Introduction - The EU and China in Central Asia: (Un)natural Partners?
In the past 20 years, both China and the European Union (EU) have positioned themselves in Central Asia as leading actors in trade, investment, and development aid, as well as significant political partners. The possibility of cooperation between the EU and China in Central Asia will depend on how the overall Sino-European relationship evolves in the coming years. Moreover, China's growing clout in Central Asia is entailing a major shift in the balance of power in the region, revealing the relative decline of Russia as Central Asia's natural partner. When viewed from this Chinese angle, China's involvement in Central Asia as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) thus gains a different analytical prominence. Academic literature on the rationales behind the BRI seems to be inconclusive as to the main drivers behind the initiative. The chapter also presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book.