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Dr Catherine Owen

Research Fellow

Dr Catherine Owen is British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow and Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Exeter. Her primary research interests are civic participation in local governance in Russia and China, and the emergence of a post-Western international order. Prior to her appointment at Exeter, she was Lecturer in Central Asian Studies at Shaanxi Normal University in Xi’an, China, and Visiting Fellow at Fudan University, Shanghai. She has also been affiliated to the European University at St Petersburg. Owen’s research has been published in East European Politics, Slavic Review, Europe-Asia Studies, Government and Opposition, the China Quarterly of International Strategic Studies and Review of International Studies.

Array ( [0] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 7030 [post_author] => 28 [post_date] => 2023-09-05 12:01:24 [post_date_gmt] => 2023-09-05 11:01:24 [post_content] => Since its inception in 1999, the G20 has become one of the world’s primary forums for debating economic issues: the 19 countries plus the EU account for over 80% of the global economy. Of those 19, China is the largest trading partner of Australia, Brazil, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa, and the second largest of Argentina and Canada. An important discussion point will surely be China’s economic slowdown. China’s domestic economy is showing strain in a number of areas: the bubble in the residential housing market appears to have burst;[1] youth unemployment is at a record high of around 20%;[2] Chinese stock markets are falling (with the Hong Kong Index falling more than 20% since January);[3] and in August the economy slipped into deflation.[4] Achieving consensus on collective measures to mitigate a global economic slowdown will be difficult. There are disagreements over sanctions applied by Western states following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, moves by China and Russia towards the de-dollarisation of global trade, as well as on-going attempts by some US and European economic actors to diversify supply chains. While UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly’s recent visit to Beijing indicated an attempt to ‘re-set’ Sino-British relations, Western delegates may be less optimistic. First, the expansion of the BRICS grouping has been widely interpreted in Western media as part of a dilution of the web of Western-led global institutions – including the G20 – and a further shift towards a Beijing-centric world order. And second, that President Xi is rumoured to be skipping the G20 this year, having recently attended the BRICS summit in person, has been interpreted by some as underlining Beijing’s preference for non-Western multilateral platforms.[5] One area likely to elicit consensus among delegates will be to approve, as expected, the inclusion of the African Union (AU) into the G20 – the first new member since its creation. This overdue move will tilt the bloc towards the interests of the Global South more broadly, of which China considers itself a leading figure. And it may benefit China’s external economic relations: China is the largest trading partner of several African countries, including South Africa, Nigeria and Angola, and a major creditor of several more, including Angola, Ethiopia and Zambia. A second major issue area for China will be climate, one of the summit’s key themes highlighted by India’s presidency. Only this summer, the heaviest rains in 140 years ravaged parts of Beijing and China’s highest ever temperature was recorded in Xinjiang. China itself has a quixotic approach to addressing climate breakdown. On one hand, it produces more than half of the world’s coal, and Western leaders have criticised Beijing for allegedly stymying an agreement on climate issues in a G20 meeting in July.[6] On the other, China has also made leaps in solar and wind power, and is on target to achieve its renewable energy goals five years ahead of schedule.[7] However, as environmental economists repeatedly demonstrate, addressing the climate crisis stands in stark contrast to growing the economy. Real solutions to the climate crisis are therefore unlikely to materialise in New Delhi. That said, despite the complex and inter-related global problems of economic slowdown and climate breakdown, Beijing’s concerns are currently more domestic than international. China’s leaders will be more concerned with seeking remedies for the domestic economy, than for advancing its pre-pandemic projects, such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In the short term, at least, China’s approach on the world stage is less likely to be underpinned by loans and infrastructural investments, and more by ideological and political engagement – an approach that is almost certainly cheaper, but by no means less impactful. Dr Catherine Owen is a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus. Prior to that she was British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, also at the University of Exeter. [1] Cheryl Arcibal and Chuqin Jiang China’s home prices decline in July as property crisis worsens, South China Morning Post, August 2023, https://www.scmp.com/business/article/3231274/chinas-home-prices-decline-july-property-crisis-worsens[2] BBC News, China suspends youth unemployment data after record high, August 2023, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-66506132[3] Phil Rosen, Hong Kong’s benchmark stock index just closed in a bear market as China’s economy wavers, Markets Insider, August 2023, https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/china-stocks-economy-hang-seng-bear-market-hong-kong-deflation-2023-8[4] Graeme Wearden and agencies, Chinese economy slips into deflation as recovery falters and demand slows, Guardian, August 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/aug/08/chinese-economy-expected-to-have-slipped-into-deflation-as-recovery-falters[5] Martin Quin Pollard, Laurie Chen and Liz Lee, Xi to skip G20 summit in India, China to send Li instead, Reuters, September 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/china-says-premier-li-will-attend-g20-summit-2023-09-04/[6] David Stanway, China denies reports it obstructed G20 climate discussions, Reuters, August 2023, https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/china-denies-reports-it-obstructed-g20-climate-discussions-2023-08-02/[7] Amy Hawkins and Rachel Cheung, China on course to hit wind and solar power target five years ahead of time, Guardian, June 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jun/29/china-wind-solar-power-global-renewable-energy-leader [post_title] => China’s G20 Priorities: Maintaining Status amid Economic Challenges [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => chinas-g20-priorities-maintaining-status-amid-economic-challenges [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-09-06 12:28:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-09-06 11:28:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://fpc.org.uk/?p=7030 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 4270 [post_author] => 28 [post_date] => 2019-12-04 16:58:43 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-12-04 16:58:43 [post_content] =>

Its 7pm on a summery evening in a typical Shanghai housing estate, and the public courtyards are bustling with people.  Residents of all ages descend from their apartments carrying bags of rubbish, neatly sorted into different categories, in order to throw it into the brightly decorated public recycling bins. Since the new regulations came into force in July 2018, every evening at twilight the estate comes alive with the sounds of chatter as the recycling bins are unlocked and made available for people to use. Volunteers wearing green overalls guide their fellow residents to the correct bins, the local residents’ committee members who manage residential life mingle with citizens and oversee the volunteers, enthusiastic children explain the new waste categories to struggling family members, and at the back of the bins, recycling managers sort through residents’ incorrectly sorted waste. The whole community has been mobilised to carry out these new regulations.

