Locals and Chinese mine workers clash in Kyrgyzstan . . .
A Chinese gold mine’s operations in eastern Kyrgyzstan were suspended after a clash between Chinese workers and local villagers who were concerned about the mine’s environmental impact. Resentment over China’s influence in Kyrgyzstan has been rising, fueled by the former’s growing economic presence and the detention of ethnic Kyrgyz in the China’s Xinjiang Province. In January, a dozen people were arrested at an anti-Chinese rally in Bishkek demanding an end to work permits for Chinese workers and a reduction of Kyrgyzstan’s debt to China. Nevertheless, the two countries’ military ties are growing - earlier this month, they held a joint counter-terrorism exercise in Xinjiang.
China spreading its wings in Central Asia . . .
Central Asia has been an important anchor for China’s Belt and Road initiative ever since Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled the initiative in the Kazakh capital of Astana in 2013. Since then, Beijing has become a major financier of infrastructure and connectivity projects, including railroads, mining, and telecommunications. In 2018, China became the largest trading partner of three Central Asia countries: Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
Possible challenge to Russia’s military dominance in Central Asia . . .
China’s political and economic expansion into Central Asia has complicated its partnership with Russia, which views Central Asia as its backyard. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia acted as the region’s security guarantor through its military bases there. China considers Central Asia pivotal in fighting alleged separatism and religious extremism in China’s west and ensuring its energy security, driving Beijing to become more actively involved with the region’s security issues. For example, China has conducted counter-terrorism activities in Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Beijiing’s growing influence, and potential displacement of Russia’s role in Central Asia, is a regional development to keep an eye on.
- The Diplomat: Why Central Asia is betting on China’s belt and road
- Nikkei Asian Review: Russia and China romance runs into friction in Central Asia
- South China Morning Post: Kyrgyzstan halts work at Chinese gold mine after 20 hurt in clashes over toxic spill fears