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Revival of the «Silk Road» in the context of regional security in Central Asia

Chinese geopolitical interests in post — Soviet Central Asia are reviewed. Realization of idea of Silk Way’s resurgence are implemented by China in order to give effect to the Program of Western provinces. Consequently, it is necessary to provide security in Central Asia for realization of this program. Instability in Central Asia poses a threat to the strategic interests of China, which is determined, first, factor in the elimination of separatist sentiment in Xingjian, the presence of which virtually would negate all the efforts of the Chinese leadership to raise the Western provinces; The second factor in the acquisition of Central Asia as a sales market of developing industrial production of Western China; Third, the purchase factor of inland provinces output to European countries. The implementation of its interests in Central Asia China stands for and implemented in the framework of the SCO.

As the result of reforms spent be Chinese government last two decades of XX century, the Peoples Republic of China had achieved significant successes in economic development of the country. According to a plan of Chinese leaders the accelerated development of seaside areas will allow to use their opportunities to exercise stimulating influence concerning other parts of the country. However this process began to show itself in the form of increased demand for raw material of western regions, expansion of finished goods deliveries for them, dissemination of new technologies, and formation of horizontal associations «dissemination effect». Seaside areas more and more drew raw material, capital and even the most prepared staff from the western areas (washing away effect). At the different degree of regions progress in economic reforms, irrational structure of the prices (overestimate for finished goods and understating for raw material), the prevalence of the dissemination effect above the washing away effect has made the situation when the development of seaside regions exhausted western regions which more and more turned in some kind of an internal colony of China [1; 86].

The problem of alignment in all regions of the country has been already formulated at XIV congress of Chinese Communistic Party (1992). In Jiang Zemin's report it was emphasized, that at preservation of a seaside areas dynamical development it is necessary to stimulate industrial growth in western part of China. As he said, economic revival of these territories is a main problem defining all structure of China's economic development strategy. Has been planned to give to economic development of the western areas a complex character, to expand interregional communications and to connect them to a system of the uniform national market. The liquidation of disproportions in economic and cultural development between the seaside and western areas has begun to consider not only as the important condition of fuller and rational use of natural riches of the country, creation of national economic space, but also as the important factor of strengthening of territorial integrity of the state and observance of a principle of territorial validity. In June, 1999 has been decided to begin the policy of western regions development since 2001 [1; 86].

However, opposition of central government and regional elites, expressed in sabotage of central governments attempts by macroadjusting measures to level too sharp fluctuations in rates of economic growth, a shift in balance of authority between the central government and regions in favour of the last, has happened in first instance because of the delegation of powers from the central bodies to regional and, secondly, the transfer of many functions of the central government to the market complicates formation of the uniform national market. Regional authorities, being guided by local interests, quite often directly interfere with an movement of goods and services from other regions. At the weakness and dissociation of a home market the accelerated inclusion of most successfully developing provinces in the international division of labour conducts that prevailing the external orientation of their economy. Internal integration lags behind external integration.

Creating the enclaves in coastal provinces of China, some states receive the powerful lever for influence on foreign policy of the Peoples Republic of China through provincial authorities. Reasons of local and  own economic gain for local officials can become above political loyalty that conducts to weakening of the national integration foundations.

It finds the reflection in problem of uneven development of territories which becomes more and more complicated. Deng Xiao Ping's dreams that economically more advanced provinces will help lagging behind hardly have a chance for realization. The attempts to carry out them only strengthen the friction between the center and territories and between rather rich and poorer regions. The aspiration of the most arrogant regional authorities to involve the foreign and national capital, giving additional (often illegal) tax and other privileges delays the resources from less successful regions [2; 219].

Therefore in this conditions, on the one hand understanding the importance of development of the west regions, not only for the further growth of Chinese economy, but also for existence of China in its present borders, and on the other hand, having collided with unwillingness of east provinces to render any essential aid for realization of this process, the leaders of the Peoples Republic of China had forced to search another decision of this problem which should not put in the chapter of a corner the aid from east provinces, but assume a support on own forces of the western regions.