Volunteers and residents gather to collect recyclable waste in St Petersburg

Seven thousand kilometres to the other side of the Eurasian continent, a very different approach to recycling is in operation. On the first Saturday of every month, environmental activists in the Russian city of St Petersburg organise recycling collections on a public driveway or street corner in each of the city’s 18 districts. Hardy volunteers hold large plastic bags where concerned citizens can bring the plastic bottles, polystyrene, Tetrapaks, and other recyclables they have been collecting over the previous four weeks. Boxes for old CDs, un-wanted medicines and plastic bottle tops are laid out on park benches. Some people set up tables nearby selling crafts made out of recycled materials. When the collection period has finished, the volunteers ensure that the recycling is collected by local companies for re-processing. These meet-ups, steadily increasing in popularity since their inception seven years ago, are co-ordinated by a local NGO, staffed entirely by volunteers, and take place every month throughout the year – even in the freezing, snowy months of January and February. The state is nowhere to be seen.

Shanghai and St Petersburg make an interesting choice of city for a comparative exploration of recycling initiatives and the practices of citizen participation they generate. Both are the ‘second cities’ of their respective countries, are relatively wealthy and internationalised, and belong to political systems broadly characterised as authoritarian. Both have a huge problem with waste. St Petersburg, with a population of nearly 5.5 million, produces approximately 1.8 million tonnes of household waste per year. Shanghai’s 24 million residents produce over 9 million tonnes per year. Thus, the average St Petersburger produces 0.32 tonnes of waste a year, while the average Shanghaiese produces 0.37. In St Petersburg, the vast majority of this is sent to landfill; until very recently this was also the case in Shanghai.[1]

Both Russian and Chinese governments recognise that waste management is a growing problem and, in the last year, have developed policy initiatives to deal with it. These initiatives, however, could not be more different. Following calls by Chinese President Xi Jinping for recycling to become part of a ‘fashionable new lifestyle’, recycling facilities are rapidly being rolled out across the country. 46 cities are expected to have established a comprehensive recycling system by 2020, with all cities expected to do so by 2025. Shanghai has trailblazed recycling, becoming the first to enforce city-wide regulations: recycling facilities exist in every estate, many of which are overseen by CCTV cameras and/or a team of volunteers, and bins for separated waste are dotted along the streets. Failure to recycle correctly in Shanghai is now punishable by a fine. Following initial confusion and scepticism regarding the new regulations – spawning viral memes in the Chinese internet asking ‘what type of rubbish are you?’ – public behaviour appears to be changing.[2] The amount of recyclable materials collected in the first three months following the introduction of the new regulations was five times the amount collected during the same period in the previous year. [3]

An oblique sign with the words 'Don't you care?', possibly commissioned by the government, but no one could say for sure

In Russia, the national-level project ‘Ecology’ has promised to transform Russia’s waste management system by 2024, increasing recycling rates from their current 7 per cent to an ambitious 60 per cent.[4] These new regulations have been rolled out across the regions since 1 January 2019 and have required a single ‘regional operator’, selected by the regional governor following a competitive tender, to assume responsibility for the entire waste management process in each region – from collection to sorting and landfill – at a cost of 120 roubles per month to residents.[5] However, St Petersburg constitutes one of three cities that are exempt from the reforms, and it recently emerged that they would not be implemented until 2021 at the earliest, due to fears of social unrest.[6] Currently, citizens in St Petersburg have three options to recycle their waste: collect rubbish over the period of one month and take it to the self-organised meet-ups; drive to the few recycling points on the edge of the city; or pay 400 roubles to a small business to collect their waste and recycle it on their behalf.

Therefore, unlike the rapidly transforming situation in China, residents across Russia are still not required to change their behaviour, since all waste sorting is to be done by the regional operator. And, while recycling in China is being touted[7] as a lucrative business opportunity that could create millions of new jobs, conflict has broken out in Russian regions where half of tariffs remain unpaid, rubbish is left rotting on the street, and regional operators are going bankrupt.[8]  While officials argue that Russian citizens are not yet ‘ready’ to start recycling, independent polls tell a different story. Most citizens would be quite happy to recycle their rubbish if there were facilities nearby.[9] 

In St Petersburg, people who recycle tend to describe themselves as environmentalists or as activists. Many are also trying to cut down on meat, buy more items second hand, adopt other environmentally friendly behaviours, and influence the behaviour of friends and family. They are often also strident critics of the Putin regime. But rather than starting with an initial concern about the environment which lead to frustration with government inaction, for most it is the other way round: critical attitudes towards the regime had brought them to environmental issues. Being an environmentalist is one way in which people can show opposition to Putin.

People at the recycling station in Parnas, St Petersburg, work out which bin in which to throw their recycling.

This mentality is amplified in the small business owners who operate local recycling facilities. One explains, “I am basically an environmentally crazy person, an environmentalist. For about 13 years worked in Greenpeace until… it became clear that Greenpeace was working with the government. And it makes no sense to work with the government, it's all just talk.” Another stated, “There is a myth that Russia is not ready to recycle. It is not true. Everyone is ready. But it’s convenient for the authorities to say that we’re not ready. If you come and ask the local administration to recycling containers installed, they will say no. Because everything is connected with the state and the administration; there, people sit in the warm and don’t want to move or change the system.” Thanks to government inaction, people who want to recycle must have in-depth knowledge about the numerous different types of plastic and must be able to find out for themselves how to recycle their waste.  One of the city’s main collection points for recyclables is on the edge of town, about an hour from the city centre by public transport and contains eight different sorting categories. One volunteer with the city’s recycling NGO explained, “You need a lot of motivation to recycle in St Petersburg. A lot of my friends are surprised to hear I’m a volunteer because they find it complicated to maintain an ecological lifestyle in Russia.”

For St Petersburg’s citizens who do not currently recycle, many simply don’t trust the government with the recycling process. “We don’t know anything about what happens with the separated waste. I think that after the work, the company just takes the separated garbage and mixes it with the other waste and leaves it in the landfill.” Some were also sceptical that the Shanghai approach of fining residents for non-compliance would achieve behavioural change in St Petersburg: “All fines will be collected by the government. They will use it as some kind of trick. And then the people will just be thinking about and arguing about the fine, not thinking about sorting their rubbish.”

A mural painted by volunteers in one of Shanghai's housing estates.

In Shanghai, residents’ views could not be more different: rather than hindering the development of recycling in the city, the local Party-state was seen as paramount to successful implementation. According to a local residents’ committee member, “After all, in China this is driven by the government and it’s compulsory. Right now, the Shanghai Municipal Government is promoting it. It is entirely the Party and the government. Party building is taking the lead.” On the role of local Communist party cadres in the recycling process, another stated, “Party members took the lead in propaganda, took the lead in sorting their waste, and took the lead to volunteer. We ask the party members in our community to stand up.”  

