China's aggressive actions and claims in the South China Sea on its eastern flank are being contested by its neighbours and the US However, China's advance in Central Asia on its western flank looks unhindered for now, due to the geopolitical realities of the region.
With the US and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan underway since last year, and the Russian economy under sanctions for its role in the Ukraine crisis, China appears comfortably placed to pursue its interests in the region.
China's Central Asia policy is part of its "March West" strategy, at term coined by professor Wang Jisi of Peking University in 2012. Wang said that as the US pivots to the Asia-Pacific, China needs to utilize its development space to the west.
Central Asia came under Russian rule during the second half of the 19th century. China's relations with the region were interrupted due to the Soviet Union's rift with China in the 1960s, and the border between the two was heavily militarized.
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