Change of an international situation (collapse of USSR) has created additional stimulus for  frontier trade with the countries of Central Asia and has given the opportunity to construct Transport Bridge between Europe and Asia. According to a calculation of the Chinese leaders these two components should become the basic pillars in the policy of western regions development. And if China declares regarding importance of Central Asian region as a trade and economic partner, but actually, considering commodity circulation between China and Central Asia, and also trading balance where export of mineral resources from the countries of Central Asia obviously prevails, it is possible to conclude about insignificant interest of the Peoples Republic of China in acquisition of Central Asia as a trade and economic partner. Moreover, if to consider, that 75% of commodity circulations between China and Central Asia belongs to Xinjiang district, and except Xingjian, it is necessary to tighten up near 11 western provinces to a level of east region, Chinese government can not hope for Central Asia in the western regions development process.

Another matter is Europe. EU has become the largest trading partner of China. In 2005 the volume of bilateral trade has exceeded 200 billion euro [3]. Until now all trading operations between Europe and China were carried out by the sea through the Suez Canal which is favorable that there are only two checkpoints (port of loading and port of unloading) on the way of ships. However the clear advantages of a sea route connected with its simplicity and profitability adjoin to frank lacks, first of all, terms of delivery. On average, delivery term by the sea route is 30–35 days, and in a view of modern lines in logistics, short time of deliveries is a one of the major factors influencing profitability of business. Other problems of sea transportation have become monopolization of market and strengthening of instability factors. Some large owners of container fleet have grasped the market and dictate conditions of traffic that, certainly, promotes to rise price of transportation. Annually over 18000 ships cross through the Suez Canal which connects the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, and bring to Egypt every year 3.4 billion profit, but it regularly demands the privileges from the European Union, referring on increasing charges on maintenance service of the channel [4].

Now there is an understanding that capacity of the Suez Canal is not boundless, therefore it is necessary to search new alternative routes.

Realization of the Eurasian transport project, revival of «the Great Silk Way», substantially will lower terms of cargoes transportation, in fact, that in case of good's transportation using this corridor, duration in a way can be reduced considerably, moreover, it will reduce dependence of participants of barter on the forces have monopolized a unique sea route, that give a new impulse in development of economic relations between Europe and China, will promote simplification of barter procedure and increase in commodity circulation. On the other hand, considering that Silk Way will be laid from east provinces of China through western region it will be possible to draw a conclusion that construction of this transport bridge will render essential influence on development of the western regions of China. It will be expressed as in construction of infrastructure, which is necessary for functioning of a corridor that will recover economic situation in this provinces, will involve new investments there, as in opportunity to increase own production of finished goods in western provinces considerably and to supple it for Europe.

Acceptance of the western regions development program in 2000 by Chinese government, and also transformation of «Shanghai group of five» in «Shanghai Cooperation Organization» in 2001 are two events have marked the beginning of construction of a new «Silk Way». It is necessary to pay attention that realization of western regions development program and functioning of SCO are two parallel processes that means about interdependence of these two processes and about influence against each other.

Undoubtedly that new «Silk Way» can operate and bring expected result only at maintenance of universal security on all site of a route. Most problems from the view of security are Xinjiang and Central Asia where extremist organizations have an influence and support. They wish to create own Islamic state.

The situation in Xinjiang, related to the activities of the Islamic Party of East Turkestan, aimed to the output of the PRC province and the establishment on its territory and in parts of Central Asia, an independent state Uygurstan is particularly sore point for China.

Due to historical, national, cultural, linguistic and religious reasons movement «East Turkistan» has close ties with the countries of Central Asia. A development of international terrorism and religious extremism forces in Central Asia have turned it into the most important external factor forcing to the safety of China 's western regions. «East Turkistan» receives ideological support and substantial  financial assistance from international terrorist groups in the region. International terrorists is supplying weapons and subversive materials in China through the Central Asian region. Terrorist activities in Xinjiang and other areas of China is organized from Central Asia [5].

In this regard, China strives to prevent the transformation of Central Asia into foreign base of «East Turkistan» and its interaction channel with strong international terrorist organizations.

Therefore, the security of Central Asia is directly linked to the security of Xinjiang , and instability in the Central Asian region has a direct impact on the security of the whole western China [6]. Moreover, the issue concerns not only the activities of various extremist organizations, strengthening the position of the United States and NATO in Central Asia, also their military presence is a concern of the PRC [7].