At the level of the housing estate in Shanghai, citizens can do more than simply put their rubbish in the recycling bins every evening. Teams of volunteers are recruited in each district to assist struggling residents. One volunteer, an older lady in her 60s sitting by the recycling bins in one housing estate, stated, “We come here 365 days a year, in the heat, in the snow, and in the rain. At New Year, we are still on duty… Yes, we are proud of being volunteers.” Social organisations are frequently invited onto the estates to run workshops, quizzes and other training or themed social events for residents. One resident explained, “This is a response call. Everyone should do something for the country for environmental protection. Yes, I feel obligated. It’s your duty if you live in this place. Well, we’re all living here together and if I make it decent, everyone really feels more comfortable.”

A volunteer and her friends catch up with each other while waiting for their neighbours to bring their recycling.

How can the approach to a single public policy elicit two such different conceptions of citizen engagement? The Russian regulations require individuals to take no action since the responsibility for waste separation is managed by regional authorities. In China, a huge government campaign is enforcing comprehensive societal behavioural change. In St Petersburg, those wishing to engage in recycling processes must do so through the voluntary and private sectors – and expose themselves to a grassroots anti-regime politics. In Shanghai, engagement consists of activating your Party membership, becoming a volunteer or participating in the additional programme of events organised by local residents’ committees and NGOs. In short, the Russian approach disengages the majority of the population while cementing the politics of a kernel of activists; the Chinese approach breeds mass conformity and consent.

The roots of these differences can be traced to four aspects of governance in which Russia and China differ substantially: the structure of political power, the management of the regional economy, levels of public trust in political institutions and the approach to land use. On the first, Russia, typically characterised as a ‘competitive authoritarian’ regime, allows space for limited levels of autonomous activity, while in China’s ‘hegemonic authoritarian’ regime, this space is much smaller and social control by the Communist Party is much greater. In terms of economy, Russian regional public finances have been characterised by fiscal austerity and recentralisation in recent years, while China’s sub-national units have pursued decentralisation, have substantial freedom to experiment with economic strategy and consequently have more finances at their disposal. Thirdly, public trust in the actors and institutions associated with recycling is a vital prerequisite for citizen compliance with the regulations; however, in Russia, citizens are deeply mistrustful of the authorities and levels of public trust are low, while public opinion polls in China consistently reveal high levels of trust in local authorities. And finally, Russia’s vast territory has meant that people have traditionally felt they need not worry about sending waste to landfill in a remote region, while China’s densely populated territory has not permitted this ‘luxury’.

Most of these kinds of distinctions in governance are usually made at the macro level, through the comparative analysis of elite politics, regional-level economic policy or survey data; less is known about how different types of authoritarian governance shape the everyday experiences of public policy and the kinds of orientations towards state power they foster in their citizens. In the case of recycling, poor governmental policy decisions are politicising the issue and creating fertile ground for social conflict in Russia, while in China it is being used to engage citizens more deeply with the local state. It demonstrates that even within the single regime category of ‘authoritarianism’, local experiences of governance and state power can be remarkably different.


All photos by the author

Cover image: Recycling facilities in one of Shanghai's housing estates



[1] Novye Izvestia, Maybe not spill: ‘Red Bor become an eco-bomb for St. Petersburg, March 2019, https://newizv.ru/news/city/27-03-2019/avos-ne-prolietsya-krasnyy-bor-stal-eko-bomboy-dlya-peterburga

[2]  Echo Huang, “What kind of rubbish are you?”: China’s first serious trash-sorting is driving Shanghai crazy, Quartz, July2019, https://qz.com/1659132/shanghai-is-giving-japanese-style-trash-sorting-a-try/

[3] Alice Yen, Shanghai recycling scheme slips up on 9,000 tonnes of wet water churned out each day, South China Morning Post, November 2019, https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/3035995/shanghai-celebrates-its-war-rubbish-slips-9000-tonnes-waste-it

[4] Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia, Areas of Work: Directions of work of the Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia, 2019, http://www.mnr.gov.ru/activity/directions/natsionalnyy_proekt_ekologiya/

[5] Dmitry Sarkisov, “In the 90s, huge landfills managed by bandits appeared”: The garbage reform has begun in Russia. What will she change?, Lenta.ru, February 2019, https://lenta.ru/articles/2019/02/26/musor/

[6] The Moscow Times, St Petersburg Won’t See Citywide Recycling Until 2021, November 2019, https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/11/20/st-petersburg-wont-see-citywide-recycling-until-2021-a68250

[7] Ben Halder, A Plastic Recycling Revolution is Brewing … In China, The Daily Dose, Ozy, April 2019, https://www.ozy.com/acumen/a-plastic-recycling-revolution-is-brewing-in-china/93680/

[8] The Moscow Times, Activists Send Trash Parcels to Russian Deputies in Protest, January 2019, https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/01/21/activists-send-trash-parcels-russian-deputies-protest-a64208

[9] Ksenia Agapeeva, From Opinions to Understanding – Press Releases: “Garbage Reform”, Levada.ru, May 2019, https://www.levada.ru/2019/05/15/musornaya-reforma/

