PANEL 2: China’s Soft Power in Kazakhstan
‘They See Kazakhstan as a Tasty Morsel’: A Study on Popular Perceptions of China in Kazakhstan
Dana Rice, Australian National University, Australia
Current research on Central Asia is disproportionately focused on issues of great power rivalry, viewing the region as a pawn caught between China, Russia and other regional players. Comparatively few studies seek to understand how Central Asian governments themselves interact with bordering powers, and even fewer have given a voice to the individuals living under these regimes. In asking how citizens of Kazakhstan view China, this presentation summarises the findings of PhD fieldwork completed in Almaty and Mangystau Oblasts from August to November 2022. During this time, the author conducted 55 in-depth interviews with a diverse group of Kazakhstani citizens, from students in Almaty and human rights activists in Aktau to oil workers in Zhanaozen and train drivers in Zharkent. The study found that while many respondents held negative views on China in the historical, cultural and political spheres, the majority still support stronger economic ties with China.