The New Great Game

In the late 1990s, some journalists used the expression "The New Great Game" to describe what they proposed was a renewed geopolitical interest in Central Asia based on the mineral wealth of the region.

The name is a reference to the original Great Game, the term used by historians to describe the 19th-century political and diplomatic competition between the British and Russian empires for territory and influence among Central Asian states.[1] The term "Great Game" itself had entered into more widespread use following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.[2]


In 1996, The New York Times published an opinion piece titled "The New Great Game in Asia" in which was written:

While few have noticed, Central Asia has again emerged as a murky battleground among big powers engaged in an old and rough geopolitical game. Western experts believe that the largely untapped oil and natural gas riches of the Caspian Sea countries could make that region the Persian Gulf of the next century. The object of the revived game is to befriend leaders of the former Soviet republics controlling the oil, while neutralizing Russian suspicions and devising secure alternative pipeline routes to world markets.[3]

In 2004, journalist Lutz Kleveman wrote a book that linked the expression to the exploration of mineral wealth in the region.[4] While the direct American military involvement in the area was part of fighting the "War on Terror" rather than an indirect Western governmental interest in the mineral wealth, another journalist Eric Walberg suggests in his book that access to the region's minerals and oil pipeline routes is still an important factor.[5][6] The interest in oil and gas includes pipelines that transmit energy to China's east coast. One view of the New Great Game is a shift to geoeconomic compared to geopolitical competition. Xiangming Chen believes that China's role is more like Britain's than Russia's in the New Great Game, where Russia plays the role that the Russian Empire originally did. "China and Russia are the two dominant power players vs. the weaker independent Central Asian states".[7]

Other authors have criticized the reuse of the term "Great Game". According to strategic analyst Ajay Patnaik, the "New Great Game" is a misnomer, because rather than two empires focused on the region as in the past, there are now many global and regional powers active with the rise of China and India as major economic powers. Central Asian states have diversified their political, economic, and security relationships.[8] David Gosset of CEIBS Shanghai states "the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) established in 2001 is showing that Central Asia’s actors have gained some real degree of independence. But fundamentally, the China factor introduces a level of predictability " In the 2015 international relations book Globalizing Central Asia, the authors state that Central Asian states have pursued a multivectored approach in balancing out the political and economic interests of larger powers, but it has had mixed success due to strategic reversals of administrations regarding the West, China, and Russia. They suppose that China could counterbalance Russia. However, Russia and China have a strategic partnership since 2001. According to Ajay Patnaik, "China has advanced carefully in the region, using the SCO as the main regional mechanism, but never challenging Russian interests in Central Asia."[8] In the Carnegie Endowment, Paul Stronski and Nicole Ng wrote in 2018 that China has not fundamentally challenged any Russian interests in Central Asia. They suggested that China, Russia, and the West could have mutual interests in regional stability in Central Asia.[9] According to Paul Stronski and Nicole Ng, China uses its policy in Central Asia to "manage" Russia's concerns, satisfying Russia by showing China's economic aims do not threaten Russian political-military interests in the Russian Far East and elsewhere besides Central Asia, and assuaging Russia's demographic fears about Chinese immigration.[9]

The historian James Reardon-Anderson stated in 2014, during the first withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, that, "There may be a new Great Game in Central Asia, but it is going to have a lot less importance to the United States than the new Great Game in the Western Pacific and East Asian waters."[10][11] In August 2021, Reuters reported that following the Taliban takeover, the "new Great Game has Pakistan in control" of Afghanistan and also involves India and China.[12] In Nikkei, writer and retired Admiral James Stavridis stated that the "new Great Game" involves Russia's interest in the regulation of opium production, China's interest in rare earth minerals, a growing role for India, while the West will be reluctant to enter.[13] Following the 2021 U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, RFE/RL reported that "Russia, China, Pakistan, and Iran could come together in the next chapter of the Great Game," or "Moscow, Beijing, Islamabad, and Tehran are each merely looking to advance their own interests in the new geopolitical order."[11]

