Do Russia and China promote autocracy in Central Asia?

Abstract

The purpose of our paper is to contribute to the literature on autocracy promotion by analyzing Central Asia as the most-likely case, considering both Russia and China as relevant external actors. We develop a concept for our analysis based on the different strategies of Russia and China towards the region and present the results of a qualitative study of the main dimensions of autocracy promotion (regional organizations, economic cooperation, and interference and threat). Based on this qualitative study, we define variables measuring the potential for autocracy promotion and test our hypotheses using panel data for 24 post-communist countries. The somewhat surprising result of our analysis is that, in contrast to Russia's dominance mode of operation, China's doing-business approach towards its neighbors in Central Asia may have—although unintentionally—even positive effects in terms of improving governance and undermining autocratic structures.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Notes

  1. 1.

    Different to strong accession incentives (Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier 2005; Melnykovska and Schweickert 2011), this applies to the cooperation schemes which are relevant for the region (see e.g., Gawrich et al. 2010; Franke et al. 2010; Melnykovska and Schweickert 2009). See also Hoffmann (2010) and Boonstra and Denison (2011) on the case of EU cooperation and Bhatti and Bronson (2000) and Deyermond (2009) on the case of NATO cooperation.

  2. 2.

    Similarly, Tolstrup (2009) distinguishes three dimensions of Russia's foreign policy: economic, military, and political.

  3. 3.

    Apart from its activities in the SCO, Russia has also lent legitimacy to the authoritarian regimes in Central Asia with the help of CIS election observers, declaring elections in CIS member states free and fair, even when they have been clearly fixed in favour of the incumbent autocratic and anti-Western elites (Tolstrup 2009).

  4. 4.

    Generally, bilateral trade deficits do not necessarily lead to bilateral capital account deficits. It is, however, likely for the case of countries with limited access to the international capital market or the strategic use of complementary financial arrangements.

  5. 5.

    9.8% compared to 18.2% of GDP (unweighted figures for 2008). Neglecting the case of Kyrgyzstan total trade with Russia would have stagnated at about 15% of GDP.

  6. 6.

    The Tashkent Treaty (signed in 1992) was the first step towards a regional security organization. For details on military capabilities of the CSTO following reforms in 2002 and 2009, see e.g., Socor (2009a), and Bailes and Dunay (2007).

  7. 7.

    Belarus refuses to cooperate as well and boycotted the 2009 meetings on account of a conflict with Russia over energy imports.

  8. 8.

    Variable names are in parentheses written in capital, italic letters. EU_BASIC implies Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (PCA) and Stability and Association Agreements (SAAs) for the Balkan countries respectively.

  9. 9.

    For membership in regional organizations, we use time-varying dummies for the years of membership.

  10. 10.

    The time period for the estimation is restricted by data availability (WGI is available since 1996) and the fact that, unrelated to governance issues, trade data is distorted by the emergency of the world wide crisis starting already in 2008. Hence, the estimation period spans the time period between the initial transition crisis and the recent world wide crisis. Additional exogenous variables are 3-year averages. For the instrumentation of potentially endogenous variables, see Melnykovska and Schweickert (2011).

References

  1. Afrasiabi KL, Jalali YP (2001) The economic cooperation organization: regionalization in a competitive context. Meditarreanean Quarterly 12(4):62–79

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Ambrosio T (2008) Catching the “Shanghai Spirit”: how the shanghai cooperation organization promotes authoritarian norms in Central Asia. Europe-Asia Studies 60(8):1321–1344

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Ambrosio T (2010) Constructing a framework of authoritarian diffusion: concepts, dynamics, and future research. Int Stud Perspect 11(4):375–392

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Anceschi L (2010) External conditionality, domestic insulation and energy security: the international politics of post-Niyazov Turkmenistan. China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly 8(3):93–114

    Google Scholar 

  5. Aslund A, Kuchins A (2008) Russia: the balance sheet. Peterson Institute, Washington, DC

    Google Scholar 

  6. Bader J, Kästner A (2010) Mehr Autokratie wagen? Russland und China als Konkurrenten westlicher Demokratieförderer. Internationale Politik 65(3):32–36

