Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, its leaders have been preoccupied with efforts to increase state capacity in order to exercise more effective control over their western frontier by controlling their minority population and generating the conditions for economic development in the area. Although these state-building initiatives have always incorporated an international component, the collapse of the USSR, the transnational characteristics of development, and China’s concern around the challenges of terrorism, separatism, and extremism have necessitated an accompanying region-building project in Eurasia. Using a synthesis of the region-building approach and the concept of regionalization, this study traces how Chinese domestic elite-led narratives about security and development generate domestic state-building initiatives which in turn produce region-building projects. Furthermore, this study assesses how region-building projects are promoted through narratives embedded in foreign policies that establish the historicity of China’s engagement in Eurasian affairs and norms of non-interference and co-development. Finally, it traces the empirical construction of regions through integrative infrastructure.
By revealing the three symbiotic phases of Chinese domestic state-building and region-building, this study demonstrates how region-building projects have facilitated China’s ability to increase state capacity, control, and development in its western frontier. Furthermore, China’s region-building projects have gradually transformed Eurasia in a manner that has resulted in its eastward orientation through the usage of connective infrastructure and co-development projects that place China at the center of Eurasia. This project demonstrates how China has emerged as a dominant power in Eurasian affairs that not only exercises significant political and economic power, but more importantly, ideational power.