Chinese Migration to Central Asia: Contrasting Experiences between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan
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This paper argues that state and institutional processes are intertwined with ground-level interactions to create circumstances for Chinese migrants to either accept or reject the authority of their host environments. Contrasting host country models of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are examined to offer predictions about how PRC migration functions on a regional and global scale. Variance in state-level and subnational responses will ultimately impact the environment in which Chinese assets and migrants must function in. By nature of their political and economic environments, each country has a unique relationship with China. Kazakhstan is a key resource farm and transit zone for China. A substantial Chinese migrant population continues to grow in Kazakhstan, but its presence is not overt. Social disruption is rare. Kazakhstan's central political authority and high per capita GDP usually are effective at deterring public contention. Kyrgyzstan serves as the region's wholesale market for affordable Chinese consumer goods. Chinese migrants, goods, and investments in Kyrgyzstan interact with society on a much more noticeable level. Violent disputes occasionally arise between Chinese migrants and Kyrgyzstanis. In a decentralized state with weak economic development, uncertainty surrounding China's growing influence continues to channel resentment against Chinese interests. A sense of urgency compels Chinese interactions with Central Asia from a standpoint of national interest. China's demographic imbalance means that its dense population centers are reaching capacity. Central Asia is a strategic and growing source of energy, market access, and business opportunities. Moreover, cross-border security and development projects between Xinjiang and the Central Asian states are important to China for mitigating perceived risks of separatism, extremism, and terrorism within its geographic rear. Yet China's ascension to influence in Central Asia is largely inadvertent. Instead of being a single grand strategy, China's actions in the region are organic and market-driven. Change is rapid. The movement of Chinese to and from Central Asia is playing a vital role in determining the future of development and security across the Eurasian landmass. Nonetheless, host countries can and do have an impact on their interactions with China and Chinese migrants in particular. This important observation creates different implications for China's evolving presence both within Central Asia and elsewhere.