    Google Scholar 

  7. Bader J, Grävingholt J, Kästner A (2010) Would autocracies promote autocracy? A political economy perspective on regime-type export in regional neighbourhoods. Contemporary Politics 16(1):81–100

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Bailes AJK (2007) The Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Europe. China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly 5(3):13–18

    Google Scholar 

  9. Bailes AJK, Dunay P (2007) The Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a regional security institution. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute SIPRI Policy Paper 17:1–29

    Google Scholar 

  10. Bhatti R, Bronson R (2000) NATO's mixed signals in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Survival 42(3):129–146

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Blank S (2010) The strategic implications of the Turkmenistan–China pipeline project. China Brief 10(3):10–12

    Google Scholar 

  12. Bond AR, Koch NR (2010) Interethnic tensions in Kyrgyzstan: a political geographic perspective. Eurasian Geography and Economics 51(4):531–562

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Boonstra J, Denison M (2011) Is the EU-Central Asia Strategy running out of steam?, EUCAM Policy Brief No. 17

  14. Bosbotinis J (2010) Sustaining the dragon, dodging the eagle and barring the bear? Assessing the role and importance of Central Asia in Chinese National Strategy. China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly 8(1):65–81

    Google Scholar 

  15. Burnell P (2010) Is There a New Autocracy Promotion?, FRIDE, Working Paper Nr. 96 (March)

  16. Cooley A (2009) Cooperation Gets Shanghaied, Foreign Affairs online December 14. http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/65724/alexander-cooley/cooperation-gets-shanghaied

  17. Deyermond R (2009) Matrioshka hegemony? Multi-levelled hegemonic competition and security in post-Soviet Central Asia. Rev Int Stud 35(1):151–173

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Flikke G, Wilhelmsen J (2008) Central Asia: a testing ground for new great-power relations. NUPI, Oslo

    Google Scholar 

  19. Franke A, Gawrich A, Melnykovska I, Schweickert R (2010) The European Union's Relations with Ukraine and Azerbaijan. Post-Soviet Affairs 26(2):149–183

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Freedom House (2011) “Freedom in the World 2011 Survey” http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=594 as of June 2011

  21. Galbreath DJ (2008) Putin's Russia and the “New Cold War”: interpreting myth and reality. Europe-Asia Studies 60(9):1623–1630

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Gat A (2007) The return of authoritarian great powers. Foreign Affairs 86(4):59–69

    Google Scholar 

  23. Gawrich A, Melnykovska I, Schweickert R (2010) Neighborhood Europeanization through ENP: the case of Ukraine. Journal of Common Market Studies 48(5):1055–1072

    Google Scholar 

  24. Gibler DM, Sewell JA (2006) External threat and democracy: the role of NATO revisited. J Peace Res 43(4):413–431

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Gleason G, Shaihutdinov ME (2005) Collective security and non-state actors in Eurasia. Int Stud Perspect 6:274–284

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Hoffmann K (2010) The EU in Central Asia: successful good governance promotion? Third World Quarterly 31(1):87–103

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Ibraimov S (2009) China-Central Asia Trade Relations: Economic and Social Patterns China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly 7(1):47–59

  28. IMF (2010) Direction of trade statistics. The World Bank, Washington, D.C

    Google Scholar 

  29. Jackson NJ (2010) The role of external factors in advancing non-liberal democratic forms of political rule: a case study of Russia's influence on Central Asian regimes. Contemporary Politics 16(1):101–118

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Kaminski B, Raballand G (2009) Entrepôt for Chinese Consumer Goods in Central Asia: the puzzle of re-exports through Kyrgyz Bazaars. Eurasian Geography and Economics 50(5):581–590

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Kanet R (2007) Russia: re-emerging great power. Palgrave Macmillan, New York

    Google Scholar 

  32. Kassenova N (2009) China as an emerging donor in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan Russie.Nei.Visions, 36, Paris, Brussels: IFRI

