Small Wars Journal

In Central Asia’s Forbidding Highlands, a Quiet Newcomer: Chinese Troops

In Central Asia’s Forbidding Highlands, a Quiet Newcomer: Chinese Troops by Gerry Shih – Washington Post

Two miles above sea level in the inhospitable highlands of Central Asia, there’s a new power watching over an old passage into Afghanistan: China.

 

For at least three years, Chinese troops have quietly monitored this choke point in Tajikistan just beyond China’s western frontier, according to interviews, analysis of satellite images and photographs, and firsthand observations by a Washington Post journalist.

 

While veiled in secrecy, the outpost of about two dozen buildings and lookout towers illustrates how the footprint of Chinese hard power has been expanding alongside the country’s swelling economic reach.

 

Tajikistan — awash in Chinese investment — joins the list of Chinese military sites that includes Djibouti in the strategic Horn of Africa and man-made islands in the South China Sea, in the heart of Southeast Asia.

 

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s economic ambitions over the past seven years have brought a wave of major investment projects, from the resource-rich Caspian Sea to Cambodia’s coastline.

 

The modest facility in Tajikistan — which offers a springboard into Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor a few miles away — has not been publicly acknowledged by any government.

 

But its presence is rich in significance and symbolism…

Read on.