عنوان مقاله [English]
Energy resources, especially oil and gas, have always been one of the most important elements of reliance for exporters as well as importing countries to strengthen their economies. On this basis, countries with energy resources have been given special attention by importing countries. In this way, they have sought to dominate these resources and countries in various ways. Central Asian countries have also become a battleground for regional and global powers for access and control of their energy resources.
Those global and regional powers that have tried to keep their presence in this competition are the United States, Russia, and China. Meanwhile, China is paying more attention to these countries due to its border proximity and the need for their resources for its industry and maintaining economic growth while Russia is trying to strengthen its economy, which relies on the export of energy resources. Russia is also very sensitive to the presence of other powers in the region and has tried to keep them in orbit through various means, including dominating energy transmission lines and buying shares in the oil and gas companies of these countries. On the other hand, the countries of this region have always tried to diversify their energy transmission lines and share different countries in the field of oil and gas resources by using their investments in their energy sector. Therefore, China’s presence in the region in the form of the New Silk Road initiative and its investment in various sectors, especially the energy industries of these countries has been welcomed.
The new Silk Road, also known as the Belt and Road Initiative, was first proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping during a visit to Central Asia in 2013. This project is an important idea of China’s economic connection with Central Asia and works to meet China’s economic needs and access to energy resources in Central Asia. However, China’s efforts to its presence are in direct contrast with Russia’s efforts, as Central Asia has traditionally been Russia’s sphere of influence. Since 2000, Russia has stepped up its activities in Central Asia intending to play a leading role in the region. China’s massive economic presence in Central Asia runs counter to Russia's goals and initiatives, including the Eurasian Economic Union initiative to restore its regional prominence.
The Belt and Road Initiative is China’s most important and largest project for developing the export of goods and gaining access to markets and energy resources for energy-rich countries. The project has designed various routes to achieve China’s energy needs, the most important of which is the Central Asian route to China, through which China has been able to enter the region in the framework of bilateral plans and agreements. In addition, by investing in the energy sector of these countries and buying their share of oil fields, they will be able to have an access to energy resources more securely than any other routes through which China supplies its energy demands.
According to the above-mentioned facts, China needs energy for reasons including its economic growth, economic security, and energy security with the support of major energy companies. For this reason, the country aims to control oil and gas production and supply chains with special attention to reliable energy-producing countries. Central Asian countries need foreign capital for investments and diversify their export routes. Russia is sensitive to its near abroad and needs energy resources to fulfill export commitments to other countries and strengthen its economic growth. In this present study, the author has used analytical methods to examine the impact of the Silk Road Initiative on Sino-Russian relations in Central Asia in the field of energy from 2014 to 2019. According to this study, the expansion of China’s cooperation with Central Asian countries, especially Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in the framework of the Silk Road Initiative from 2014 to 2019, has praised Russia’s competitive concerns. As a result, Chinese officials have simultaneously implemented plans to expand energy exchanges and cooperation with Russia in the form of this plan. As a result, it can be said that the China Silk Road initiative has simultaneously strengthened the competitive and cooperative nature of Beijing-Moscow energy relations.
Many observers see Central Asia as the most likely source of tensions and rivalries between China and Russia over issues like political, military, and economic influence. However, what has mostly affected relations between the two countries in recent years is the issue of energy. Therefore, it can be said that in the future, the issue of energy and the Central Asian region will be one of the important factors affecting the cooperation between China and Russia.
In general, it can be concluded that China’s presence in various projects, especially the Belt and Road Initiative, as well as concluding bilateral agreements with Central Asian countries, especially Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, which have a higher capacity, especially in the field of energy, to enter the Belt and Road Initiative, has aroused Russia’s sensitivity. The region has been the traditional sphere of influence of Russia and in many cases, it has tried to create obstacles and prevent the presence of other countries in its near abroad. An example of this has been the increase in purchasing prices from these countries and the creation of the Eurasian Economic Union in the region in competition with the Belt and Road initiative. On the other hand, China by realizing these sensitivities has refrained from participating in security issues in the region and has handed them over to Russia to reduce Russia’s sensitivities. Therefore, due to Russia’s economic difficulties since 2014 and the sanctions imposed on the country by the West, the country has welcomed China’s presence and its investments in the energy sectors of Central Asia and even Russia. With all these interpretations, although Russia and China have become strategically closer in recent years, several strategic partnership factors limit them globally. Similarly, their interests in Central Asia combine a combination of elements of cooperation and competition and reduce the likelihood of a Russian-Chinese condominium in the region.