The 4th Session of IIAS Eurasia Lecture Series | Central Asia: Unique Status in History, Culture and Strategy

On the afternoon of June 16th, 2021, the third session of IIAS Eurasia Lecture Series was held at Conference Room 205 of the Central Main Building, with the theme of “Central Asia: Unique Status in History, Culture and Strategy”. The event was delivered by Prof. Sun Zhuangzhi, Member of Academic Committee at Institute of International and Area Studies, Tsinghua University (IIAS-THU) and Director of Institute of Russian, Eastern European & Central Asian Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), to young research professors and doctoral candidates at IIAS as well as participants from CASS and China Institute of International Studies (CIIS).

The first part of the lecture focused on the cultural tradition and the formation of the main ethnic groups in Central Asia. Prof. Sun mentioned that Central Asia is the intersection of many civilizations in history, with multi-ethnic and multi-religious features, which also shows and has identity and uniqueness behind cultural differences and historical conflicts.

In the second part of the lecture, Prof. Sun elaborated the historical interactions between China and Central Asia. He pointed out that as a close neighbor of China, Central Asia has long historical and cultural ties with China. Ancient books record that as early as the Western Zhou Dynasty in the 11th century, China had begun contact with ancient tribes in Central Asia. After the Han Dynasty, extensive business travel and trade exchanges were carried out with Central Asia. The ancient “Silk Road” made many cities in Central Asia prosper as business centers. It is not only a road of business travel and civilization, but also a road of friendship and cooperation. This millennium road has closely linked the Chinese people with the people of Central Asian countries.

Next, Prof. Sun focused on the promotion of “the Belt and Road Initiative” (B&R) in Central Asia and China. He pointed out that Central Asia is both a friendly neighbor and a strategic partner for China. From the ancient Silk Road to the “Silk Road Economic Belt”, two of the six corridors are related to Central Asia. It is the most convenient land “bridge” connecting Europe and the land transportation route, with huge resource potentials. Central Asia is rich in oil, natural gas and water resources, but whether these resources will make the countries in the region prosperous and stable or lead to more intense contradictions depends on the interaction between major powers and the establishment of regional security mechanisms. In addition, Prof. Sun noted that the international position of Central Asia is dominated by great powers. He also summarized and explained the characteristics of the current situation in Central Asia and the impact of changes in the strategic pattern of Central Asia on China.

At the end of the lecture, Prof. Sun and the participants had heated discussions on how researchers with non-historical backgrounds can establish a comprehensive view of Central Asian history.

Prof. Sun Zhuangzhi is Research Professor, Doctoral Supervisor and Director of Institute of Russian, Eastern European & Central Asian Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). Focusing on international politics, his research interests include the construction of The Belt and Road Initiative, international relations in Central Asia and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). He has been granted special government allowance by the State Council since 2010. Prof. Sun concurrently serves as Executive Director of Research Center for SCO, Vice President of Chinese Central Asia Friendship Association, Vice Chairman and Secretary General of Sino-Russian Strategic Partnership High-end Cooperation Think Tank of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Director of China’s SCO Committee on Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation, Vice Chairman of China Anti-Corruption Research Center, CASS, Vice President of Social Change Research Association and Executive Director of China Center for Contemporary World Studies (CCCWS)

His publications include the books of Foreign Relations of Five Central Asian Countries (1999), New Landscape and Regional Security in Central Asia (2001), Security in Central Asia and Afghanistan (2003), Research on Color Revolution in CIS Countries (2011), Research on Cross-border Cooperation in Central Asian Countries (2014) as well as the papers of “Exploring the Focus of Expanding the Cooperation Space of The Belt and Road Initiative” (2018), “Strategic Connotation and Realization Path of Silk Road Economic Belt” (2014) and “New Development of SCO and New Opportunities of China’s Foreign Economic Cooperation” (2012).

Text by: Wang Zijing
Typesetting by: Wang Zijing
Reviewed by: Eurasia Group