ALMATY -- Ongoing claims by media outlets controlled by the Chinese Communist Party that Central Asian countries seek to "return" to China represent a direct threat to their sovereignty and a worrying trend for the region, say analysts.
In spring, when Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan were in strict quarantine over the coronavirus outbreak, Chinese websites posted provocative statements about the two countries that provoked a furor.
In April, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry summoned the Chinese ambassador after an article titled "Why Kazakhstan is eager to return to China" was published on the privately owned Chinese website Sohu.com.
The article's author called into question Kazakhstan's sovereignty over its own territory, asserting that the land is historically Chinese and that "Kazakhstan was a vassal of the Qing Dynasty".
"Residents of small cities in Kazakhstan consider themselves descendants of Li Bai [an eighth-century Chinese poet], while others call themselves Han [the largest ethnic group in China]," added the article. It did not name the cities in question.
Also in April, the website Toutiao.com published an article with the headline "Why did Kyrgyzstan not return to its homeland after gaining independence?".
Kyrgyzstan, described by the website as "Central Asia's smallest republic", was part of China for thousands of years until tsarist Russia in 1846 took a total of 510,000 sq. km from China, including present-day Kyrgyzstan, states the Toutiao.com article.
The article presented a map of what was then China to support this claim. Although "regions and countries separated from their homeland eventually yearn and return," when Kyrgyzstan gained independence in 1991, it did not, mainly because of Russia's continued influence, said the author.
The article sparked outrage in Kyrgyz society, which criticised the publication as inflammatory.
"Beijing is becoming a threat not only to Kyrgyzstan's territorial integrity but also to its sovereignty. This is an alarming sign," said Mars Abayev, a Bishkek-based correspondent for the news website Orbita.kg.
By making these claims, Beijing is floating the idea of the return of "its" territories in order to study Central Asian countries' reaction, Abayev noted.
Articles sanctioned by Chinese Communist Party
Sohu.com removed that article less than a week after Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry summoned the Chinese ambassador.
Posting about the meeting on Facebook, the Chinese ambassador did not focus on discussing the article, noting only that "the importance of clearing the information space of various pieces of fake news was emphasised in order to create favourable conditions for developing relations between the two countries".
However, observers who are familiar with China's information policy say that the mentioned websites would not spread false information without pre-approval from the top in Beijing.
Sohu.com is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party and has huge financial resources at its disposal, said Almaty resident Serikjan Bilash, leader of the Atajurt (Motherland) human rights group and an ethnic Kazakh who emigrated from China in the 2000s.
The other site, Toutiao.com, is known in China for its thorough political and historical content and is one of the 10 most popular online resources in China and has the backing of the Communist Party, he added.
"These are far from the ordinary websites that might publish all kinds of fake news," he said.
"These publications indicate that the Chinese authorities do not recognise the freedom and independence of Central Asian countries and regard them as their own territory," Bilash said.
Still, Beijing appeared to double down on the false territorial narrative as new provocative articles appeared as early as this past summer.
Claims on Tajikistan
Beijing's territorial claims only reinforce Sinophobic sentiments in Central Asia, noted Abayev of Orbita.kg.
"The frequent mass anti-Chinese protests in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan confirm this trend," he said.
Still, Beijing has appeared to double down on false territorial narratives, having targeted Tajikistan.
In July, Chinese media published an article with the inflammatory title "Tajikistan initiated the transfer of its lands to China, and the lost Pamir Mountains have been returned to their true owner".
The publication spoke of the transfer of 1,158 sq. km of Tajik territory to China in 2011, which angered many Tajiks at that time. Tajikistan ceded those lands to China to pay off some of its debt.
The author, Chinese journalist-historian Chu Yao Lu, relying only on Chinese sources, declared that the Pamir Mountains in Tajikistan belonged to China, spurring displeasure in the Tajik government.
