SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Dave, Bhavna (2022) 'Societal Contestations and Adaptations to the Belt and Road Initiative in Kazakhstan.' In: Pavlićević, Dragan and Talmacs, Nicole, (eds.), The China Question: Contestations and Adaptations. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 113-136.

Text - Accepted Version
Download (373kB) | Preview


China’s launch of the Silk Road Economic Belt, part of its Belt and Road Initiative, has raised hopes as well as anxieties about China’s ever widening engagement in economic, political, security and sociocultural spheres and questions about the promised benefits to national economies and to citizens. By embracing China’s narrative of the BRI as a harmonious model of development and connectivity the Kazakhstani leaders have found themselves in the position of intermediaries between China’s objectives and priorities and interests of their own countries. This chapter examines the societal contestations as well as adaptations resulting from the bonhomie between the ruling political elites and anxieties about the rising influence of China among the people by focussing on the debates and contestations around three key issues: (1) The issue of land lease to foreigners (2) the industrial cooperation agreement with China, and (3) the plight of ethnic Kazakhs from China seeking refuge in Kazakhstan. The examination of anti-China protests suggests that “China” in many ways is a catalyst that has brought to light issues of corruption, weak legal-regulatory framework about how many top-level decisions on economic matters connected to foreign investments and ownership of business are made. “Anti-China” protests signify a growing contestation between the ruling elites and the people, the lack of trust among the people of their ruling elites and demands for establishing rule of law, transparency, as well as offering protection to ethnic Kazakhs from China who are seeking legal status and protection in Kazakhstan. Political elites in these states have also “tolerated” the protests to some extent to allow articulation of societal grievances to let off the steam while also seeking to maintain a firm control. The rhetoric of friendship and “win–win partnership”, aimed at cultivating a discourse of harmonious relationship between the two countries and its peoples has thus been a source of widespread societal contestation on the purported benefits of BRI for Kazakhstan which has also facilitated a process of mutual adaptations while creating a space for democratic activism in Kazakhstan.

Item Type: Book Chapters
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Politics & International Studies
ISBN: 9789811691041
Copyright Statement: This is the version of the chapter accepted for publication in Pavlićević, Dragan and Talmacs, Nicole, (eds.), The China Question: Contestations and Adaptations (2022). Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 113-136.. Re-use is subject to the publisher’s terms and conditions:
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 20 Jan 2023 16:05

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item