The exploration of China in Kyrgyzstan is limited to language and pop culture. But it is not enough to protect the national interests of the republic.
Experts discussed the problem at the discussion club of the analytical platform CABAR.asia. It was organized following the results of the thematic publication of the authors on this platform.
The participants of this discussion club were: former SCO Secretary general and former foreign Minister of Kyrgyzstan Muratbek Imanaliev, former foreign minister of Kyrgyzstan, specialist on China Erlan Abdyldaev, expert on state administration Sheradil Baktygulov, deans of the Kyrgyz-Chinese faculties of the Kyrgyz National University under the name of J. Balasagyn and Bishkek University of Humanities under the name of K.Karasayev, IWPR representatives and other experts and journalists.
The participants voiced the following recommendations during the discussion:
- To establish a department for integrated exploration of the People’s Republic of China (politics, economics, strategies, international relations);
- To establish a sector of foreign sinology study and the works of Chinese scientists on China;
- To organize a systematic translation of fundamental works related to state administration, economics, politics, philosophy from Chinese into Kyrgyz, as well as works of classical and modern Chinese literature. Translate the works of contemporary Kyrgyz writers and poets into Chinese;
- On the basis of Diplomatic Academy of the Kyrgyz MFA, it is necessary to explore the conjugation of various global strategies in the Central Asian region (EEU + “Belt and Road”, “New Silk Road”, EU Strategies for Central Asia, etc.);
- To translate the works on the history of relations between Kyrgyzstan and China since ancient times into Kyrgyz and Russian languages for publication;
- To develop a lecture course for travel to regional universities and provide local students with comprehensive information about China;
- To strengthen cultural, humanitarian and scientific cooperation between the two countries: holding international conferences, festivals and exchanges of experience between specialists in various fields.
Kyrgyzstan has no idea about China
As cooperation with China (economic, political, in the humanitarian sphere) becomes closer, alarming reports of an increasing “Chinese expansion” are more often expressed in society.
Alarmists believe that Beijing gradually intends to bring Kyrgyzstan into a full-scale dependence and take control over its natural resources, transfer environmentally harmful production, solve the problem of overpopulation and unemployment through intensive legal and illegal migration to different regions of the country. Along with Kyrgyzstan, similar sentiments are observed in a number of countries around the world that actively cooperate with China.
On the other hand, individual officials and experts are trying to convince the public that cooperation is mutually beneficial and its dynamics is monitored and regulated to protect the national interests of the republic. But judging by the content analysis of electronic media and the local segment of social networks, the arguments of the state are still unconvincing against the background of “sinophobic sentiments.”
However, how well the people in Kyrgyzstan are aware of China and its various features in order to be convinced in the validity of anxiety of one side or, on the contrary, on the objectivity of the arguments of the other side? A small number of Kyrgyz sinologists who, chose to explore this part of the world by some quirk of fate in the Soviet time and a couple of experts who began this activity several years ago, are confident that Kyrgyzstan is still poorly aware of China and should go deeper into exploring its “big” and strong neighbor and partner.
“The paradox lies in the fact that we have a thousand-kilometer border with China, but unfortunately, have no idea about China,” said Muratbek Imanaliev, one of the few Kyrgyz China specialists, former minister of foreign affairs of Kyrgyzstan and former Secretary General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
According to him, it is necessary to form own school of sinology in Kyrgyzstan in order to develop own knowledge of the modern and historical East and China from own domestic books and textbooks. This will allow formulating a more accurate, professionally verified concept of Kyrgyz relations with China and the rest of Asian East countries.
The development of sinology is necessary not only for a better understanding of China, but also for the exploration of Kyrgyzstan itself. Numerous Chinese sources from ancient times are carefully stored and systematized in the scientific and historical structures of the PRC, could help to reconstruct individual segments of own history of people and society.
Eastern vertical vs. Western horizontal
When it comes to the differences between the Eastern and Western worlds, the idea of an ideal order in Asia is not connected with the horizontal of equality, but with the vertical of the organized system, Imanaliev said.
The vertical system exists in China and other Asian countries, including the Central Asian region. According to this concept, the main values of the state are stability and harmony. Confucian society as a whole is focused on the search for consensus. The word consensus is taken from the ancient Chinese vocabulary.