  33. Koldunova EV (2010) Key Priorities and Dimensions in China's Central Asia Policy RISA's Outlook 2010/2011 1:50–54

  34. Kramer M (2008) Russian policy toward the Commonwealth of Independent States: recent trends and future prospects. Problems of Post-Communism 55(6):3–19

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Laruelle M, Peyrouse S (2009) Cross-border minorities as cultural and economic mediators between China and Central Asia. China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly 7(1):93–119

    Google Scholar 

  36. Mankoff J (2009) Russian foreign policy: the return of great power politics. Rowman& Littlefield, Lanham, MD

    Google Scholar 

  37. Melnykovska I, Schweickert R (2009) Europäisierungsmotor—die NATO und die Ukraine. Osteuropa, 59(9):49–64

    Google Scholar 

  38. Melnykovska I, Schweickert R (2011) NATO as an external driver of institutional change in post-communist countries. Defence and Peace Economics 22(3):279–297

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Merkel W (2010) Are dictatorships returning? Revisiting the ‘democratic rollback’ hypothesis. Contemporary Politics 16(1):17–31

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Naribaev M (2008) The Republic of Kazakhastan and the economic cooperation organization: present state and future cooperation. Central Asia and the Caucasus 1(49):98–112

    Google Scholar 

  41. Nurmasheva S (2008) Die Eurasec-StaatenimSpannungsfeldzwischenregionaler und multilateraler Integration (The EurAsEC States Between Regional and Multilateral Integration), Dissertation No. 3522, University of St. Gallen

  42. Pomfret R (2009) Regional integration in Central Asia. Econ Chang Restruct 42:47–68

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Pomfret R (2010) Central Asia after two decades of independence, Helsinki: UNU World Institute for Development Research, Working Paper No. 53

  44. Saat JH (2005) The Collective Security Treaty Organization,Conflict Studies Research Centre Central Asian Series, 9

  45. Sadovskay E (2008) Chinese migration to Kazakhstan: causes. Key Trends, and Prospects, Central Asia and the Caucasus 49:160–168

    Google Scholar 

  46. Sadovskaya E (2007) Chinese migration to Kazakhstan: a silk road for cooperation or a thorny road of prejudice? China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly 5(4):147–170

    Google Scholar 

  47. Schimmelfennig F, Sedelmeier U (2005) (editors) The Europeanization of Central and Eastern Europe. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY

    Google Scholar 

  48. Shadikhodjaev S (2008) Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC): legal aspects of regional trade integration, Working Paper No. 5, Seoul: Korea Institute for International Economic Policy

  49. Shapovalova N, Zarembo K (2010) Russia's Machiavellian support for democracy, FRIDE Policy Brief, 56

  50. Socor V (2009a) The CSTO: missions, capabilities, political ambitions, Eurasia Daily Monitor6, 25, February 6

  51. Socor V (2009b) Uzbekistan Quietly Stalling on CSTO Collective Forces, Eurasia Daily Monitor6, 115, June 16

  52. Sodiqov A (2011) Tajikistan Cedes Disputed Land to China, Eurasia Daily Monitor8, 16, January 24

  53. Stent AE (2008) Restoration and revolution in Putin's foreign policy. Europe-Asia Studies 60(6):1089–1106

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Thomson E, Horii N (2009) China's energy security: challenges and priorities. Eurasian Geography and Economics 50(6):643–664

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Tolstrup J (2009) Studying a negative external actor: Russia's management of stability and instability in the ‘Near Abroad’. Democratization 16(5):922–944

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Weitz R (2011) Uzbekistan's growing role in Beijing's Central Asian strategy. China Brief 11(1):12–15

    Google Scholar 

  57. World Bank (2011) World development indicators 2011. Washington, D.C.

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rainer Schweickert.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Melnykovska, I., Plamper, H. & Schweickert, R. Do Russia and China promote autocracy in Central Asia?. Asia Eur J 10, 75–89 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10308-012-0315-5

Download citation

Keywords

  • Regional Organization
  • Central Asian Country
  • Autocratic Regime
  • Shanghai Cooperation Organization
  • Central Asian State