The Dragon Next Door: Demotic Discourses on China in Kazakhstan

The Dragon Next Door: Demotic Discourses on China in Kazakhstan

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. My PhD project helps to fill that gap
by asking how citizens of Kazakhstan perceive
their relationship with China, a rapidly rising
actor in the region.

This presentation summarises the findings of
my PhD fieldwork completed in Almaty and
Mangystau Oblasts from August to November
2022. During this time, I conducted 56 in-depth
interviews with a diverse group of citizens, from
students in Almaty and human rights activists
in Aktau to oil workers in Zhanaozen and train
drivers in Zharkent. Employing discourse
analysis, I also explored a wide range of texts,
from parliamentary speeches and government
press releases to novels, films and blogs.

Among other findings, the study suggests
that most citizens of Kazakhstan are unaware
of China’s Belt and Road Initiative; that while
many hold negative views of China in the
historical, cultural and political spheres,
the majority paradoxically support stronger
economic ties; and that direct exposure to
China or its citizens — through educational
exchange, trade or other means — does not
correlate to improved perceptions. Beyond the
project’s implications for topical knowledge
on Central Asia-China relations, I also discuss
my theoretical contributions to the nexus
between popular geopolitics, soft power and


Date & time

Wed 14 Feb 2024, 4–5pm


CAIS Lecture Theatre and Online via Zoom


Dana Rice


Maya Maulina


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