U.S. Faces Tough ‘Great Game’ Against China in Central Asia and Beyond

The Trump administration sees former Soviet republics in the heart of Asia as critical battlegrounds in the struggle with China over global influence. But American policies could fall short.

Comments: 30

  1. "The Trump administration is trying with greater force to insert itself into the political and economic life of Central Asia to counter China’s presence. American officials see the countries in the heart of the continent’s vast, arid steppe as critical battlegrounds in the struggle with China over global influence." Trump's slamming the phone down on allies, pulling out of Iran Nuclear Agreement, the Paris Climate Agreement, and assassinating a leader in Iran doesn't pave the way for controlling China's actions around the world.

  2. When I read that the US will give $1 million for connectivity and another million for creating financial markets, it sounds like Dr Evil in the Austin Powers movies asking for a $1 million ransom - laughable. Do they understand how little impact those sums have in any country these days? Compare that to the infrastructure projects China is funding with its $1 trillion initiative...

  3. While it is correct to consider China geopolitical rival and a rising power, it was incredibly unwise for Trump to abandon the trade agreement involving many Pacific rim nations that the Obama administration had negotiated. Those countries are looking for assurance not only that their national security concerns are addressed, but also that their economies can be somewhat insulated from Chinese modern mercantilism. The Trans-Pacific Partnership would have provided those assurances. It would also have reinforced and strengthened American economic and cultural ties across the region and given greater reason for our Pacific allies to maintain close military ties with the United States of America. Abandoning TPP was shortsighted. Even more shortsighted is the administration's apparent refusal to take seriously the Chinese aspiration for a bluewater navy and the ability to project marine combat power. I see no evidence that American naval assets in the Pacific are being increased with any degree of urgency. I see no evidence that our nation is reaching out to Japan, South Korea, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, and smaller nations to improve understanding and consensus on the need to protect navigation. China has an argument that the South China Sea is of unique security importance to that nation, just as we would argue that the Pacific littoral off the American west coast is important to us. But we mustn't abandon our allies to China's whims.

  4. Projects under the Belt and Road Initiative might be redefined by the Wuhan Coronavirus. (Would you like a sprawling quarantine facility to go along with that bridge, port or railroad? We can throw one in at no extra cost.)

  5. @Charlie In Taiwan China has survived and thrived for four thousand years despite famines, plagues, The Great Leap Forward, The Cultural Revolution and keep coming back for more.

  6. You know what would have helped a lot in America's attempt to corral Asian countries to consider America over their Asian counterparts in China? A trade agreement that bypassed the usual routes of those countries and opened free and fair trading with the U.S. and it's allies. That agreement was called the TPP and was ripped up by the Trump administration, along with the Paris accords and the Iran nuclear agreement and countless other initiatives set in place by Obama and abandoned for the same reason. It will take decades for the effects of Trump's juvenile behavior to be understood by the uninformed, the misinformed and the ill-informed but they should make note that informed people's heads have been exploding since 2016.

  7. one thing is certain...Trump's administration can't effectively carry out any policy as long as Trump has free reign to tweet and speak into a camera when ever he wants and says what ever he wants. read 'The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire' by Edward N. Luttwak and then of course there is the simple fact that Chinese civilization has survived longer than any other—four thousand years and counting.

  8. The roots of the US losing influence in Asia and Africa actually go back to the start of the Iraq war. Spending that much money with that little positive impact shows the futility of the US effort. Now after Afghanistan and the tax cut we are at a 5% of GDP budget deficit with an economy growing at a nominal 4% - meaning if we balance the budget we are likely to go into recession. This is not the ideal state from which to invest a trillion dollars into other countries like China is doing. And those are actual investments in infrastructure which will bring trade and living standards up for all. Finally, the US just doesn't trade that much with others - 85% of our economy is internal/domestic. China is the number 1 trader. So Chinese infrastructure, Chinese products...and of course proximity (freight trains can get from China's manufacturing areas close to much of Asia and soon might make their way to Africa). If we had the ability to build 30 year plans and then execute them, and had thought about this during the Clinton era, then we might have had a chance to "win", IF we had had the right idea of where our money should go. Instead we framed Iraq for WMD and spent trillions on decades of silly war.

  9. @Eb You can thank the leaders and sycophants in the Republican Party for pushing the outright lie of WMD's onto the public; and for their astounding lack of understanding and planning for what the inevitable consequence of our "winning" would entail. Makes Vietnam look like a cake walk.....

