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China and Kazakhstan: economic hierarchy, dependency and political power?

Bohnenberger-Rich, Simone (2015) China and Kazakhstan: economic hierarchy, dependency and political power? PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The thesis uses a neoclassical realist framework to investigate the link between economic influence and political power in China’s foreign policy, taking Kazakhstan as a case study. Over the last decades, China developed formidable relative economic capabilities that it increasingly projects externally. An in-depth look at Chinese trade, finance and investment elucidates the drivers of China’s economic influence in Kazakhstan. The analysis shows that Beijing created strong economic dependencies, which in turn introduced a steep hierarchy in the bilateral relationship that leaves Astana in a subordinate and Beijing in a dominant position. This dependency is driven by the legitimacy and revenue needs of the Kazakhstani elite, on the one hand, and China’s relative economic capabilities, guided by Beijing’s “Go Global” and “Go West” initiatives, on the other. The thesis discusses the complex array of economic institutions that project Chinese economic power into Kazakhstan and their relationship with Beijing to determine whether Kazakhstan’s economic dependence is the outcome of a deliberate policy directed by Beijing. After establishing the extent of the hierarchy and dependency of the relationship, the thesis addresses China’s ability to translate the dependency into meeting its foreign policy interests. Beijing does indeed successfully leverage this dependency to meet its political objectives, most notably in gaining access to Kazakhstani resources. Furthermore, an in-depth cases study of the Sino-Kazakhstani transboundary water dispute illustrates that Beijing can maximise its foreign policy objective of maintaining absolute sovereignty over its rivers on the back Kazakhstan’s economic dependence. However, this outcome is driven largely by Kazakhstan itself, particularly by its elite. This turns China into a hydro-hegemon, undermining its foreign policy principles of “win-win” and “mutually beneficial” cooperation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2015 Simone Bohnenberger-Rich
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Hughes, Christopher R.

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