BEIJING -- In addition to now holding three of Iraq's 11 major oil concessions, China has also been investing heavily in Afghanistan, and recently signed a high-profile nuclear deal with Pakistan. These significant strategic developments in all the major geographic theaters of the U.S. War on Terror further demonstrate the efficacy of Beijing's economy-first diplomacy and reflect China's growing influence in Central Asia as a whole.
These gains have been facilitated by more than a decade of aggressive diplomacy throughout Central Asia, both through multilateral mechanisms such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), as well as through strengthening bilateral ties with nearly all nations in the region. Chinese investors have become trusted partners, not compromised by association with the War on Terror, and as a result are better able to mitigate the risks and insecurities faced by foreign entities in the region.
China has positioned itself smartly. On an institutional level, deepening security and energy cooperation through the SCO, along with heavy bilateral investment, have put China in the driver's seat to develop multi-directional, transnational supply networks in the region. An example is China's current advantage in the Caspian Basin, an area holding up to 6 percent of total global oil reserves and 10 percent of total global gas reserves. China has spent over a decade investing heavily in nations previously considered strategic backwaters, resulting in peripheral supply routes that Beijing can now link together to improve its comprehensive strength. Beijing has also deployed its own perceived threat of Muslim extremism in Xinjiang to justify greater securitization in its Western territories, enhancing its power projection capabilities toward Central Asia.