  10. China is not very strong. Xi is a dictator, and as such he has many weaknesses, the main one being that dictators governments are generally very corrupt and inept. His is very much that way. Authoritarians cannot accept truths that are inconvenient. Thus they deny reality to maintain a facade of supremacy. China's rise has been mostly due to the greed and gullibility of our corporations. Xi calculated that he had raised the people enough when he made himself supreme leader. China pretended that they were going to be more of an open market and institute more democratic governance. That was just a rouse that easily fooled the greed machine of the US. China will now decline because Xi is a dictator. Dictators always fail because they reject reality. That is also why Russia is actually a very small economy and very weak even despite their quite impressive propaganda machine and their psychological warfare methods that work so well on citizens of the UK and US. Of course, Trump will do the same here. I think the small UK, small Russia, declining China and collapsing US should hearten the rest of the world who have been under the thumbs of one or more of these oppressive regimes for near on 150 years. I think it's all great for the EU if they can fend off their racists.

  11. The only thing in Pompeo's bag of goodies to offer potential allies are guns, empty promises and belligerance. No one wins hearts and minds by limiting visas and calling out entire nations as terrorists. Pompeo is also stymied by trump who keeps no promises, hasn't a clue what to do if he is not attacking someone and whose fear of muslims is palpable. This current band of leaders are only good at causing problems. The solutions await a better class of Americans in leadership roles.

  12. The Trump administration is delusional. No country anywhere on earth is operating under the assumption that the present administration's preferred method for dealing with other countries is through anything other than bullying. Full stop. And yes, when a country is as powerful as the US, bullying is effective (until it's not). But that will only buy acquiescence, it'll never buy influence.

  13. The current Republican administration can't maintain alliances with long time partners in Asia—Philippines are now under the sway of China— they certainly aren't capable of establishing new ones.

  14. Step anywhere outside of the United States and you will instantly see the damage this administration has done to our reputation internationally. He has destroyed our alliances and lacks the vision or sophistication to build anything but third rate real estate. China knows this and would rather wait for someone else to occupy the White House.

  15. Step anywhere outside of the United States and the damage that this administration has done to our alliances around the world is palpable. China sees through Trump’s ineptitude as well, and they are taking full advantage of this fact. It is inconceivable that our country has now entered the dark ages, but it has. In less than four years the sheer incompetence has left us in tatters.

  16. China plans in decades and Trump plans in time for his next meal. If Trump is reelected China will have a free hand to take over the far side of the planet while Trump plays petty politics. China will be all in, along with Russia in getting Trump back in. It's in their best interests to let America slide into being Venezuela of the North. A civil war might be coming if Trumps blatant cheating gets him back in the Out House. If so, then so be it.

  17. Diplomacy and realistic strategic 'support' is hopeless for the international community under Trump, where everything is about Trump's bias and fears. And before the Trump administration, there was little promise of competent leadership, American voters are too ignorant to support the legislation necessary - Take down the support for destructive social, and health and economic programs in the U.S.A. that serve investors and hedge funds. For starters, tell the truth about our food supply and dietary habits that are leading to pandemics of obesity and cancer; these models of food production must stop. These corporations must stop preying on other countries around the world that do not understand yet. Follow the science on the benefits to the environment and human health when plant-based diets are dominant, and meat and sugar are not brought into the homes. If America wants to partner - cleanup the mess in America first, and let that be a model that is attractive, a sign of intelligence that is worth following. Otherwise, American leadership can continue to play golf with smug attitudes of indifference and superiority; let the poor eat cake, and the non-christians and people of color can starve. Wake up Washington D.C., or get out the way and let the youth in America lead in fixing climate change, the broken electoral process and big money in politics. Then we may finally be able to not rule, but be helpful friends to other nations around the world.

  18. How will the US influence these countries? Colour revolutions, arming/funding rebel factions and terrorists. Its just an exhausting endless cycle. Even if the US decides to build infrastructure there, it will only HELP China. USA, you have hundreds of thousands homeless, millions who can't afford a $400 emergency. Sort yourselves out please.

  19. "The Great Game" by Peter Hopkirk is a wonderful primer for those who dare to delve deeper into this story. It has been, and continues to be, an instructive manual for those who think Afghanistan is a "winnable war".

  20. the foundation of any foreign policy for any nation is constancy of purpose. democracies are always at a disadvantage over autocracies in this regard. Trump's zeal for destroying the principles and apparatus of US foreign policy is much appreciated by China and Russia.

