What China's latest deals say about its grand strategy
May 29th, 2014
03:58 PM ET

What China's latest deals say about its grand strategy

By Lauren Dickey, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Lauren Dickey is a research associate with the Council on Foreign Relations. The views expressed are her own.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s trip to China last week was the capstone on weeks of strategic agreements for Beijing. The successes of Putin’s meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Shanghai – most notably a $400 billion gas deal to transport 38 billion cubic meters of gas yearly into China beginning in 2018 – were preceded by equally significant meetings between the Chinese leadership and their counterparts from Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan. But while these bilateral meetings point to Beijing’s commitment to the development of the Silk Road economic belt, they also speak to something even more important – China’s interest in bolstering regional security.

In the lead up to the Shanghai Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) the first central Asian leader to signal the strategic depth of central Asia’s ties with China was Turkmenistan’s president, Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. A week before Berdymukhamedov’s mid-May visit to China, China opened a new $600 million processing plant at Bagtyarlyk gas field, the location of a major China-bound pipeline. Turkmenistan’s gas exports to China have increased in recent years, with officials aiming to reach 40 billion cubic meters by 2016 thanks to China’s financial backing of Bagtyarlyk. Upon arriving in China, Berdymukhamedov signed a gamut of deals with Beijing, formalizing Turkmenistan’s ascension as the last central Asian nation to sign onto a “strategic partnership” with Beijing. The two countries agreed to strengthen cooperation in areas ranging from natural gas extraction to cross-border infrastructure development and cultural exchanges.

Next to have a strategic tête-à-tête with President Xi was Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Like his Turkmen counterpart, Nazarnbayev signed a series of energy agreements and agreed to further strengthen bilateral security cooperation, with particular attention to the situation in Afghanistan. In addition to mutual support for the peace, stability, and development of both Afghanistan and the region, Nazarbayev expressed Kazakhstan’s enthusiasm for providing energy support to China’s economic development, welcoming any resulting Chinese investment in his country. Memorandums of understanding were signed between China’s ExIm Bank, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), and state-owned investment company CITIC Group for development loans and pipeline construction. China even reiterated an interest in helping Kazakhstan acquire warships.

And, a day before China signed nearly fifty agreements with Putin, Xi met with Azerbaijan’s President Llham Aliyev to ink deals on energy, infrastructure, technology, and banking. Azerbaijan, like the other central Asian nations, is a key transit country linking Asia to Europe and is currently building the largest port on the Caspian Sea, the International Trade Seaport, in Alat near Baku. Once complete, this port will increase the volume of cargo ultimately to 20 million tons per year, no small number for Chinese eying markets in Europe and elsewhere.

So what does this series of meetings and strategic agreements mean?

It is hardly surprising that Putin continued his pivot eastward, pushing through the Gazprom-CNPC deal and 49 other agreements with Beijing. Were Putin to have declined agreements with the Chinese on trade and economic issues, in particular, he would have effectively been cutting off Russian access to the Silk Road economic belt. Now, Beijing and Moscow are positioned to increase bilateral trade to $100 billion by 2015 (and $200 billion by 2020) as well as expand local currency settlement and cross-border investment and deepen mutually beneficial macroeconomic policies.

Meanwhile, Beijing’s agreements with Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Russia are exactly what is needed to make the Silk Road economic belt a reality for China. But the Silk Road renaissance is ultimately about more than just trade. The new goal? Beijing is looking to its neighbors to help defend against the threats of terrorism, ethnic separatism, and religious extremism. In recent months, as terrorist attacks allegedly led by Uighur separatists have increased in number, the Silk Road economic belt has been taking on a new role as a regional security mechanism.

For Beijing, the economic belt leverages regional energy cooperation to ensure energy security and sustainable economic growth while helping it combat threats to Chinese domestic stability. But while the Central Asian countries involved are no doubt focused on the economic potential of these latest deals, the view from Beijing is slightly different. After all, in signing up, they have now become pieces in their massive neighbor’s grand strategy.


Post by:
Topics: Central Asia • China • Russia

soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. John Smith

    America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
    In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
    During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
    In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
    Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015.

    May 29, 2014 at 7:34 pm |
    • j. von hettlingen

      America is not going to play any role in Central Asia! The "Silk Road Economic Belt" aims at reviving the economy in countries along the Silk Road that Marco Polo took 700 years ago. Two months ago, Xi Jinping was in Germany and gave his blessing to a rail project, which is going to link Germany and China across Central Asia. This region is seen by Moscow as its backyard. It's unclear how long they can put up with China's presence there.

