On May 11, 2021, in the Chinese city of Xi’an, a meeting was held between the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic Ruslan Kazakbayev and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China Wang Yi. The Foreign Ministers discussed issues of trade and finance, as well as the implementation of joint infrastructure projects. A month earlier, on April 9, 2021, in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, an official meeting was held between the Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic Ulukbek Maripov and the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Kyrgyzstan Du Dewen, during which representatives of the two countries expressed their hope for the continuation of the development of bilateral relations, which was laid back in 1992, with Kyrgyzstan’s sovereignty.
The Kyrgyz Prime Minister expressed gratitude to the Chinese government for the donated vaccines against COVID-19, which are so necessary for the country of 6.5 million people, and for providing all kinds of assistance in the fight against the pandemic. Ulukbek Maripov said that Kyrgyzstan attaches great importance to the development of strategic partnership with the PRC, and that it is ready to continue to strengthen ties with China, including to further increase trade through the checkpoints on the Kyrgyz-Chinese border. In turn, the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China highly appreciated the results of interaction between the two states within the framework of the One Belt, One Road Initiative.
Today, the main interests of the PRC in Kyrgyzstan are associated with minerals and energy resources. Back in 2002, China and Kyrgyzstan signed an agreement on cooperation in the development of oil and gas fields, most of which are concentrated in the south of the country. In 2014, the Celestial Empire acquired the right to participate in the development of the country’s largest oil field Mailuu-Suu-4, East-Izbaskent and Changyrtash oil and gas fields, as well as the Chyyrchyk gas field. This suggests that the partnership between the two countries has been progressing for years.
The PRC is interested in mining in Kyrgyzstan, since the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China, bordering this Central Asian state, is constantly experiencing an energy deficit. The development of enterprises for the extraction of resources in Kyrgyzstan will help the Celestial Empire to improve the infrastructure of this region.
China plays a very significant role in the Kyrgyz economy. In 2019, the volume of trade between the two countries amounted to about $ 1.8 billion. Unfortunately, due to the global economic crisis caused by the coronavirus epidemic that began in 2020, trade between the PRC and Kyrgyzstan decreased by about 55% and amounted to approximately $ 810 million. This circumstance hit hard on the economy of Kyrgyzstan. However, in the next few years, trade volumes should return to their previous indicators, since thanks to the joint efforts of the two countries, the coronavirus pandemic will soon be defeated, and all quarantine measures will be canceled in the foreseeable future.
The volume of imports from China to Kyrgyzstan in 2020 amounted to approximately $ 762 million. In turn, the volume of exports of products from this Central Asian country to the Middle Kingdom for the same period amounted to about $ 48 million.
China supplies to Kyrgyzstan mainly plastic products, fabrics made of synthetic filaments, nuts, chemical products, rubber, rubber products, man-made threads, tires, pneumatic rubber tires and much more. The PRC is one of Kyrgyzstan’s main foreign trade partners and significantly contributes to its economic development. The total weight of China in Kyrgyzstan’s foreign trade turnover is about 13%.
As for the One Belt, One Road infrastructure initiative, back in 2017, the executive director of the Association of Foreign Investors in Kyrgyzstan Iskender Sharsheev said that due to access to the cheapest types of transportation (sea and rail) Kyrgyzstan will be able to easily integrate into international trade. The One Belt, One Road Initiative is indeed making a huge contribution to the development of this Central Asian state, including in the form of Chinese grants and investments.
In May 2021, as part of the implementation of the agreements signed in 2018 and 2020 between the two countries, the People’s Liberation Army of China donated military equipment to the Armed Forces of Kyrgyzstan. The ceremony of transferring the combat vehicles took place on May 26 at the headquarters of the National Guard of the Kyrgyz Armed Forces. The event was attended by the Ambassador of China to the Kyrgyz Republic, Du Dewen, the military attaché of the Chinese Embassy in Kyrgyzstan Zhang Yun, as well as the Minister of Defense of Kyrgyzstan Taalaibek Omuraliev. Du Dewen expressed the hope that the Chinese military equipment provided for Kyrgyzstan will contribute to further cooperation between the two countries in the military sphere, as well as maintaining stability and security in the entire region.
It should be noted that today China already provides Kyrgyzstan with all kinds of support in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. In March 2021, the first batch of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine was delivered to the country as humanitarian aid. In May 2021, the Celestial Empire undertook to provide Kyrgyzstan with a second batch of antiviral vaccines to the amount of 150,000 doses free of charge. In addition to vaccines, the Chinese government will send their specialists to the Central Asian country involved in implementing grant projects that have been temporarily suspended due to the coronavirus epidemic. Also, the leadership of the PRC plans to soon consider the issue of supplying food aid to Kyrgyzstan in connection with the difficult economic situation in the country. One can understand China’s actions: Beijing realizes that having prosperous neighbors near its borders is a solid guarantee of prosperity for the entire region.
In conclusion, we can deduce that the partnership between China and Kyrgyzstan is one of the pillars of the successful development of Central Asia in its entirety, and that when the coronavirus pandemic recedes, cooperation between the two states will resume in the same volume as before, which will lead to accelerated economic growth and prosperity both in Kyrgyzstan and in the Celestial Empire.
Petr Konovalov, a political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.