  21. How ironic that China is involved in renovating a mosque in Uzbekistan while shutting down mosques in Xinjiang.

  22. Russia might well worry about growing Chinese influence in central Asia. For the US to worry about it, even to see itself as having a seat at the table is sheer idiocy. When will we ever learn that we are NOT an Asian nation?

  23. Trump and Pompeo are concerned about what people in Central Asia want? They don’t seem overly concerned about what Americans want. They have shown they aren't at all concerned about what our former allies want. Can Central Asia seriously expect more? Trump's bluster, hyperbole (lies), and inscrutable actions have led to confusion regarding his goals and the inability of our nation to be proactive in many areas. His fickle, inconsistent communication has led to confusion among members of his administration, suggesting unlikely fulfillment of proposed aid, ex: the withheld Ukraine funds. Governments expecting assistance need only look at the US under his rule. Our infrastructure is in need of repair and improvement but has seen little concrete action. Trump's apparent bigotry and America's civil-rights' history with the inordinate imprisonment of people of color belies US hypocrisy regarding China's human-right's violations. That Trump has Pompeo pushing for "private investment" in Uzbekistan has rightly given them cause for caution—the US should have been so astute. Americans wanted a fair impeachment trial with documents and witnesses and got a kangaroo trial under Mitch's Kool-aide-addicted Senate majority. US citizens requested Trump's tax records and have gotten only lies and broken promises due to Attorney General Barr-every-legal-action. Americans want a legitimate election but are facing the machinations of the triumvirate of Trump-Barr-McConnell. Applicants beware.

  24. Aid from liberal democracies always comes with strings attached on human rights, which these countries are not prepared to overcome. Chinese and Russian money is unburdened by this ideal, so whether it is Trump, Obama, or any other American president, the US is just not an easy development partner.

  25. This is laughable. Ever since the US withdrawal by this administration of the TPP we have given away any leverage against Chinese inroads in these territories. It is laughable that only now are they attempting to shore up diplomatic efforts. China is watching with glee and amusement.

  26. President Obama, Mitch McConnell, and the Intelligence Community failed to protect us against Russia's still unfolding and largely successful plan to remake our global superpower leadership of the world into a multi-polar world. It is a world where endless war "justifies" authoritarian states, guided by "self-interests", where the West is divided by right-wing nationalistic squabbles as much as united by the liberal order and alliances, as in the 19th and 20th Century. In this everything old is new again world, the "great game" metaphor un-ironically guides endless competition and conflict against other regional powers. Good news for the Right: defense sector investors, Cold-warriors, and Nixon/Kissinger realpolitik era retreads: the William Barrs, Dick Cheneys, and John Boltons of our country, and the oligarchs who love them. Bad news for the masses. It's the world where the IC has an unlimited budget and mandate as well, it just so happens.

  27. If the central Asian countries want to do business with another country that suppresses millions of their fellow Islamists, stopping them from doing so would only make us imperialists.

  28. Today, America has lost all moral credibility. Everyone sees U.S. international machinations for exactly what they are -- brutal domination and hypocrisy. Even the New York Times cannot obscure the self-evident double-speak from a U.S. state that talks about human rights, and at the same time uses naked conquest; drone murders; torture; rampart spying -- lacking a single moral scruple.

  29. I have been to all these countries except Tajikistan as visas a few years back were next to impossible. Uzbekistan particularly stands out but I was there when the long time dictator Kerimov was still in power. It was basically a police state with those metros in Tashkent - fully patrolled including underpasses. They have a fancy like the French high speed train to Samarkand - all wonderful. But I got the sense in those days - America was still the shining city - in all countries. China can have it's way for a while - but reports from Sri Lanka and even Pakistan with this belt and road initiative is the belt is beginning to strangle them. And they are pushing back. I would rather have America do its own thing than do things for the sake of competing with China. We can never because we don't think along those lines. China does these things out of insecurity knowing it's system is still subject to an overthrow. We need to do it from the strength we have in our values and system. In that regard, no one comes even close.

  30. These former Soviet republics will always want to balance their relationships with China, Russia, other Muslim nations and the West in order to give themselves the greatest latitude and national autonomy. China will continue to be a strong influence, particularly economically, but Soviet roots and suspicion over China's heavy handedness and treatment of the Uyghurs minority will leave openings for the US and its allies for many years to come! If the US is smart in its engagement, it will continue to play an important role in the region!