Abstract This study examines alternative understandings of democracy and democracy

promotion advanced by the US, EU, Russia and China in Central Asia using frame

analysis. In the context of this study, ‘frames’ refer to the relatively cohesive sets of beliefs,

categories and value judgements as well as specific ways in which these ideas are packaged

for the targets of international democratization. The study assesses the implications of

alternative representations of democracy promotion and competing models of governance

for the prospects of democratization in Central Asia. It concludes that the substance of US

and EU democracy promotion in Central Asia has neglected the cultural and political

contexts of these states, while the Russian and Chinese models of governance and

development have provided a better match to the interests of the ruling elites.