The Chinese Question in Central Asia

Domestic Order, Social Change, and the Chinese Factor

Marlène Laruelle


Sébastien Peyrouse

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The Chinese Question in Central Asia Hardback
October 2012£45.00
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Since the start of the 2000s, the People’s Republic of China has become an increasingly important player on the Central Asian scene, both diplomatically and strategically, in particular through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. At the economic level, China has positioned itself among the largest traders and investors in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. This growing Chinese presence has drastically challenged the traditional influence of Russia and weakened that of the United States and Europe. This book goes beyond a geopolitical analysis by discussing China as an external influential factor in the domestic order in neighbouring Central Asia. It engages in an analysis of the contemporary transformations that are occurring within the systems and societies of Central Asia. It demonstrates that China has become a subject of public debate, academic and expert knowledge. New cultural mediators, petty traders, lobby groups, migrants, and diasporas, have also emerged. China’s rise to power has worked as a catalyst to the anxieties and phobias associated with the major social transformations that have occurred in Central Asia over the last two decades, meaning that Sinophobia and Sinophilia are now closely associated.


Marlène Laruelle is Research Professor at the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES), The Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University. She has spent five years in Central Asia and have published numerous articles and policy papers on the growing Chinese presence in Central Asia.

Sébastien Peyrouse is Research Professsor of International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University.  In 2008-2012, he was a Senior Research Fellow with the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program (SAIS, Johns Hopkins University, Washington D.C.) and with the Institute for Security and Development Policy (Stockholm). He is an Associated Scholar with the Institute for International and Strategic Relations (IRIS, Paris), and with the Fundación para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Diálogo Exterior (FRIDE, Madrid) and a member of the Brussels-based EUCAM (Europe-Central Asia Monitoring).


The Chinese Question in Central Asia gives a clear-eyed view of an evolving situation.’ — Asian Review of Books

‘In contemporary Central Asia, China looms large in regional political, economic, and cultural landscapes. The multi-faceted extent of this influence today is expertly analysed and presented by Laruelle and Peyrouse in this powerfully compelling and thought-provoking book.’—Asian Affairs

‘Laruelle and Peyrouse draw on a lifetime of study of Central Asia to provide a clinical analysis of the many different aspects of China’s relationship with the region. The result is a book with an academic’s clinically, objective analysis showing the magnitude  and game-changing nature of China’s investments in the developing world.’ — Raffaello Pantucci, RUSI Journal

‘A valuable book that provides knowledge about the relatively new and developing relationship between China and the five states in Central Asia.’ — Bizindia

‘Laruelle and Peyrouse have written an outstanding book on a much neglected but critically important subject. Their analysis of China’s growing interests and influence in Central Asia combines first-rate scholarship, deep understanding, and lucid writing. This will surely remain the seminal work on the subject for many years to come, indispensable to scholars and policy-makers alike.’ — Bobo Lo, independent scholar and consultant, author of Axis of Convenience: Moscow, Beijing, and the New Geopolitics

‘This is a multifaceted and timely contribution to the literature on the role and influence of China and Chinese in contemporary Central Asia. I strongly recommend this book to scholars interested in social change in Central Asia, and the interrelationships of China and Chinese with this fascinating process.’ — Colin Mackerras, Emeritus Professor, Griffith Business School

‘Laruelle and Peyrouse have written a detailed and multifaceted analysis of the economic, political and societal interactions between China and the five Central Asian states. Thanks to their extensive fieldwork, they document a rich spectrum of views on China within the Central Asian states among students, researchers, business people and ethnic communities. More importantly, they show how the encounters between China and the Central Asian states over the past two decades serve as a prism through which we can assess how these societies grapple with major political, economic and social changes.’ — Elizabeth Wishnick, Associate Professor of Political Science, Montclair State University, and Senior Research Scholar, Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University

‘An impressive and important book. There has been a striking absence of an in-depth analysis of Sino-Central Asian relations which goes beyond the limits of the strictly security and energy dimensions and which does not rely primarily on secondary sources.’ — Professor Roland Dannreuther, University of Westminster

‘Laruelle and Peyrouse aim not so much to explore Chinese agency in the SCO or the Uyghur question, but to look at the changes which took place from the early 1990s onwards from Central Asian perspectives. This they do across a number of areas, and the transdisciplinary approach they adopt is welcome … Another feature of this book is the use of Central Asian and Russian sources, both written and from field work, [which] enables the authors to give detailed accounts of the political and social receptions to China’s engagement with Central Asia.’ — International Affairs

‘While this book will probably be the definitive compendium on China–Central Asia relations for some time, those interested in “China ­in­ Africa”, “China ­in ­South­ America”, “China ­in­ Southeast­ Asia” and so on will also be well served by it.’ — Nyíri Pál, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The China Journal