[post_title] => A Tale of Two Recycling Initiatives: State, Society and Waste Management in St Petersburg and Shanghai [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => a-tale-of-two-recycling-initiatives-state-society-and-waste-management-in-st-petersburg-and-shanghai [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-12-05 10:05:25 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-12-05 10:05:25 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://fpc.org.uk/?p=4270 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 3269 [post_author] => 28 [post_date] => 2019-03-14 15:23:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-14 15:23:35 [post_content] => There has been much discussion in the global media of China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims in its far western province of Xinjiang. Meanwhile, much less is known about the Hui, China’s other major ethnic group that follows Islam, and which enjoys a considerably more peaceful relationship with Beijing. According to the 2010 census, Uighurs and Huis each constitute almost 0.8% of China’s overall population, but while the Uighurs are concentrated mainly in Xinjiang - in some southern areas constituting up to 90% of the population - the Hui are scattered across China. Unlike the Uighurs, who speak their own Turkic language, the Huis’ native language is Mandarin Chinese (with the occasional Persian or Arabic word thrown in). Nevertheless, while Huis are far more integrated into the dominant Han Chinese culture than Uighurs, centres of Hui culture can be found in China’s northwest regions, including in Xinjiang, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Province, the city of Xi’an in Shaanxi Province and Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu Province.During a recent trip to Linxia, we had the opportunity to meet local Huis and observe their religious practices. We were particularly struck by the way in which their Islamic practices have fused and blended with practices associated with Buddhism and Taoism, two more of China’s five officially recognised religions, primarily associated with the dominant Han ethnicity. Perhaps this goes some way to accounting for the contrasting relationships between the two ethnoreligious Muslim groups and the Chinese government.While the dominant form of Islam among Uighurs is Sufism, Hui Islam is split into four sects. The most popular sect is the Gedimu (Qadeemiya in Arabic), who constitute around 70% of Hui Muslims, and are the group in which religious syncretic practices are the most obvious. For instance, Gedimu Imams recite the Quran using a Sinfied Arabic dialect of Arabic, often without understanding the meaning of the text.The second group, the Ikhwani, emerged during the 19th Century in Linxia; they criticize the Gedimu’s ritualistic approach and emphasise a return to original Quranic meanings. Hence, religious materials in Chinese are available in Ikhwani mosques. Indeed, the only mosques we found with Qurans in Chinese were in those belonging to Ikhwani.  During our visits to the various mosques, we found Qurans published in all corners of the Islamic world – Kuwait, Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia – though notably none were published inside China.Thirdly, many Hui follow two globally prevalent traditions of Sufism, also shared by Uighurs: Qadriya and Naqashbandiya. Within Naqashbandiya, two further sub-sects can be discerned - the Hufia and Jehriya, which are specific to Chinese Islam. As one of the birthplaces of Chinese Sufism, Linxia is the centre for both of these subgroups of Naqashbandiya. Finally, a tiny minority of Hui Muslims are Salafis, or Chinese Wahhabis, who follow a Saudi version of Islam.Thought to descend from Persian and Arabian traders that came to China along the ancient Silk Road, Chinese-speaking Muslims are known as Dungans in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Over the centuries, Hui cultural practices have blended and fused with the dominant Han culture. In Hui cuisine, for instance, Han recipes such as egg and tomato, spicy cabbage and other dishes are readily available, the only difference being that restaurants are certified Halal, which provides a guarantee that pig fat is not used in the preparation of any dishes. The Hui signature dish, Lanzhou beef noodles (named after the provincial capital of Gansu province), can be eaten in Halal canteens across China and is not markedly different from other types of Chinese noodle soup. By contrast, Uighur restaurants serving its Central Asian cuisine such as the rice and lamb dish, ‘polo’, and round nan breads are extremely rare sight outside of Xinjiang.Hui women generally, but not always, wear headscarves, with different sects wearing different types. Ikhwani women can be distinguished via the headscarf popular among Western Muslims; Gedimu women tend to wear a hat with a light cloth attached to the back and bottom. Hui men wear three types of round hat, although these are not distinguishable according to sect. Chatting to local Huis, everyone we met had their Chinese name and their informal Muslim name, introducing themselves by their Chinese name, but giving their Muslim name – usually Sinifications of Mariam, Aishah, Bilal or Ibrahim – when we asked them. Hence, Hui practices of Islam, though subtle, are evident if you scratch away the veneer of Han culture.Thanks to the number of mosques and Sufi shrines in the city, Linxia has gained the moniker of ‘Little Mecca’ among Muslims in China. It is easy to see why – the city’s skyline is scattered with domes, minarets and cupolas, an astonishing sight in a predominantly atheist country. Hui Mosques and Sufi shrines are an interesting blend of Islamic symbolism and Han architecture. Ikhwani and Salafi mosques are usually built with domes and minarets, while Gedimu and Sufi mosques tend to follow the Chinese architecture. Usually just one story high, they have Chinese-style minarets that resemble pagodas: circular structures with the characteristic Chinese upturned eaves. Since it is difficult to distinguish between Buddhist temples and mosques, Gedimu and Sufis attach a crescent moon to the top of the building. The spatial design inside the mosques is broadly similar to mosques elsewhere, comprising a large area for worshippers to kneel, and a place at the front for the Imam to preach.As the centre of Sufism in China, myriad Sufi shrines are scattered across Linxia and into the adjoining mountains. Known in Chinese as ‘gongbei’, a Sinification of the Persian term ‘gunbed’, the shines are graves belonging to great Sheikhs and Imams, many of whose lineage can be traced back to Muhammed. Indeed, legend has it that the 29th generation descendent of Muhammed, Khawja Abdullah, introduced Sufism to China at the end of the Qing and beginning of the Ming Dynasty, and is buried at a shrine in north Sichuan Province.Unlike Uighur Sufism, Hui Qadriyan Sufis have incorporated Buddhist and Taoist practices into rituals at their shrines, and are hence particularly interesting from a religious syncretic perspective. For instance, worshipers and pilgrims burn papers and light incense at the entrance to the shrine, practices which are not mentioned anywhere in the Quran. Similarly, the Chinese characters indicating the name of the shrine are often written from right to left, following Arabic writing tradition, instead of left to right.Debates among the anthropologists of Hui consider the question of whether the Hui are ‘Muslims in China’ or ‘Chinese Muslims’ – in other words, to what extent have they become embedded with the broader Han culture. The level of Chinese cultural practices exhibited by the Hui suggest to us that unlike the Uighurs the Hui are indeed Chinese Muslims. However, just a small scratch at the surface of Hui culture reveals a complex, vibrant and meaningful Islamic tradition.Of course, the most important factor in the troubled relationship between Xinjiang’s Uighurs and the central government concerns the region’s dense Uighur population and consequent concerns regarding separatism. Scattered across China, the Hui have no pretensions towards separatism. Yet, another important reason why Hui Muslims have managed to exist more harmoniously within China’s atheist state is the way in which they have Sinified Islam. Our visit to Linxia revealed to us the numerous ways in which these two very different cultural worlds have fused together.Catherine