The author of the concept of "soft power" Joseph Nye under this term understood the use of intangible cultural resources in order to influence the object by persuasion without coercion. It is most common to talk about the "soft power" of the United States. However, today, as China becomes the new world leader, the relevance of its positioning in other countries is growing. What is the goal of China's "soft power"? Through which instruments does China influence the countries of Central Asia? Is there China's humanitarian expansion in the region? The member of the expert council on strengthening national unity and religious policy under the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, political scientist Denis Berdakov answered these questions to the "Eurasia.

- Denis Mikhailovich, in recent years the role of China has sharply increased not only in the economics of Central Asia, but also in education and the humanitarian sphere. How can China's "soft power" in Central Asia be characterized in general?

- In Central Asia it had to be created almost from scratch. The image of the Celestial Empire was extremely negative due to the fact that almost all countries in the region had clashes with the Chinese.

For example, there is a settlement near Bishkek where a famous Chinese philosopher lived. These territories were transformed, because ethnic Chinese lived there before later the other tribes came by and nationalities that interfered in this melting pot. They had a relationship with China as a powerful rival who was always happy to dislodge them.

In addition, during the Soviet period, when Kyrgyzstan was a border zone, many citizens realized that they live on the border, which is associated with a number of risks. In the Stalin period, relations with China were warm, and already under Khrushchev and Brezhnev - strained. This was transmitted to the population.

- Has the attitude towards China changed with the younger generation?

- The youth of Kyrgyzstan can be divided into two groups. A small minority who speaks Chinese, English. They want to develop economic relations, create good relations, generally they take China positively. But the vast majority of people are traditionally treated with some suspicion, often due to ignorance of China itself.

The Chinese authorities are acting cautiously in the implementation of foreign policy. One of its main advantages is the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. Therefore, China's "soft power" is based on a rich multi-millennial culture and the status of the world's largest manufacturing economy.

- What are the main mechanisms of China's "soft power" in Kyrgyzstan and in general in Central Asia?

- According to the Ministry of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic, the Chinese language is taught in the 8 largest universities of the country: BSU K.Karaseeva, KNU Zh. Balasagyn, KSU I. Arabaeva, KRSU B.N. Yeltsin, Naryn State University, Osh State University, Osh Technological University, as well as Osh Humanitarian Pedagogical Institute and "Bilim" Lyceum in Osh State University.

In the field of education, the cornerstones are the Confucius Institutes at the Bishkek Humanitarian University and the Kyrgyz National University. They are based in 2007 and 2008 and are funded by Beijing. Also in 2013, the Confucius Institute in Osh functions. Confucius Institute of Osh State University is recognized as the best institute of 2017 for creative work.

KNU Zh.Balasagyn is the largest university in the country, 1300 students study at the Kyrgyz-Chinese faculty. In 2017, 100 of them were sent to study in China on a grant basis. Today, in 146 countries, 525 Confucius institutes and 1113 Confucius classes have been established in primary and secondary schools. In KNU there are 24 teachers from China who came to Kyrgyzstan by mutual exchange.

Institute of Confucius in KNU Zh. Balasagyn opened 8 classes (cost of equipment of one class is $ 30 000) and 18 multimedia audiences (cost of equipment for one multimedia audience is $ 3,5 thousand). In 2013, the Institute sent more than 600 Kyrgyz citizens to China, organized refresher courses for 800 teachers of the Chinese language. Chinese language classes were opened in Jalal-Abad and Karakol as well. 

In Osh State University for the Confucius Institute was built a separate educational building for 600 people. A grant of $ 800,000 was allocated for construction by the Chinese side. The new building of the Kyrgyz-Chinese faculty also includes a hostel for 160 people. Today, OSHU directly cooperates with 52 universities in China. More than 250 students and 100 teachers from Osh State University are trained in universities in Shanghai, Beijing, Lanzhou, Suzhou, Dalian and Urumqi.