Of course, when there is existence of such threats of any economic development of the western provinces, raising of living standard in these provinces can not be considered. And consequently, eastern China not be able to fully develop  and chinese economic miracle can be to forget.

Certainly, that at existence of a similar kind of threats, the priority in transportation of cargoes will be given more expensive but security sea route, rather than cheap, but nothing guaranteeing new «Silk Way». Except this factor, the presence of separative and extremist moods in Xinjiang and Central Asia are hardly allow to begin the construction of this transport artery that planned to improve a network of roads, airports, tracks and seaports on all site of a route. In this situation

Chinese strategy lies on the one hand by unilateral measures of the central government to lower tension in the most problem regions of the western China, and on the other hand as a result of collective actions of SCO's members to liquidate potential threats of security and stability in the Central Asian countries which can influence on the western China internal political conditions [7].

China strives to create a unified regional security structure by SCO taking into account of Russia and the Central Asian states in order to ensure collective security measures in the Region.

These measures include joint action against three dangerous trends — national separatism, religious extremism and international terrorism poses a serious threat to regional security, stability and development [8]. For this chapter SCO member states developed appropriate multilateral program, signed the necessary contracts and agreements on cooperation between states, regularly organize meetings of security, border and customs enforcement executives: depending on the situation hold joint exercises and maneuvers in order to work out methods of combating terrorism and subversion [9].

It is important to consider that in a context of security SCO's members do a greater emphasis on the settlement of political, social and revive economic in region instead power decision of a problem. This approach allows to speak about desire to decide two problems simultaneously: on the one hand to provide security on the most important site of a «Silk Way», and on the other hand to lay the foundation for the construction of necessary infrastructure by the integration of country-members on the economic basis. The final aim is to create favorable conditions for free traffic of goods, capacities, technologies and services in Central Asia.

In 2003 for achievement of this purpose, within SCO, the Program of multilateral trade and economic cooperation was accepted, in 2004, the Plan of measures on realization this Program was approved and in 2005 the Mechanism of realization of the Plan of measures on realization the Program of multilateral trade and economic cooperation was elaborated.

This Program has defined the basic points and stages of economic integration within SCO for the period till 2020 [10].

First of all, development of regional transport communications and transnational corridors. Bad development of transport communications in region is one of the basic deterrents in development of economic and investment cooperation, particularly trade relations between countries.

Prospects of cooperation on this main direction should be embodied in concrete projects on construction of new and modernization of the operating transport corridors opening for the countries of region optimal routes for cooperation on regional and world markets [11].

In the whole, the decision of a question in the field of development of transport infrastructure countries sees in following:

  • to research opportunities for formation of uniform transport space in region;
  • to finish the work above the Agreement on simplification of an automobile communications of the SCO's state-members;
  • to work in details the question regarding realization of some projects of railway construction in Central Asia [10].

Secondly, development of regional trade.

The simplification of procedures on the custom, the modernization of equipment of custom's terminals and disseminated communication system connecting in a uniform network all infrastructure of custom service will promote to development of regional trade [11].

At the same time for the stimulation of regional trade the Program of multilateral development cooperation stipulates followings:

  • exchange of information about legal standards of countries in investment sphere and data on a condition of investment climate;
  • actions for improvement of professional level of experts;
  • stimulation of investments in power, transport, telecommunications, agriculture, tourism, waterprotection and nature protection areas;
  • stimulation of direct contacts between managers of small business [10]. Thirdly, cooperation in telecommunication

There is an appreciable break between the countries of region regarding condition of telecommunications and information technologies. High processes on service of communications are the basis of this problem. Also, it can be explain that countries of Central Asia have started to solve questions of a mass computerization rather later then others.

Information technologies are a future, and now it is necessary to join in this process more actively [11]. Fourthly, cooperation in tourism sphere. The expansion of cooperation in tourism sphere is a very important direction of regional cooperation.

Here, it is necessary to prepare a complex program of regional tourism development which foresees simplification of visa procedures, reduction in price of tourist service, organization of advertising and information work with the population, improvement of tourism infrastructure [11].

Thus, Central Asia is an original springboard for penetration of Chinese goods into the Western Europe that will undoubtly gives a power impulse to economic development of the western regions. Certainly, that the bridge, connecting Europe with China has a main importance in Strategy of western regions development.