Owen is British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Exeter and a FPC Research Fellow; Syed Ahmad Ali Shah is completing his PhD on Pakistanis in China at Shaanxi Normal University, and is about to begin a book project on Hui Muslims in China. [post_title] => Hui Muslims in China’s ‘Little Mecca’: Fusing Islamic and Han Practices [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => hui-muslims-in-chinas-little-mecca-fusing-islamic-and-han-practices [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-06-13 14:51:49 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-06-13 14:51:49 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://fpc.org.uk/?p=3269 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 6 [filter] => raw )[3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 3161 [post_author] => 28 [post_date] => 2019-01-28 11:20:29 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-28 11:20:29 [post_content] => The topic on every internationally minded Chinese person’s lips when in conversation with a Westerner appears to be the US-China trade war. The following text summaries my informal discussions over lunch and during walks, with friends and colleagues in Shanghai, on the reasons behind, and potential consequences of, growing economic tensions between the world’s two largest economies. My interlocutors are researchers and postgraduate students at some of Shanghai’s elite universities, as well as start-up entrepreneurs and employees of major Chinese tech firms. Our discussions highlight a troubling thesis: many worry that this trade war may be a precursor to a greater conflict, driven by US reluctance to cede its hegemonic position to a rising China. Ultimately, the discussions illustrate that the trade war embodies two irreconcilable visions of global economic order.Background to the Trade WarThe roots of the trade war lie in accusations by the US and other countries of economic malpractice by the Chinese government, in particular, the violation of intellectual property rights and the privileging of Chinese State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in the domestic market. First, intellectual property theft has allegedly occurred in two ways: through the requirement that foreign companies share their technology when accessing Chinese markets, and through the use of spyware and hackers, both by the Chinese government [1] and by businesses, such as Huawei (though no evidence for this has yet emerged). Second, the Chinese approach to economic management, consisting of state subsidies for SOEs and preferential treatment for SOEs vis-à-vis foreign companies, is seen to violate WTO regulations stipulating a level playing field for international trade. In short, the US is demanding profound structural changes in the way that Beijing manages the Chinese economy – that it ditches, or at least softens, its commitment to a managed economy.Thus, the Trump administration launched an investigation[2] immediately upon taking office in January 2017, having long been critical of Chinese financial practices. Since March 2018, the Trump administration has applied over $250 billion worth of trade tariffs onto Chinese goods imported into the USA, arguing that the tariffs will make Chinese goods less competitive and encourage consumers to choose products made in America, thereby reducing the US’ large trade deficit with China. Predictably, Beijing responded by applying $110 billion of trade tariffs onto US goods. At the time of writing, the trade war has been paused to allow negotiators to try to reach a deal before the 2nd March deadline when a further $200 billion of US tariffs on Chinese goods are due to come into force. Progress, unfortunately, is slow.The perceived poster child for these practices is arguably ‘Made in China 2025’[3], China’s strategic plan to move away from its position as the global ‘shop floor’ for cheap manufactured goods, and catch up with high-tech Western companies in the fields of robotics, transport, aerospace, pharmaceuticals, and energy and agricultural equipment. Launched in 2015, the aim is to increase the market share of domestic high tech suppliers to 70% in ten years and ensuring that a specific number of component parts in various products should be produced domestically. Critics argue[4] that in order to achieve these lofty goals, MiC2025 will involve a smorgasbord of economic malpractices, including both intellectual property theft and preferential treatment for Chinese companies. In the wake of this criticism, MiC2025 has mysteriously disappeared from the media limelight in recent months; it is however unlikely that the project has been abandoned.Obscured in the British media by the omnipresent and all-consuming Brexit coverage, the trade war is an issue with far reaching consequences, not only slowing growth in China, but also in other Asian economies, such as Japan and South Korea, which depend on exports of specialised parts to China that are then used to make technical equipment and mobile phones. Furthermore, the trade war is also impacting the US economy, and the IMF[5] and World Bank[6] have both issued concerns that it could trigger a global recession.Chinese Views The Chinese intellectual classes have been following developments very closely. Yet, due to the lack of diversity of viewpoints represented in the Chinese media, several common themes emerged during my discussions. The most prevalent view among my interlocutors, also widely promulgated in the Chinese popular press, is that the West believes that China is rising too fast and has applied a trade war in order to prevent China from becoming a global superpower. The phrase, ‘Thucydides’ Trap’[7], coined by US political scientist Graham Allison to describe the near inevitability of war when a rising power seeks to displace the hegemonic power, is well known.More than one Chinese linked the discussion to a consideration of why Xi Jinping last year extended his presidency indefinitely. Was it because the defining task of his presidency is to ensure China becomes the new global hegemon and, in order to do this, a war is necessary? Friends pointed to the defining acts of other important Chinese leaders – Mao Zedong’s establishment of the People’s Republic of China, Deng Xiaoping’s reform and opening up of the country – and suggested that Xi believes his historic task is to finally place the Middle Kingdom at the centre of the global order. This is not a prospect that my interlocutors relish; comfortable members of the nascent middle class, they do not want military conflict to threaten new-found stability.Other, less sensationalist perspectives acknowledge that China has been violating WTO regulations for some time, and that its transparency record is indeed poor. However, they also observe that China is far from alone in failing to adhere to WTO best practice and fall back on the fear of China’s rise thesis to explain why the US is targeting them over other states. Some point to the personal characteristics of Donald Trump, a businessman with a ‘zero-sum’ mentality, who is thought unable to see trade from the ‘win-win’ perspective of the Chinese. A third, much smaller group suggest that the impact of the trade war has been overblown by the Chinese government to mask other failings in the Chinese economy, such as the impossibly high tax rates for small and medium sized businesses, the ageing population, and slowing consumption patterns.An Ideological Impasse?The trade war, in some senses, can be seen as a battle of capitalisms. China’s rise has demonstrated that countries able to control their economies, especially via protectionist measures in particular sectors, are able to achieve remarkable economic performance. Indeed, the ‘China model’ of state capitalism has lifted over 500 million people out of poverty since 1981, reducing the percentage of those living on less than two dollars a day from 88% to 6.5%; meanwhile the poverty rate in the US has remained more or less constant between 11.5 and 15%.[8] This fact rankles the current defenders of global free market capitalism; yet, ironically, in demanding that China opens its economy, the US imposed trade tariffs actually damage the openness of global trade on which this order is founded. While the astonishing growth of China’s middle class is now inevitably levelling off, China’s rise nevertheless poses an existential challenge to the universal applicability of Western-oriented capitalist model. Could this trade war constitute the first sign of the death throes of the liberal economic order?