The 2nd Session of IIAS Eurasia Lecture Series | Social and Political Transformation in Central Asian Countries: Problems and Prospects

On the morning of May 20th, 2021, the second session of IIAS Eurasia Lecture Series was held at Conference Room 205 of the Central Main Building, with the theme of “Social and Political Transformation in Central Asian Countries: Problems and Prospects”. 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 doctorate candidates at IIAS as well as participants from CASS and China Institute of International Studies (CIIS).

The lecture was comprised of four parts. In the first part, Prof. Sun reviewed and explored the characteristics of the social and political development in Central Asia. He pointed out that the transition stage of Central Asian countries shows the following characteristics. First of all, the political power structure tends to be stable, and partisan struggles, ethnic conflicts and extreme behaviors are curbed to a certain extent. Second, nationalism has become the mainstream of ideology, and neither the democratization of the West nor the politicization of Islam hasn’t set. And third, the parliamentary system and the political party system have been “regulated” by the ruling authorities, establishing a strong presidential system of government. In the second part, Prof. Sun elaborated the authoritarian politics in Central Asian countries, which strengthen the power of executive authorities and establish the personal authority of presidents. The formation of authoritarianism has its profound social foundation. The third part discussed many risks and challenges faced by the social and political transformation in Central Asia, including the struggle between different political forces, the threat brought by extremism and social differentiation, the weak social resilience and the influence and pressure from great powers. At the end of the lecture, Prof. Sun concluded that it is a long-term mission for Central Asian countries to explore and find a model suitable for their national conditions.

After the lecture, Prof. Sun communicated and interacted with the audience on the topics involved and carefully responded to a number of questions raised by the audience, including the continuation of the presidential system after the referendum in Kyrgyzstan and the cut-off practice of religion and nationalism in Central Asian countries.

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