Today there are two important projects of «Silk Way» revival. First of them «Western Europe — Western China» project. The road from Europe to China through Russia and Kazakhstan is a shortest way with a minimum quantity of countries, so also borders. Term of delivery is 12 days [4].

TRASEKA (Transport Corridor Europe — Caucasus — Asia) initiated by EU in 1993 is an alternative to this project. It plans to organize and develop transport communications between Europe and Central Asia through Caucasus. In this case term of delivery is 20 days.

But if these two transport corridors will function simultaneously it can arise some risks of not full congestion each of them that break the acceptance of decision by country-participants to realize it because of unprofitable ness.

However, essential lacks of TRASEKA are plenty of participants in the project (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Romania, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan) and consequently traffic barriers and political risks. Also it is possible to add difficulties connected with a frequent movement from kind of transport to another (from the railway to the ferry and back) and also disproportions in development of ports of western and eastern coasts. On the total capacity, the western Black Sea ports (Odessa, Ilyichevsk, Yuzhniy, Varna, Burgas, Contance) surpass eastern partners (Sukhumi, Batumi, Poty). The similar situation is observed on the Caspian Sea where capacity of eastern Aktau and Turkmenbashi mismatch capacity of Baku [4].

In this situation China counts on realization of least expenditure from the point of customs and other bureaucratic procedures the «Europe – China» transport project, that, certainly, will give a significant advantages in future above TRASEKA. Especially as Europe suggests that new road is not a competitor of TRASEKA, but it is one of the parts of Europe's route.

On the other hand, this new project has own drawbacks — risks which are able to lower results from its realization and so to doubt the development of western provinces.

First of all, Central Asia, where will stretch the main part of route, is a platform of rigid political and military counteraction of Russia, USA and China, each of them struggles for replacement of the оpponent from region and ascertains the control over Central Asia, and it is also the territory of influence section between these countries, where Russia has the right to have historically caused primary interests.

In political context, interests of China and Russia are focused on Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The problem is that today SCO is not so much at a stage of formation, but in conceptual deadlock. Boundary questions from which SCO has grown are settled, counteraction to expansion of NATO is removed from agenda. Russia and China are not ready to deep economic integration in SCO format.

«The challenge to SCO» is a common challenge for China and Russia, to answer it Beijing can only searching for ways — ~ interaction with Moscow on the sharpest aspects of work of organization.

To leave the deadlock, SCO should become clear on following key questions:

Contradictions in work of SCO and OCS plus EuroAsEU (Organization of Collective Security plus EuroAsian Economic Union). Practically, there are same countries except China and Uzbekistan (and also the states situated far from Central Asia) enters the SCO and these two Thus contradictions already were outlines in approaches of the parties. Russia wishes to leave for SCO concrete military-political functions, for EuroAsEU — concrete economic integration functions, and for SCO more abstract political and economic functions. The Beijing's plea to create a zone of free trade on the SCO space has not received

approval in Moscow. China is interested in the dynamic development of the SCO member states, also in deepening comprehensive trade and economic cooperation within the organization. Convergence of China in wider use of SCO potential is approved by new proposals, put forward by Hu Jintao at the Tashkent summit (June 11, 2011). He proposed to develop within the SCO framework a legal document providing security of oil and gas pipelines in the region [7]. Russia and China should do huge work to provide a division of labour and interaction between OCS, EuroAsEU and SCO. Otherwise one from these organizations which work in identical geopolitical space and with similar functions is doomed to dissolution or formal existence.  And most likely it will be SCO.

A zone of responsibility of SCO. The zone of its responsibility is registered in established documents and it is sufficiently wide broad. But really it is the Central Asia. For overcoming the contradiction between SCO and OCS plus EuroAsEU it is necessary to integrate China in two last organizations (that means absorption of SCO by them), or refocus a zone of responsibility of SCO to Southern Asia (Pakistan, India) and regions adjoining to Central Asia (Afghanistan, Iran).

In case of preservation of contradictions between SCO and OCS, China, aspired to strengthen its positions in Central Asia will cooperate with Uzbekistan closely. Consequently, Russia regards this step as an accumulation of aggression potential from China that can infringe on Russia's interests. Russia's reciprocal measures on restraint of China and Chinese-Uzbek special partnership will be able to weaken role of SCO in Central Asia [2].

