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Chinese and Islamic expansionism a threat in Kazakhstan?

19 february 2014, 16:08
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Kazakhstan has always been on a cultural and economical crossroads. The geographic location made the country subject to a variety of influences. So-called “Chinese threat” and Arab Islamization are among the major influences Kazakhstan is susceptible to.

It all starts with the economy. Kazakhstan with its blooming economy and oil riches has a relatively underdeveloped market. It is an eye candy for Chinese investors that have flooded the local oil market in recent years. Many experts believe that growing number of Chinese companies in oil and gas sector of Kazakhstan and unresolvable cross-border water issues are signal of Chinese expansionism.

Konstantin Syroezhkin, a sinologist writer, has noted certain dissimulation of information concerning the Kazakh-Chinese relations. In particular, there is no access to oil and gas agreements between Kazakhstan and China. The sinologist believes such secretiveness gives rise to speculations and myths about Chinese expansionism. Although availability of such information is important, Syroezhkin thinks that lack of thereof doesn't necessarily mean there is any real threat.

Islamization has a larger scope that comprises of a number of aspects from different areas. The recent revival of Islam in Kazakhstan, according to experts, has failed to remain a purely domestic affair of Kazakhstan and is being targeted by a number of Arab-Islamic charity organizations. The data shows that in the last 20 years, Islamic charity organizations have had a greater presence and invested heavily in various sectors, starting from religious organizations to education scholarships in Islamic centers in Saudi Arabia. Experts fear that such benevolent intensions may plant radical Islam into Kazakhstan’s Muslim environment.

A theologian Alma Sultangalieva believes that young Kazakhstanis who are fighting in Syria and the Caucasus inherited orthodox and aggressive Islam from foreign Muslims.

With the growing Chinese influence, many experts believe that China would dominate Kazakhstan’s politics. Such fears are caused by China’s role as a future dominant energy player.

While Kazakh radical nationalist sentiments appeal to the revival of Kazakh culture and development of solely Kazakh economy, Islamic organizations are finding a way to affect the country that has never been outright religious.

A threat or not, but growing foreign presence in the country's economy and everyday life is raising a lot of concerns among the population. This is definitely food for thought.

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