In a 2020 study, the New Great Game was described as a form of "Civilizational Colonialism" in border regions and areas of territorial disputes, united by their location in High Asia or "The Roof of the World". Kashmir, Hazara, Nuristan, Laghman, Azad Kashmir, Jammu, Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Gilgit Baltistan, Chitral, Western Tibet, Western Xinjiang, Badakhshan, Gorno Badakhshan, Fergana, Osh and Turkistan Region. These rich resource areas are surrounded by the five major mountainous systems of Tien Shan, Pamirs, Karakoram, Hindu Kush and Western Himalayas and the three main river systems of Amu Darya, Syr Darya and Indus.[14]

The "Great Game" as a term has been described as a cliché-metaphor,[15] and there are authors who have now written on the topics of "The Great Game" in Antarctica,[16] the world's far north,[17] and in outer space.[18]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Detsch, Robbie Gramer, Jack. "Foreign Powers Jockey for Influence in Afghanistan After Withdrawal". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  2. ^ Seymour Becker, "The ‘great game’: The history of an evocative phrase." Asian Affairs 43.1 (2012): 61-80.
  3. ^ The New York Times 1996.
  4. ^ Kleveman 2004.
  5. ^ Golshanpazhooh 2011.
  6. ^ Gratale 2012.
  7. ^ Chen, Xiangming; Fazilov, Fakhmiddin (19 June 2018). "Re-centering Central Asia: China's "New Great Game" in the old Eurasian Heartland". Palgrave Communications. 4 (1): 1–12. doi:10.1057/s41599-018-0125-5. ISSN 2055-1045. S2CID 49311952.
  8. ^ a b Ajay Patnaik (2016). Central Asia: Geopolitics, Security and Stability. Taylor & Francis Group. pp. 28–31. ISBN 9781317266402.
  9. ^ a b Stronski, Paul; Ng, Nicole (28 February 2018). "Cooperation and Competition: Russia and China in Central Asia, the Russian Far East, and the Arctic". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved 26 July 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ "Interview: The SCO, Security, And A New 'Great Game'". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 29 December 2021.
  11. ^ a b "Regional Powers Seek To Fill Vacuum Left By West's Retreat From Afghanistan". RFE/RL. Retrieved 29 December 2021.
  12. ^ Miglani, Sanjeev; Shahzad, Asif; Tian, Yew Lun (23 August 2021). "Analysis: China, Pakistan, India jockey for position in Afghanistan's new Great Game". Reuters. Retrieved 29 December 2021.
  13. ^ "Rare earth trillions lure China to Afghanistan's new Great Game". Nikkei Asia. Retrieved 29 December 2021.
  14. ^ Sharma, Vishal (2020). Civilizational Colonialism and the Ongoing New Great Game in the Sensitive Areas of High Asia: Exploring Pan-High Asianism as the potential way forward for the Western Pahari, Greater Dardic, Trans-Himalayan, Badakhshan and Sogdiana Belts possibly leading to High Asian Approaches to International Law (HAAIL). Academia (Thesis). Cardiff: Cardiff University. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
  15. ^ Miller, Sam (2014). A Strange Kind of Paradise: India Through Foreign Eyes. London: Vintage Books. p. 286.
  16. ^ Dodds, Klaus (2008). "The Great Game in Antarctica: Britain and the 1959 Antarctic Treaty". Contemporary British History. 22 (1): 43–66. doi:10.1080/03004430601065781. S2CID 144025621.
  17. ^ Borgerson, Scott G. (25 March 2009). "The Great Game Moves North". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  18. ^ Easton, Ian (24 June 2009). "The Great Game in Space: China's Evolving ASAT Weapons Programs and Their Implications for Future U.S. Strategy". Project 2049 Institute. Retrieved 12 November 2020.


Further readingEdit