[1] Chinese Officer Is Extradited to U.S. to Face Charges of Economic Espionage, October 2018, New York Times,  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/10/us/politics/china-spy-espionage-arrest.html[2] Section 301 Report into China's Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation, March 2018, Office of the US States Trade Representative https://ustr.gov/about-us/policy-offices/press-office/press-releases/2018/march/section-301-report-chinas-acts[3] State Council of The People’s Republic of China, http://english.gov.cn/2016special/madeinchina2025/[4] How ‘Made in China 2025’ became a lightning rod in ‘war over China’s national destiny’, January 2019,  https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/2182441/how-made-china-2025-became-lightning-rod-war-over-chinas[5] US trade war would make world 'poorer and more dangerous', BBC, October 2018, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45789669[6] WTO chief warns of worst crisis in global trade since 1947, BBC, November 2018, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46395379[7] Is war between China and the US inevitable?, Ted Talks, September 2018, https://www.ted.com/talks/graham_allison_is_war_between_china_and_the_us_inevitable[8] Following the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Statistical Policy Directive 14, the U.S. Census Bureau uses a set of dollar value thresholds that vary by family size and composition to determine who is in poverty see https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2018/demo/p60-263.pdf  [post_title] => The China–US Trade War and the Future of the Liberal Economic Order [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => the-china-us-trade-war-and-the-future-of-the-liberal-economic-order [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-06-13 15:00:58 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-06-13 15:00:58 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://fpc.org.uk/?p=3161 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2894 [post_author] => 28 [post_date] => 2018-09-14 12:22:02 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-09-14 12:22:02 [post_content] => It is commonly assumed that authoritarian governments do not wish to involve citizens in questions of governance or public administration. Instead, conventional wisdom has it that the leaders of such states seek to disengage and depoliticise their citizens and, when ‘mobilization’ is required, ‘the masses’ are either ‘coerced’ on threat of violence or ‘co-opted’ with rewards and bribes. While this may have been true of mid-twentieth Century authoritarianism, recent research by country specialists has revealed an abundance of local, voluntary, participatory mechanisms proliferating across well-established non-democratic states, such as Russia and China. Although national elections in these states are either heavily managed or entirely absent, press freedom is strongly curtailed and those who speak out against the regime are severely targeted, citizens in both countries can freely choose to join civic groups that provide welfare services, engage in participatory budgeting, give feedback on local government performance and debate policy proposals.In Russia, for example, since the early 2000s new government-organised participatory mechanisms have been developed and implemented throughout the country. First, consultative forums have proliferated at federal, regional and municipal levels. Known as public chambers and public councils, these forums enable certain citizens to engage directly with policy-makers to debate proposals and raise issues of local concern.[1] Second, the category of ‘socially oriented NGO’ was adopted in 2010 to regulate the activities of ‘apolitical’, mostly welfare-providing non-profit organisations, which carry out activities in the sphere of conservation, historical preservation, sports, education and health care.[2] Third, various participatory budgeting schemes, which enable local residents to have a say in the allocation of municipal budgets, have been implemented across Russia, involving both the World Bank and local, independent initiatives.[3]In China, municipal and regional level governance has always been the object of experimentation; hence, there exists wide variation in practices of governance across the country. Yet, since 2000, local authorities in various provinces have been employing a number of strategies to open up the policy-making process to citizens. In Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, citizens may provide evaluations of government performance across 117 branches of local government activity in a project called the ‘evaluations and examinations system’, which in 2012 had already involved over 15,000 citizens. Likewise, citizens of Hangzhou may debate policy proposals with local officials in a consultative forum known as the ‘Red House Consultations’.[4] Participatory budgeting is also spreading around the country, with thousands of initiatives in place at the village level.[5] And the number of public organisations in China has exploded in recent years, with around 675,000 formally registered with the authorities (and a further estimated 3 million unregistered), leading some to call it an ‘associational revolution’.[6]One of the main drivers behind the emergence of this new form of participatory authoritarianism has been the marketisation of state bureaucracies, which began in the UK, the USA and New Zealand during the late 1970s and early 1980s and rapidly spread around the world.  To varying extents, national governments began to introduce mechanisms drawn from the private sector into domestic public sectors in an ensemble of norms that came to be known as New Public Management (NPM). This included the privatisation of state-owned assets, the devolution of executive power to the provincial or municipal levels, the outsourcing of government functions to businesses and charitable organisations, and the monetisation and means-testing of welfare. The result was a shift in domestic state architecture away from the so-called ‘command and control’ states of the twentieth Century, which provided goods and services directly to citizens, and towards types of regulatory states, which engage in practices of ‘arms’ length governance’.  In regulatory states, governments are no longer the primary source of the knowledge and resources required for the effective formulation and delivery of public policy and, consequently, they must establish mechanisms that allow them to access this knowledge and resources in order to manage and oversee the policy process. In authoritarian regimes, such consultative mechanisms are all the more important since other feedback channels, such as a free press and fair elections, are either corrupted or fully absent.In regulatory states, a new kind of citizen is required: one who actively engages in policy-making processes, assists local authorities in social campaigns and gives constructive feedback on government proposals. However, non-democratic regimes face the additional challenge of fomenting active citizens who are aware of and keep within the boundaries to their participation. And indeed, authoritarian governments are finding increasingly innovative ways to do just that. In Russia and China, leaders are increasingly calling on citizens to become active in areas formerly the preserve of government. In 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping introduced the 12 core values of socialism in order to invigorate the ideology, and in 2013, introduced the ‘Chinese Dream’ as a means by which individual citizens can link their personal goals to those of the state. In Russia, increased civic participation has been a key theme of President Vladimir Putin’s speeches since his first term in power, in which he has repeatedly called upon the population to shake off its Soviet-era passivity and help the development of the nation by becoming active citizens. However, the fostering of such initiatives comes alongside increasingly draconian crackdowns in both countries on dissenting voices elsewhere in the public sphere. A full exposition of the growing levels of censorship in Russia and China is beyond the scope of this article – hence, a couple of examples will suffice for illustration. In Russia, one can be imprisoned for ‘offending religious feelings’ and anti-systemic opposition and human rights activists are regularly silenced through imprisonment or house arrest. In China, those who speak out publicly against the regime are frequently imprisoned, or ‘disappear’. In both states, the authorities enact ever closer internet surveillance for ‘subversive’ materials.