Central Asia (199)
Compared to other regions, China's main interests in Central Asia, which is situated along its western border, involve not only trade, but also considerations related to both external and internal security. The region, encompassing the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, remains under the strong Russian strategic and economic influence. Since the end of the Cold War but especially since 2001, the United States has been actively engaged in the region. As "front-line" states in the war on terrorism, Central Asian states have hosted U.S. and NATO military personnel and have received substantial U.S. foreign assistance. Despite these constraints on Chinese influence, Beijing has become a major diplomatic and economic presence in Central Asia. (200)
The United States wields somewhat more influence than does China in a few non-military cultural, diplomatic, and economic areas of "soft power" in the region. These include the amount of foreign assistance and perhaps the number of mid- and lower-level official visits and presence in the regional states. In other areas, China has more regional influence than the United States, including in trade and the number of its citizens visiting the region. The Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)--which includes Russia and all of the Central Asian states except Turkmenistan and pursues economic and security cooperation--has no equivalent U.S. counterpart. However, the United States wields influence through its membership in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and NATO, which are active in the region.
Cross-border migration between China and Central Asia has facilitated stronger economic ties but also has contributed to more complicated diplomatic relations. There reportedly are over one million ethnic Kazakhs in China, with most residing in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Several tens of thousands have moved to Kazakhstan in recent years. These ethnic Kazakhs bring Chinese language skills and cultural awareness that have facilitated Kazakhstan-Chinese ties, particularly in trade. However, some ethnic Kazakh migrants also bring critical memories of perceived prejudice against Muslims in Xinjiang, which may negatively influence the views of other Kazakhs and conceivably affect Kazakhstan-Chinese relations.
About 9 million ethnic Uighurs (a Turkic people) reside in China, mostly in Xinjiang, 300,000 reside in Kazakhstan, and 50,000 in Kyrgyzstan. In the early 1990s, Kazakhstan tolerated advocacy by its resident ethnic Uighurs for greater respect for human rights and autonomy for their cohorts in Xinjiang. In the later 1990s, however, Kazakhstan cracked down on such activism at China's behest. Nonetheless, Kazakhstan allegedly has remained the base for clandestine Uighur groups advocating independence for "East Turkestan," or otherwise continuing to criticize China, which may influence the views of other Kazakhs. In Kyrgyzstan, ethnic Uighurs were implicated in the murder of a Chinese diplomat in June 2002 and the bombing of a bus in March 2003 that killed nineteen Chinese visitors, leading Kyrgyzstan to ban the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Party and the Eastern Turkistan Liberation Organization. (201)
Estimates of ethnic Chinese migrants in Central Asia are unreliable, but some observers have speculated that up to a few hundred thousand legal and illegal Chinese migrants are in the region either on a temporary or indefinite basis. The number of U.S. citizens residing in Central Asia is far less.
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There have been complaints by some officials in Central Asian states about increasing numbers of illegal migrants from China. The Kyrgyz State Committee on Migration and Employment reported in early 2008 that there were about 8,000 Chinese illegal immigrants in Kyrgyzstan. (202) In Kazakhstan, President Nazarbayev raised concerns in 2006 that Chinese energy companies operating in the country were employing illegal Chinese workers, and Kazakh legislators alleged that these illegal immigrants numbered about 100,000 by late 2007. Kazakh analyst Elena Sadovskaya reported that, in addition, about 40,000 legal migrants were ethnic Kazakhs who had moved from China and that about 5,000 were Chinese citizens who were legitimately in the country under approved travel documents. An opinion poll she carried out indicated that while some Kazakhs perceived that Chinese migration was rising and was harmful to the country, most Kazakhs had "indifferent" attitudes toward Chinese migrants. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are not that attractive to potential Chinese migrants, according to some observers, because their under-performing economies have contributed to the exodus of many of their workers to Kazakhstan, Russia, and elsewhere. (203)
Cultural and Educational Exchange Activities
U.S. Government-Sponsored Exchange and Training. For FY2006, the latest year available, 14 Cabinet-level departments and 49 independent agencies/commissions reported 243 international exchange and training programs to the Interagency Working Group on U.S. Government-Sponsored International Exchanges and Training. These include such programs as the Peace Corps Volunteer Service, International Military Education and Training, Edmund Muskie Graduate Fellowships, various Fulbright programs, Eurasia/South Asia Teaching Excellence and Achievement Program, International Visitor Leadership Program, Hubert Humphrey Fellowships, and Benjamin Gilman Program, among others. Table 5 provides statistics on such training and exchanges involving Central Asia.
The Central Asian governments also are facilitating study abroad. In 1993, Kazakhstan launched the "Bolashak" (Future) program of scholarships for college study aboard. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in 2005 announced the enlargement of the program to up to 3,000 annual scholarships, and he reportedly urged that students attend U.S. universities to receive not only the latest professional knowledge, but also to be imbued with democratic and civic norms. The United States has received the largest cumulative number of students, amounting to over one thousand. (204)
One U.S. government program with some slight similarities to the activities of China's Confucius Institutes (language and cultural offices established worldwide; see below) is the Peace Corps, which sends volunteers to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan. (See Table 6) Estimated budgeted funding for the Peace Corps was $6.9 million for the Central Asian countries in FY2008. About $7.1 million was requested for FY2009. Many Peace Corps volunteers are engaged in English-language training in the Central Asian states, with most working in rural secondary schools, which may somewhat parallel the efforts of the Confucius Institutes. However, Peace Corps volunteers also work with governments and NGOs on HIV/AIDS and other healthcare, youth, environment, women, and economic development issues.
Chinese Programs. Chinese educational and cultural exchanges have been stepped up, both bilaterally and under the aegis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Confucius Institutes have been set up and funded in Kazakhstan (two institutes), Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan to foster …