      May 31, 2014 at 3:44 pm |
    • turar omarov

      Kazakhstan Kentau city turar-omarov@mail.ru

      June 3, 2014 at 4:54 pm |
  2. George patton

    This can turn out to be something great. The world sorely needs a counterweight to the bullying countries such the U.S., Great Britain and France. This could be Russia and China. If so, we all could be looking forward to a period of peace and prosperity.

    May 29, 2014 at 8:15 pm |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      Good post, George. Just don't pay any attention to this name thief here as he does this to all of us as shown by the four posts below.

      May 29, 2014 at 11:09 pm |
      • piankie

        Joey always reads the news with his coffee in the morning and visits these blogs. He is not gonna be happy that u stole his name again and all the others too.
        George Pattons decendents wont be too happy with u either. Shame on u. Troll!

        May 30, 2014 at 12:52 am |
      • stuart

        Russia is going to sell tons of oil to china. Do u really think they need or care what the u.s. says?
        Now, piankie, that name thief at 8:15, 11:09, and 11:16 is the same guy. He is a left-wing tea partier and loves obama a lot.
        He is also for more wars.
        Watch him. This joker will steal your name

        May 30, 2014 at 12:59 am |
      • Joseph McCarthy

        Yes. Stuart is right. I like to switch names. It's a lot of fun.
        I will continue. And nobody can stop me

        May 30, 2014 at 1:02 am |
      • bambi

        @joseph mccarthy. You sick b@$tard

        May 30, 2014 at 1:05 am |
      • Joseph McCarthy

        Please bambi, I am the true Joseph McCarthy here and I neither post any of that idiotic right-wing nonsense as others do, never use any of that filthy Tea party lingo nor steal anyone's name in order to post under it. Anyway, thanks for calling my impostor above a sick b......d.

        May 30, 2014 at 7:50 am |
      • bambi

        @Joseph McCarthy..7:50. Oh sure. Anytime. You're wecome, you sick b@$tard.

        May 30, 2014 at 10:57 am |
  3. George Patton

    There goes that bozo impersonating me again. He wants to discredit me. He must be a fan of Sarah Palin. That numbskull doesn't realize that Russia has been invading Ukraine with their hired thugs.
    And of course, Chi na wants to steal territory from Vietnam.
    I wish this clown would stop using my name to spew out such left-wing mumble jumble.
    This clown has got to go!

    May 29, 2014 at 9:50 pm |
  4. Tom Posey

    You know what gets my goat, George, is that clown at 8:15 actually thinks he's funny stealing your name. Imagine if all Americans felt the way he did. This country would be in real trouble then.
    Clowns like this Sarah Palin fan really need to be filtered by CNN.

    May 29, 2014 at 10:08 pm |
  5. John Smith

    Good evening George, Tom. I see I have a troll as well at 7:34. What ashame these two trolls post such Tea Party lingo.
    I don't understand how these two Americans can spew such anti-American mumble jumble.
    These clowns go to go!

    May 29, 2014 at 10:36 pm |
  6. Patrick

    Thank you, George, Tom, and John, you said it all.

    May 29, 2014 at 10:38 pm |
  7. ElliotJKlein

    I totally agree with George(8:15) above. He knows how the world works. This is the kind of man we need as President, not that stupid Obama who keeps on trying to be politically "correct" and collaborates with all powerful M.I.C. in Washington.

    May 29, 2014 at 11:16 pm |
  8. banasy©


    May 30, 2014 at 12:21 am |
    • turar omarov

      Kazakhstan Kentau citu turar-omarov@mail.ru

      June 3, 2014 at 4:52 pm |
  9. chri§§y

    Lmao yep. Took me a sec to realise what you were referring too but i got it!

    May 30, 2014 at 12:31 am |
  10. ElliotJKlein

    @stuart. Good grief, this joker never stops. He has stolen my name too! I come here to read and post, but this bozo has to post all his Sarah Palin mumble jumble under assumed names. He is spoiling it for the rest of us.
    The nerve! The audacity!
    This clown has got to go. It's as simple as that.

    May 30, 2014 at 1:14 am |
  11. stuart

    What can I say Elliot? Just a bozo looking for kicks at our expense

    May 30, 2014 at 1:23 am |
  12. rupert


    May 30, 2014 at 2:17 am |
  13. chri§§y


    May 30, 2014 at 2:22 am |
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