[7] The message to citizens appears to be thus: constructive input on specific policies through approved fora is encouraged, but independent criticism of the Chinese Communist Party, the Russian Orthodox Church or other pillars of these regimes, is not.Nevertheless, studies in each country suggest that consultative fora do exercise a certain amount of influence on policy outcomes. In Russia, public consultations are likely to have an effect on those areas not seen to pertain to areas of national or strategic importance. Examples of successful lobbying via consultative structures include the introduction of courts of appeal, improvements in prison conditions, changing the law on military service to exempt PhD students from conscription, conservation of city architecture, monitoring of the local government budget and work on the liberalization of the NGO law in 2009.[8] In China, less data is available on precisely which policies have been influenced through these mechanisms, but scholars of China frequently cite the responsive nature of local authorities as a key feature of Chinese governance.[9]These developments have profound consequences for the way in which we view authoritarian regimes. First, instead of seeing authoritarianism solely as an elite-led project, voluntary practices of civic participation suggest that authoritarian regimes can be deeply embedded at the local level and enjoy grassroots legitimation and support. Citizens are not coerced into participatory activities but act out of a desire to improve their local community through the mechanisms available. Second, rather than seeing authoritarian regimes as the conceptual and logical opposite to democracies, the existence of civic participation in authoritarian settings is a reminder that all states are constituted by combinations of practices that include both ‘democratic’ practices of participation, accountability and justice and ‘authoritarian’ practices of coercion, co-optation and arbitrariness, which are enacted simultaneously by different sections of state apparatus, and whose dynamics are constantly interacting and evolving. Finally, a focus on the globalisation of governance norms shows how ostensibly liberal discourses and practices, such as civic participation in local governance, can be used to sustain illiberal rule at the national level.[1] These forums have been the subject of much research. See Catherine Owen (2016) ‘A Genealogy of Kontrol’ in Russia: From Leninist to Neoliberal Governance’, Slavic Review, 75 (2): 331–53; James Richter (2009) ‘Putin and the Public Chamber’, Post-Soviet Affairs 25 (1): 39–65; James Richter (2009) ‘The Ministry of Civil Society? The Public Chambers in the Regions’, Problems of Post-Communism, 56 (6): 7–20; Kirsti Stuvøy (2014) ‘Power and Public Chambers in the Development of Civil Society in Russia’, Communist and Post-Communist Studies 47: 409–19.[2] Rossiiskaya Gazeta (2010), ‘Federal’nyi Zakon Rossiiskoi Federatsii ot 5 aprelya 2010g No. 40 F2: O vnesenii izmenenii v otdel’nyye zakonodatel’nyye akty Rossiiskoi Federatsii po voprosu podderzhki sotsial’no oriyentirovannykh nekommercheskikh organizatsii’, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, 7 April, www.rg.ru/2010/04/07/nko-dok.html[3] PB Network (2016) ‘Participatory Budgeting Awareness Grows in Russia’, 4 January 2016. Available at: https://pbnetwork.org.uk/participatory-budgeting-awareness-grows-in-russia/;  For a successful local initiative in St Petersburg, conducted in co-operation between the municipal government and the European University at St Petersburg, see:  https://tvoybudget.spb.ru/ .[4] Jane Duckett & Hua Wang (2013) Extending political participation in China: new opportunities for citizens in the policy process, Journal of Asian Public Policy, 6:3, 263-276; For discussion of village level deliberative mechansisms see:[5] Baogang He (2011) Civic Engagement Through Participatory Budgeting in China: Three Different Logics at Work’, Public Administration and Development 31: 122-133.[6] Carolyn Hsu, Fang-Yu Chen, Jamie P. Horsley, and Rachel Stern (2016) ‘The State of NGOs in China Today, Brookings Institution, 15 December 2016. Available at: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2016/12/15/the-state-of-ngos-in-china-today/;  Jessica Teets (2014) Civil Society under Authoritarianism: The China Model (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).[7] See Human Rights Watch (2016) ‘Russia: ‘Big Brother’ Law Harms Security, Rights’, 12 July 2016. Available at: https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/07/12/russia-big-brother-law-harms-security-rights; Cheang Ming and Saheli Roy Choudhury (2017) ‘China has launched another crackdown on the internet — but it's different this time’, CNBC, 26 October 2017. Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/26/china-internet-censorship-new-crackdowns-and-rules-are-here-to-stay.html[8] Catherine Owen and Eleanor Bindman (2017) ‘Civic Participation in a Hybrid Regime: Limited Pluralism in Policymaking and Delivery in Contemporary Russia’, Government and Opposition. Online First.[9] Kevin O’Brien Kevin and Lianjiang Li (2006) Rightful Resistance in Rural China (Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press); Wenfang Tang (2016) Populist Authoritarianism: Chinese Political Culture and Regime Sustainability (New York, NY: Oxford University Press); Baogang He and Mark E. Warren (2011) ‘Authoritarian Deliberation: The Deliberative Turn in Chinese Political Development’, Perspectives on Politics 9 (2): 269-289. [post_title] => State Transformation and Authoritarian Governance: The Emergence of Participatory Authoritarianism? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => state-transformation-and-authoritarian-governance-the-emergence-of-participatory-authoritarianism [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-06-13 15:32:01 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-06-13 15:32:01 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://fpc.org.uk/?p=2894 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw )[5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 686 [post_author] => 28 [post_date] => 2016-07-14 17:06:47 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-07-14 17:06:47 [post_content] => This short article summarises research into Chinese activity in the region, conducted on the ESRC-funded grant, ‘Rising Powers and Conflict Management in Central Asia’ led by John Heathershaw at the University of Exeter. The research team conducted approximately 50 interviews with cultural and political elites in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan between 2013 and 2015. Specifically, we wanted to find out how Chinese economic incursions into Central Asia are perceived locally and the extent to which they are countered or embraced. After summarising China’s interests and activities in the Central Asian region, the article highlights both physical and discursive attempts by locals to undermine Chinese activity. It suggests that although nascent Chinese soft power initiatives have had some positive effects, on-going improvements to relations could be threatened by the economic downturn in China. The Logic behind Chinese Interests in Central Asia Although Chinese government rhetoric is unreservedly effusive about the growing cooperation with the region, two caveats are worth mentioning. First, Central Asia occupies a significantly lower status in Chinese foreign policy-making than other strategic areas such as the ASEAN and the South China Sea. Secondly, Chinese scholars and officials are aware that Central Asia forms part of Russia’s area of special interest and that Russia is deeply mistrustful of Chinese activities in the region. Yet although its footprint is softer in Central Asia than elsewhere in the world, China has three very concrete reasons behind its interest in the region.The first reason concerns energy security. China is the world’s largest energy consumer but only has 1% of global reserves. According to the US Department of Defense, China has invested in the energy-related projects in