There is a good chance that economic jockeying between China and Russia in Central Asia will intensify in the coming months. For Russia, Chinese economic expansion could put a crimp in President Vladimir Putin’s grand plan for the Eurasian Economic Union.
Relative to other Central Asian states, Kyrgyzstan has a fairly free and perennially noisy domestic media scene. Even so, Kyrgyz outlets tend to be no match for Russian state-controlled media when it comes to establishing narratives for current events.
The Year of the Snake has been full of unpleasant surprises for Chinese living in Kyrgyzstan. Against a backdrop of rising economic nationalism and weak law enforcement, Chinese migrants complain they’re being targeted for robberies and extortion, especially by law-enforcement officers who are supposed to protect them.
Almost five years ago, as his village in northern Kyrgyzstan endured daily power outages, rays of light always emitted from Sabyr Kurmanov’s garage. They came from his egg incubator, a 12-volt contraption powered by something he and his neighbours have in abundance – wind.
In 2010, Kyrgyzstan tried to promote good governance and reduce corruption by attaching public watchdogs to major ministries and state agencies. Almost three years later, the watchdogs are still functioning, but many express frustration about bureaucratic resistance that hinders their ability to do their jobs.
With Westerners now leery of investing in Kyrgyzstan, it is perhaps inevitable that officials in Bishkek turn to China as they try to attract capital for infrastructure development.
China is financing the construction of Kyrgyzstan’s first major oil refinery, and excitement is building in Bishkek that the facility could enable the Central Asian nation to break Russia’s fuel-supply monopoly.
A surge of economic nationalism is making life uncomfortable for Chinese companies working in Kyrgyzstan.
One morning last year in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Dilnoza awoke to find her brand-new Toyota Corolla missing. She knew immediately whom to call, and it wasn’t her local police precinct.
When nationalist MP Kamchybek Tashiev led his supporters over a fence surrounding parliament in early October, both foreign and local executives working in Kyrgyzstan’s mining industry braced for the worst.
Legislation designed to discourage the controversial practice of bride kidnapping fizzled recently in Kyrgyzstan's parliament.
Among its Central Asian neighbours, China these days is more often feared than loved. This attitude is perhaps most apparent in Kyrgyzstan, where despite an overwhelming dependence on Chinese imports, Chinese-owned malls and mining pits have been the subject of attacks in recent years; nationalist editorials in the local press play on fears of the Middle Kingdom.