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John S. Van Oudenaren  
Assistant Director
Political and Security Affairs

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The Growth, Adaptation and Limitations of Chinese Private Security Companies in Central Asia


On December 18, 2020, the National Bureau of Asian Research and the Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs convened a virtual private roundtable on a recent Oxus Society report on “The Growth, Adaptation and Limitations of Chinese Private Security Companies in Central Asia.” The roundtable featured a presentation by the report authors, Niva Yau Tsz Yan, Eurasia Program Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and a Junior Researcher at the OSCE Academy in Bishkek, and Dirk van der Kley, Research Fellow at the School of Regulation and Global Governance at Australian National University, followed by a discussion moderated by Edward Lemon, President of the Oxus Society.

As China expands its investments in Central Asia through the Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese companies face significant security threats and political risk, as illustrated by the targeting of some Chinese projects during recent political upheaval in Kyrgyzstan. In this challenging environment, China has supplemented its long-standing approach to relying on host nation protection for its nationals and investments by pushing for private security companies (PSCs) to play a more active role in the region. These companies provide a variety of services including protecting transportation routes and facilities, undertaking reconnaissance, performing logistical tasks, and training, recruiting, and directing local PSCs. This discussion surveyed the evolving activities of Chinese PSCs in Central Asian countries and examined the local business and legal environments in which they operate.

Agenda


WELCOME

John S. Van Oudenaren, The National Bureau of Asian Research


REPORT INTRODUCTION

Edward Lemon, Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs


PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION

Niva Yau Tsz Yan, Foreign Policy Research Institute; OSCE Academy in Bishkek

Dirk van der Kley, Australian National University

Edward Lemon (Moderator)

About the Speakers

Edward Lemon is President of the Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs and Research Assistant Professor at The Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University, Washington D.C. Campus. He was previously Assistant Professor of Eurasian Affairs at the Daniel Morgan Graduate School, a Global Fellow at the Wilson Center and a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Political Science at Columbia University. He earned a PhD in Politics and International Relations at the University of Exeter in 2016. Dr. Lemon’s research focuses on authoritarianism and security issues in Central Asia. He has spent over three years conducting fieldwork in Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia. He is editor of the book Critical Approaches to Security in Central Asia (Routledge, 2018). His research has been published in Democratization, Central Asian Affairs, Caucasus Survey, Journal of Democracy, Central Asian Survey, the Review of Middle Eastern Studies and The RUSI Journal.

Dirk van der Kley is a Research Fellow at the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) at Australian National University (ANU). He specializes on the theory of geoeconomics, international economic sanctions, PRC international economic policy, and the effect of industrial policy on geopolitics. Dr. van der Kley is a member of the ANU Working Group on Geoeconomics and a board member for the Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs. Prior to joining Regnet, he was the Program Director for Policy Research at China Matters and worked at the Lowy Institute for International Affairs. Dr. van der Kley taught at the OSCE Academy in Bishkek and held visiting fellowships in China, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. He earned a BA in Chinese studies and Mathematics from the University of Sydney (1st Class Hons) and a PhD from ANU (Endeavour scholar). He is fluent in both Chinese and Russian and is currently studying Korean.

Niva Yau Tsz Yan is a Fellow in the Eurasia Program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. She is a Junior Researcher at the OSCE Academy in Bishkek and a graduate from the University of Hong Kong. Ms. Yau’s research focuses on China’s Western Peripheral Diplomacy, including Central Asia and Afghanistan. Her research interests center on China’s strategic thinking in the 21st century, including the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Chinese private military security companies (PMSCs), authoritarian technology and security issues.