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The “New Great Game” in Central Asia: From a Sino-Russian Axis of Convenience to Chinese Primacy?


Situated at the crossroads of the Silk Road, Central Asia has been an arena of international competition for centuries. Today, a “New Great Game” appears to be taking place between Russia, China and, to a lesser extent, the United States and the European Union for regional hegemony. In the last two decades, Russia and China formed an “axis of convenience”, both to counter Western influence and to thwart regional challenges; however, this has increasingly turned to rivalry in recent years, with China gradually replacing Russia as the chief power with regard to geo-economic and energy assets in some Central Asian countries. An analysis based on Power Transition Theory points to two possible future scenarios for the rivalry, namely China’s predominance or a Chinese-Russian modus vivendi based on a ‘division of labour’.
Keywords: New Great Game; Central Asia; Power Transition Theory; Russia; China