over 50 countries. However, China has become dependent on politically unstable countries in the Middle East and Africa, which in 2014 supplied over half of its crude oil imports. Central Asia represents a more stable and more convenient source of energy for China’s mushrooming domestic markets.Secondly, China’s interest in Central Asia stems from its desire to ensure stability in its restive Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, which borders Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The region is plagued by ethnic tensions between the Uyghur Muslim and Han Chinese populations, and is home to a number of Uyghur independence movements. According to China’s development logic, economic investment improves security by rendering separatist call less attractive. As such, the Central Chinese government has promised to invest nearly $25 billion in infrastructural projects in the troubled region in 2016.Thirdly, China’s expansion into Central Asia takes on a new significance as a means to sidestep US containment policies in the South China Sea. Russia has expressed support for China’s stance vis-à-vis the US on this issue, and the joint desire to see a reduction of American influence in the Far East may facilitate greater collaboration in Central Asia. With the Chinese media of the view that tensions between the US and China are likely to increase in the short-term, the Central Asian region, now free from US influence since 2014, appears a relative playground.China’s Central Asian Projects China’s flagship project in Central Asia is the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB), that is, the land-based component of its One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative (the other component being the Maritime Silk Road). Conceived in 2013, the SREB is an ambitious project to connect East Asian and European markets via Central Asia, increasing trade and connectivity, with Xinjiang seen as its core region. Currently, Chinese products are shipped 26,000 miles through the Suez Canal to Europe, a journey that takes up to 45 days. The SREB aims to reduce that journey time to less than two weeks and cut the mileage to 6,500. The SREB will be financed by the newly-created intergovernmental Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and by the Chinese venture, the Silk Road Fund.There are too many individual China-funded infrastructural and energy projects already underway in Central Asia to list here. However, notable projects include the development of the Galkynysh oilfields in Turkmenistan; the Central Asia-China gas pipeline that runs from Turkmenistan through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to Xinjiang; the Datka-Kemin electricity power line in Kyrgyzstan that allows the country energy independence from Uzbekistan; and the Khorgos Gateway on the China-Kazakh border, a key logistical hub for the SREB. This is in addition to the development of oil refineries in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and the construction of a plethora of roads across the region. In the year to May 2015, total trade between China and the five Central Asian states totalled $41.7 billion. Central Asians have thus witnessed an enormous increase in the number of Chinese companies, workers and settlers in the region, with Chinese restaurants and cafes and springing up near construction sites, and other small businesses opening in the towns.Local Reactions to Chinese Expansion Although local Central Asians generally saw the financial aspect of Chinese presence as a positive thing, many struggle with a deep-rooted fear of their large neighbour, instilled from infancy. One Bishkek resident explained, ‘In my childhood, if we didn’t eat the food that our grandmother prepared, she would scare us by saying that the Chinese will come.’ This Sinophobia manifests itself in Central Asia both physically and discursively.Firstly, unfortunately, as Chinese presence increases, so do incidences of violence. Local media outlets have noted a wave of criminal attacks on Chinese businesses, often targeted by gangs demanding protection money. High profile cases include the 2013 murder of the owner of Bishkek-based Chinese optician for refusing to pay extortion fees and the 2014 deportation of a group of Chinese workers from Kyrgyzstan for rioting over a pay dispute. Ethnic violence has also periodically broken out, both in terms of larger-scale conflicts and attacks on individuals, in particular near Chinese construction projects. In April this year, protests erupted across Kazakhstan over land reforms allowing foreigners to rent Kazakh land for up to 25 years. Protestors cited fears that Chinese investors will purchase the land and never leave.Secondly, conspiracy theories of Chinese intentions in Central Asia abound both online and in face-to-face discussions, and mostly consist of variations on the idea that China wants to ‘take over’ in Central Asia. For instance, the development assistance given by China in the south of Kyrgyzstan, such as hospitals and televisions, are ‘all part of a plot to exploit some piece of land in Osh that the Chinese know about and that others do not’. There is a perception that a lot of outward migration from China is occurring, both through promotion by the Chinese government and illegal border crossings. Many locals fear that immigration to the region is ‘out of control’, and that Chinese men arrive in Central Asia with the aim of marrying local women to thereby ‘dilute’ the region. Some believe that Kyrgyzstan will eventually become the PRC’s most westerly province. Others suggest that Russia and China are planning to take over the region together, which Russia providing the security and China the finance.Despite these problems, there is room for optimism regarding everyday relations between Chinese and Central Asians living in the region. For instance, local Chinese soft power initiatives are generally well received: the Kyrgyz language Chinese television channel is highly regarded and the Confucius Institutes are seen to provide exciting opportunities for students to obtain internships and travel abroad. The Chinese language is becoming an increasingly popular subject for study at university, and growing numbers of Central Asian young people are travelling to China on exchange or language programmes. Students invariably return with positive stories of their time in China, often surprised at the level of development in the country. This suggests that longer term investment by China in education and cultural exchange could reduce the fear and ignorance of China in the region.However, perhaps the most important question for local China-Central Asian relations concerns the nascent economic downturn in China. Although, Chinese construction companies will benefit from new building opportunities and, once completed, the SREB will substantially reduce transit costs for Chinese goods, the initiative requires a vast amount of capital injection to get the project off the ground: indeed, the China Development Bank recently revealed plans to invest $900 billion in a slew of projects connected to OBOR. However, Chinese premier Xi Jinping has indicated that he wants to check debt-fuelled growth. It is argued that a multi-trillion dollar bailout is required in order for the Chinese economy to stay afloat. And given that the South China Sea dispute takes clear precedency, in the event of a crisis, SREB funding will be the first to be cut. Will the ambitious vision for the region reach completion and enter operation, or will Central Asia begin to resemble the outskirts of a Chinese city: mile after mile of empty high rises and abandoned construction projects. If the latter turns out to be true, the level of discontent among Central Asians will, quite reasonably, be look set to rise.July 2016 [post_title] => Chinese Expansion in Central Asia: Problems and Perspectives [post_excerpt] => Over the past two decades, China has been slowly but substantially increasing its presence in Central Asia. Most recently, it has initiated the ambitious new project, the Silk Road Economic Belt, which aims to connect Chinese and European markets via Central Asia. Having surpassed Russia as Central Asia’s largest trading partner in 2009, China has invested billions into the economically ailing region and is the largest creditor to Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. 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