The controversy came as Tajikistan's debt to China continues to grow, which could lead to the country ceding more territory in exchange for debt forgiveness -- an idea that has been floated in the past.
Tajikistan's debt to Chinese Eximbank has grown to $1.2 billion in 2020, Asia-Plus reported in August.
In August, Dushanbe was forced to ask Beijing to ease its loan obligations in connection with the pandemic. No statements about the Chinese regime's decision have ensued.
Oh, now i know why Central Asian Armies are getting trained in India. In my mind China should make Chinese Union so that Central Asian countries public can work in China without visa but China don't allow that but population of these countries is very small comparing with China. Anyway China cannot win against India. You have to visit India to understand its people and American Army is getting High Altitude Training from Indian Army.Reply
Tajikistan is not China. Kyrgystan is not China. Khazakstan is not China.Reply
To reduce the Uighur population, many women were forced into receiving sterilization surgery and IUDs. Between 2017 and 2019, the birth rate in Xinjiang dropped by 48.7%, yet the government claims that the drop in birth rate is due to wider access to family planning services and the region’s existing birth quota. https://theowp.org/genocide-in-china-the-inhumane-treatment-of-uighur-muslims/Reply
It's a timely article that reflects the entire reality; I agree with the authorReply
Li Xiaoxia, a government sociologist in Xinjiang, has called reports of forced sterilisations “slander”. In an essay for state media in January she conceded that between 2017 and 2018, after the strict enforcement of rules, Xinjiang-wide births had fallen by 120,000 in a year. But Ms Li insisted that rural women from ethnic groups had “spontaneously” agreed to be sterilised. Some had taken rewards of 3,000 yuan ($460) or more for women willing to undergo tubal ligation before using their legal quota of children, she wrote. Others’ minds had been freed by officials “from the shackles of religious extremism”. She said Uyghurs and Han Chinese now followed the same rules, promoting “fewer and better” births.
Typical Chinese regime as always, pretending to be friends and then launching land grabs campaign. Sooner or later China will follow the step of Adolf.Reply
What Turks are you, what Turkic state? You have failed to establish your own state in 30 years! What army? And what nation, state? Who is going to fight for you? Turks, Arabs. Why have you been asking to protect you for centuries, if Russia is such a piece of shit? And the Chinese have been our "brothers" for a century (a century is 100 years, and then we will see).Reply
Yeah, be friends with China if they are your friends )) China considers Russia a donor...Reply
ClAims, not clEims, you scholars! [Commenter corrects a spelling mistake of their opponent in Russian]Reply
The Turan army will be the future! And then we shall see!Reply
No, not beneficialReply
Here in the Far East of Russia, the Chinese have already seized everything with the help of Putin's sellout officials.Reply
Well, the Uighurs were the canary in the coal mine; no one saw the threat. That was a move they [China] prepared for centuries. In the end, the Chinese will subdue Central Asia. Who's next? Tajikistan is gone already, and there will be more to come.Reply
According to the Chinese Communist Party's plan, they want to occupy ten countries: Taiwan, Japan, India, North Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, a part of Russia and three more countries I don't remember. I read it myself: when invading India, the CCP counts on the help from Pakistan.Reply
Is Uzbekistan a "gift to us"? Allah's will shall happen, they may loose their land trying to occupy other countriesReply
We don't want Chinese expansion; those taking their cue [from China] for their own benefit should go to jail.Reply
Why is Russia a piece of shit?Reply
A union of Muslim countries is needed.Reply
Hey, Kazakhs, we Russians will seize northern Kazakhstan sooner or later, and give away the rest to China and UzbekistanReply
You better suck it off. It is the only thing you're good at ))Reply
There are no Russians, and Russia will soon collapse. So, go weave your bast shoes, serfs.Reply
blah blah blahReply
You sissy instigators. Armchair politicians from both sides ))) Do you think anybody takes you and your conversations seriously????Reply
Jump hard, you tufty, maybe one more piece of Ukraine will fall off.Reply
