the eastern part of the Caspian region, will only increase. It is largely associated with the prospects of China-Kazakhstan and China-Turkmenistan cooperation as a result of which China hopes to significantly enlarge its resource base for development of own petroleum-energy sector. However, U.S.’s advent in the Central Asia may threaten the realization of this vector of the Chinese policy, and thus provoke PRC’s renewed interest in Russian resources. It is no coincidence that in this century, China is making an emphasis on cooperation with Russia and the Central Asian states both on the bilateral basis and within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the BRICS formats.
PhD in Politics