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[extract] China remains a multinational and multi-ethnic state with diverse relations across its southern, northern and western borders. From the third century B.C. onwards trade contacts were made westwards along the ancient Silk Road, while by the Tang Dynasty China had established strong influence in Central Asia. Today a 'new Silk Road' is being developed, this time based on oil politics, as well as renewed political and cultural contacts. China has forged a 'strategic partnership' with Russia aimed at establishing a multipolar world, while from 1994 extensive negotiations have led to strong diplomatic ties among China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (the 'Shanghai Five'). China seeks not only to engage in trade and get better access to Central Asian energy reserves, but also has sought to create a zone of stability to its west that in some way mirrors ancient efforts to ensure peaceful frontiers. These policies also complement internal efforts to bolster the economic growth of western provinces and autonomous regions that have had slower development in contrast to China's coastal regions. These domestic and international agenda are linked, with numerous transboundary issues including ethnic nationalism, access to energy resources, drug smuggling and the spread of terrorism, suggesting that success is needed in both areas if China hopes to meet its regional objectives.