In 2012, 38 native speakers of the Chinese language worked in secondary and higher educational institutions. In September 2014, the Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Kyrgyz Republic signed a memorandum of cooperation with the State Administrative Academy of China. Also, Beijing is financing two more programs through the SCO, which enable 50 students in Kyrgyzstan to undergo training in the territory of China for a year (provided that they know the Chinese language).

Soon, in Bishkek, a school No. 95 will be opened with in-depth study of the Chinese language, which was built at the expense of a Chinese grant. Since 2016 in the Central Scientific Library of the National Academy of Sciences with the support of the Confucius Institute there are eight-month free courses of the Chinese language. They are aimed at high school students, students and young scientists. Also in October the first Chinese bookshop "Chance" was opened in Central Asia.

Over the past three years, 4 higher education institutions have received a license to study the specialty "Sinology", and nine organizations for three months in 2017. In Bishkek, 37 courses operate, and throughout the country - 65. The construction of the Institute of the Silk Road China-Kyrgyzstan is planned.

There are a lot of similar student exchange programs. Thousands of people have already studied and are studying in China. This is interesting, since there are quite good grants and scholarships - up to $ 1 thousand, if you go to the magistracy - even more.

- Can the Chinese education compete with the Russian?

- Definitely yes, but they are oriented to different groups of people. People who decided to study in China did not want to go to Russia from the very beginning. They would rather choose the countries of Europe or the US, but for different reasons they chose China.

- What kind of information work does China do in the region?

- The activities of the Chinese media play an important role in the policy of "soft power". Journalists prepare numerous reports, TV shows and other events have only one main goal - to show the achievements and positive aspects of China.

In November 2017, Bishkek celebrated the second anniversary of the newspaper "Silk Road. Cultural development "is the republic's second-largest newspaper. The weekly circulation of the newspaper with articles in Kyrgyz and Russian is 20 thousand copies, in Chinese - more than 4 thousand. The newspaper is a vivid example of "soft power", but suffers from a typical vice - the excess of officialdom.

Well, you can note interesting notes about the economy, culture, technology of the Middle Kingdom, joint Kyrgyz-Chinese projects. The newspaper is distributed free of charge throughout the country. At first it was eight-lane, now it's sixteen-lane. A total of 102 issues were issued.It has a Facebook page (about 400 subscribers) and a channel in WeChat. Also there are two websites (in Chinese and Russian) and a magazine.

In the information world of Kyrgyzstan, China's successes are shown, a positive image of the Chinese way of life, modern and traditional culture is created, positive examples of China's cooperation with neighbors are shown, the happy life of national minorities in China, among which there are Chinese Kyrgyz.

China also pays great attention to working with the Uyghur and Dungan communities of Kyrgyzstan, which maintain ties with their relatives in the country. Chinese scientists work with researchers from the Center for Dungan Studies and Sinology of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic.

Literally for 3 years, the Chinese media have come a long way from marginal network resources to moderately interesting information projects in the network, newspapers and on television.

On the state channels "KTRK" and "ElTR" there are TV programs about China, made by Chinese journalists: on "KTRK" - "Time of Eurasia", on "ElTR" - "Journey to China" (hour program on Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China in the Kyrgyz language). Since January 2017, the national news agency of Kyrgyzstan "Kabar" with the financial support of the Chinese embassy has launched a section of the website, which also has a news block of the Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

On July 7, 2015, ElTR extended the contract with Xinjiang China Television for another 3 years. In addition to the fact that the TV channel broadcasts the program "Zhungo Sapar" ("Journey to China"), which is devoted to economic and cultural topics, it is planned to show Chinese TV series. "ElTR" has been cooperating with Xinjiang Television since 2004. In 2014, the TV channel received 19.3 million soms from the Chinese side. Also, China signed a document with the Osh private television channel Bashat.

