Sinophobia simmers across Central Asia


Central Asia is a key crossroads for China’s BRI, but resentment is rising against Chinese investment. PHOTO/iStock / Getty

In the ‘Stans, BRI debt traps, broken promises, corruption and Xinjiang persecution generate resentment and violence

It is just a tiny grocery store in a decrepit, Khruschev-era five-story apartment block in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan – but it is flooded with shoppers, 24 hours a day.

Located just off the busy Oruzbekov Street, surrounded by poplars and oaks, Dostyk (“Friendship”) is run by Bakyt Akylbekov, a bearded, broad-shouldered man in his 60s. Bakyt has run the business since the Gorbachev era of the late 1980s green-lighted the first private stores.

From there, the proprietor witnessed the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Kyrghyz independence declaration, two coups, three popular revolts and a “color revolution.”

Now, Dostyk’s days are numbered.

Bakyt had rented the annex for decades – until the new owner wanted to renovate the entire property. That’s when the Chinese showed up.

The “generous” Chinese offered to renovate the premises – as long as they could open a travel agency in Dostyk’s wing.

Bakyt was helpless in the face of the “confident and arrogant Chinese with pockets full of money,” he told Asia Times. He is bitter about these “guests from the east” – and he is not alone.

The downside of investment

In September, Bishkek shopkeepers and farmers tried to protest. They were quickly dispersed by China-friendly authorities, while local media maintained a blackout of the event – for protest is not the official narrative of the Chinese influx.

That narrative was visible on October 1, when thousands of Chinese across Central Asia – not to mention many millions beyond – celebrated their National Day by organizing parades, concerts and festivals. One event, at Kyrghyz National University, included music, concerts and film screenings.

Asia Times for more

Comments are closed.