Analysis of primary survey data collected among university students in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan shows that China’s surging influence is felt by locals in Greater Central Asia (GCA). If China continues to interact more through the bazaars and road constructions, it will embed itself deeper into the local imaginations. The future elites of GCA might not necessarily see the rising influence of China in the framework of “great game” competition between Russia and China. Rather, China’s relations with GCA is just back to a kind of “new normal” which both regions had enjoyed back in the 19th century.
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