"CGTN Russian" is a Chinese international television channel broadcasting in Russian. It started broadcasting on September 10, 2009 under the name "CCTV-Russian" and in connection with the transition to the Global Television Network of China (China Global Television Network) in December 2016 was renamed "CGTN Russian". The main themes are culture, art, geography, technology, customs, achievements. The product is qualitative and interesting, and the main thing is that it successfully competes for the attention of the youth of the countries of the EAEC. The page on Facebook has more than 400 thousand subscribers. Posts with video are put on promotion, which allows you to get tens of thousands of views to many videos.

- What other areas can be identified in the Chinese "soft power" in addition to education and the media?

- One of the areas is Chinese medicine. Kyrgyzstan, like Tajikistan, is a country with a Soviet system of universal, once high-quality medical care. But in many specialties today there are no doctors. Chinese clinics started actively working both with an emphasis on traditional treatment, and with new high-tech equipment.

As for the financial sphere, several national commercial banks in the territory of the republic issue and maintain ChinaUnionPay's national payment system. In local banks and exchangers, you can buy and sell Chinese yuan.

An important element of the "soft power" is China's loans and investments. In 2013, Kyrgyzstan and China signed 7 agreements worth more than $ 3 billion. Investments, and especially loans, are being actively developed by the political class of Kyrgyzstan, as China does not monitor the effectiveness of spending on projects that are not directly controlled by them.

Almost all the projects and investments that come to Kyrgyzstan are public investments or investments that large Chinese business invests on the recommendation of the Chinese central or regional government.

As I have often heard in conversations with Chinese entrepreneurs, they are not interested in investing in Kyrgyzstan. They do not like the level of business development, the pressure from the authorities, the racket of officials, coupled with the discontent of the local population.

Typical is the scheme when a large industrial Chinese business builds an enterprise in Kyrgyzstan, then it bankrupts itself, the money more than compensates (under the pretext that everything is taken away) from Chinese state-owned banks and earns a real business, for example, in Canada.

But as an element of "soft power" Chinese investments cause rather anxiety for independence among the residents of the republic. The results of the "Integration Barometer of the Eurasian Development Bank" study in 2014 showed that 65% of respondents from Kyrgyzstan would like to see investments in the republic from the states of the post-Soviet space. Also in the country, xenophobia is growing relative to Chinese migrants.

- What is the dynamics of China's "soft power" in Kyrgyzstan?

- China's direct investment in Kyrgyzstan for 2005-2010. grew almost 16 times, and Russian during the same period - 12 times. In 2013, the volume of Chinese investment reached $ 883.3 million (of which $ 468 million of direct investment).

About the fact that China needs its own "soft power", he announced in 2007. Initially they wanted to simply inform people about what China is and did not set out to use "soft power" following the example of the United States - to change standards and values. They also did not set out to maintain the former influence, like Russia.

The initial task of China's "soft power" in Kyrgyzstan is the weakening of anti-Chinese sentiments in the region. Over the past year, they have already achieved a lot. In Kyrgyzstan, there is the recognition of China, especially through Facebook.

- How would you assess the influence of China as a whole in the region and what is your forecast regarding China's humanitarian advancement?


- Part of the rejection and xenophobia goes away - here the "soft power" is working. The American version of the "soft power" of Joseph Nye (just as a change in values) is not characteristic of China at all, and accordingly, even here, even 1% has not been implemented changes, since China does not set such a task.

Humanitarian expansion is not, because the cultures are extremely different: everyday, high culture, moral values. Due to its economic achievements and geography, China attracts all the countries of Central Asia: Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan directly border with it, Uzbekistan - indirectly. They are all interested in what is happening inside China. But the transfer of samples, movies and art is an extremely marginal discourse.

Language is gaining popularity, but not all can learn it at the proper level. Often, to learn Chinese, you need to have a good Chinese education. Get it in good Beijing dialect under the force at best 5% of the population, and then only those who really want it, get it.




The author of the article is Denis Berdakov, an expert on Central Asian countries.