The decision of these contradictions implies the adequate formulation of interests in Central Asia by the participants of «Big Game». In this case, realization of them will allow not infringing interests of the partner. Some steps in this direction have already done. In October, 2007 it was signed the Memorandum of mutual understanding between Secretary of SCO and Secretary of OCS, that had made possible to liquidate duplicating structures and to create uniform system of safety from Belorussia to China, that means the aspiration of China to approach with Russia on most thorny questions of presence in Central Asia, and also to provide guarantees of safety on all site of a route to Europe in future [12].

Besides ambitions of Kazakhstan (which is interested in successful construction of this strategic bridge not less than China), connected with chairmanship in OSCE in 2010, joining to Regional Forum ASEAN on security, and also idea of President N.A. Nazarbaev about Organization of Security in Central Asia, has stated in 1992, talk to us about the attempt to connect these organizations and to construct uniform system of security on all Eurasian continent that finally will promote to integration and will remove contradictions between duplicating structures at least in security issues.

The second challenge of this project is the competition between countries of Central Asia and western provinces of China towards foreign investments, for example in tourism.

It is not a secret that the west of China and countries of Central Asia possess huge tourist potential that can give a boost to economic growth. Certainly, the functioning of «Silk Way» will recover a situation in this sphere of economy, however arise a question: «Where are more favorable conditions for investment in tourism infrastructure». Western China, possessing cheap labour resources, has a significant advantage above Central Asia that will displease its countries. The settlement of this contradiction can become the concept of regional tourism development, assuming joint efforts in development of this sector, and the investments of China in tourist object of Central Asia.

However, experience shows that China does not aspire to cooperate with Central Asia in this sector of economy. It is paradoxical that such pearls of east culture and world civilization as Samarkand and Bukhara annually visited by hundred thousand foreign tourists, basically from France, Germany and Japan while are outside of a field of vision of tourists from China.

It is sad, that from 100 million Chinese tourists leaving abroad in 2004, there are only 300 of them have arrived Uzbekistan [13].

In addition, it is possible to state that similar situation observes towards other routes, directions and kinds of tourism, which now are practically missed.

On the other hand, the settlement of Central Asia problems, maintenance here stability, security and necessary balance of forces are not guarantee effective functioning new «Silk Way» and successful performance of western regions development program. The important role also plays Eastern Europe. Here there are a lot of problems on borders; many cares are also with the out-of-date infrastructure, bureaucracy and problems with coordination of separate parts of transport process.

Besides the contradictions arising between Russia and some countries of Eastern Europe for the political reasons render a negative influence on a process and will break the project in long term prosperity. It is necessary to note, that the success of this project depends on the ability of such states as Poland, Belorussia, Ukraine, Slovakia, Russia and Kazakhstan not only to find a common language, but also to act as a united command. Today it is under a great question [14].

In this case as the arbitrator China should act having achieved from political elites of the above-named countries the understanding that long-term economic interest of the country should stand above momentary political interests of separate leaders.

Thus, doubtlessly that it is not enough unilateral measures from the Chinese government for successful western regions development. The west of China can develop only in a context of Central Asia and East Europe development. Security in Central Asia, which is the most important part of all SCO activities, will help to create a favorable external environment for the long-term development program of lagging western territory. New «Silk Way» is a pilot project on development of the western provinces of the Peoples Republic of China and depends on its successful realization depends future of China.



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  8. Соглашение между Российской Федерацией, Казахстаном, Кыргызской Республикой, Республикой Таджикистан и Китаем о взаимном сокращении вооруженных сил в районе границы. Бишкек, 25 апреля 1997 года // Внешняя политика и безопасность современной России, 1991–2002 гг. Т. 4: документы. — М., 2002. — 257 р.
  9. Концепция сотрудничества государств-членов ШОС в борьбе с терроризмом, сепаратизмом и экстремизмом. —Астана, 5 июля 2005 года. — [ЭР]. Режим доступа: http://www.president.kremlin.ru
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  12. Проблемы безопасности в Центральной Азии. — [ЭР]. Режим доступа: http://www.infoshos.ru
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  14. Транзит: Китай — Западная Европа: процветание и альтернативы. — [ЭР]. Режим доступа: http:// lognews.ru

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