The International Bank and the UN need to establish an international law that would prohibit a country from having an accrued foreign debt greater than 20% of its annual GDP.Reply
But our parliamentarians and government are happily kowtowing to China.Reply
Therefore we need to create a union of Turkic countries. We should seize the moment while China is busy devouring the Russian Far East and Siberia.Reply
It depends on what period they consider right for them, but half of their (China's) territories is not Chinese. One-third of their lands used to be Turkic, indigenous Hindu, Mongols, Thai. Okay, they [Chinese] once conquered part of Central Asian territory, let's say they owned it for some time - it doesn't mean these lands still belong to them today. When the whole world was fighting tooth and nail for the territories, for the future of their progeny, the [Chinese] were hiding; they lay low, procreating and multiplying their numbers. And then they came out after the fight and turned heroes. Why didn't they address those issues then? They weren't brave enough, were they? At that time, they could have ended up with their tongues cut out if they had laid such claimsReply
China gains strength, and is getting ready for something quietly, but debts must be paid back to keep them from laying territorial claims!Reply
I don't give a shitReply
Congratulations, dear Kyrgyz, soon you will pay the price for your clans and thirst for power. Congrats, it's official - soon you will fritter away your country piece by pieceReply
Russia is a garbage dumpster.Reply
Your pie hole is the dumpster.Reply
to my russian friends i pray you surviveReply
what is to come.
China will meet its death if it sticks its nose into Central Asia. But I think it's propaganda coming from the other side.Reply
Chinese could easily jog during their forced march in Central Asia, and in one month all of Central Asia would be learning the Chinese language. Amorphous, indifferent and lazy Kazakhs, backward Tajiks and uncivilised Kyrgyz will be among the first to join China. Russia has also sold out the Far East to them.Reply
China invests more money in manufacturing in Kazakhstan than anyone else; that raises a red flag. They have thought it out well into the future, exploiting the corruption and insatiability of our officials.Reply
Man, Chinese won't harm you over the next 20 years as long as you pay them a reasonable price for gas and so on. But Kyrgyzstan is up for total annexation, because they have lots of mountains and resourcesReply
:)) in fact it's not any more than in Kazakhstan. Both the mountains and the resourcesReply
There's freaking nothing there except for a couple tons of gold and streamsReply
The debts should be paid back. I don't think that China is going to conquer territories using brute force.Reply
Kyrgyzstan has never been a part of China. There was trade between them, and caravans traveled. China itself is an occupier. East Turkestan is not Chinese, nor is Uighur Tibet; [China] should let both of them go.Reply
It was part of China, unfortunatelyReply
There was a phrase in ancient Greek myths and legends: "I fear the Danaans, even when they bear gifts." So be mindful of those people!Reply
China is the second Hitler Let them risk it This will devastate them; we will wipe China off the mapReply
:))) you made me laugh.... What are you gonna fight with? Your tongues? :)Reply
What will you washed it with? Sheep feces????Reply
Russia is even worse than China.Reply
Kneel before ChinaReply
Quit this nonsense, [we] lived like that for 70 years, and it was good enoughReply
They nearly destroyed it after 70 yearsReply
Kyrgyzstan has never been Chinese territory. We don't want to be like the Uighurs. We don't want to be violently governed and abused. So, dear everyone who swallowed big chunks of the money owned by the Republic. Pay the debt back; that's what I am asking of you!Reply
There may be yet another "hot spot" that will pop up on the world map this wayReply
We need to pay off all the debts to China and never take any loans from them again. You officials should think about the future of the country and our children. No country is like ours in the world.Reply
China will regret its rhetoric someday The whole world will stand against it If not the whole, the majority of it for sure!!!Reply
China is beefing up its army, and their military is more powerful than ours. It's not any coincidence that they are spreading rumors. They give away loans to then appropriate lands.Reply