Why did the Confucian cultural region jump from the third world? This concept assumes that responsibility precedes freedom, duty precedes rights, the team is above the individual, and harmony is above the conflict.
Meritocracy is one of the main components of the Confucian political culture. The basis for power acquisition was not an aristocratic origin, but a level of merit and preparedness.
The establishment of a school of sinology will fully pay for the costs.
In order to learn the most successful experience, the country needs translators, highly specialized specialists in the field of agriculture, infrastructure, medicine and transport, said Erlan Abdyldaev – specialist on China and former foreign minister of Kyrgyzstan. It is necessary to deep explore Chinese culture, history, tradition and other features in order to understand China.
Abdyldaev emphasizes that Kyrgyzstan needs a center of expertise with China specialists, who would provide government agencies with high-quality and in-depth expertise on various aspects of cooperation with the PRC.
According to Abdyldaev, the process of forming a school of sinology in Central Asian countries was delayed despite the urgency and obviousness of the issue. This is due to the lack of funding in Kyrgyzstan for such activities for the long term prospective.
In his opinion, the establishment of an expert community on China and on foreign policy issues in the future will fully pay for the contributed investments.
“The school of sinology cannot be established in four – five years, it is being established for decades,” noted an expert on state administration Sheradil Baktygulov.
He said that national universities lack subjects and courses on Chinese law, economics, energy, finance and other aspects, within which the cooperation between Kyrgyzstan and China takes place.
This is due to the lack of demand for such specialists in state and private companies, no matter how paradoxical it may sound. The low demand for expertise about China also affects the training of future generations of sinologists. He says that despite the popularity of the Chinese language and the growing trade with China, many graduates (even of the top universities) remain without a job in their profile.
For example, the ministries of economy and finance which closely cooperate with Chinese state authorities and enterprises within the framework of credit agreements and economic projects lack specialists in the Chinese economy and finance. Baktygulov added that not only ministries, but also relevant national energy and mining enterprises need such specialists.
A critical mass of people who speak Chinese already exists. Now the question is about creating a Kyrgyz school of sinology. It is necessary to strengthen scientific ties not only with Chinese specialists, but also study the world sinology together with Russian, American, European and other schools of sinology.
The establishment of Kyrgyz school of sinology will be a long process, said China expert Salamat Jybykeev. For example, the Russian school had been forming for 300 years.
The main demand for research of China is formed from:
1) The state (exploring the political processes in the PRC, the PRC foreign policy and trade, the situation in Xinjiang);
2) Business (research of the Chinese consumer market);
3) Scientific communities (exploration of Chinese historical archives, the state мелиыинской, historical and archaeological science of China);
4) Society (research in the field of education, tourism and culture).
Situation in Kyrgyz-Chinese faculties of KNU and BHU
Sophia Apaeva – the Dean of the Kyrgyz-Chinese Faculty at the Kyrgyz National University under the name of J. Balasagyn reported that more than 1,300 students of the faculty were trained in the field of Translation Studies, International Law, International Economic Relations, Philology, and Master’s Programs in Linguistics and International Economic Relations.
About a hundred of students of the Kyrgyz-Chinese faculty annually, go to China to learn Chinese. Some of them remain working in this country, mainly in Guangzhou and Urumqi. Graduates in Kyrgyzstan mostly work as translators in mining companies. At the same time, companies ask for retraining and advanced training of translators.
According to Sophia Apaeva, there was not a single PhD in sinology in Kyrgyzstan until 2015. The Kyrgyz-Chinese faculty has prepared two PhD for Kyrgyzstan. Three PhD and 16 Master’s students who have gained an academic degree in China teach at the faculty.
Vladimir Liu – Deputy Chairman of the Kyrgyz Association of sinologists and former dean of the Kyrgyz-Chinese faculty of the Bishkek University of Humanities (BHU), said that more than three thousand Chinese language experts had been trained at the university. According to him, there are enough specialists in the country with knowledge of Chinese language, now it is necessary to extend the knowledge in specific disciplines.
See the full video of the expert meeting on the Development of Sinology in Kyrgyzstan (in Russian language):