Kyrgyzstan caught into Chinese trap

Kyrgyzstan caught into Chinese trap

Kyrgyzstan's President Sooronbai Jeenbekov will visit China in early June. The first state visit of the Kyrgyz leader will take place against the backdrop of the scandal surrounding the Bishkek CHP power station and the Jogorku Kenesh's intention (parliament) to revise the credit agreements with the Middle Kingdom - today Kyrgyzstan's debt to China reached $1.7 billion.

The first six months of Sooronbai Jeenbekov's presidency were devoted to the process of building relations with neighbors. At first, he made visits to Moscow and Minsk, where he held important talks with Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev on the settlement of the conflict on the Kyrgyz-Kazakh border. Later, the president paid a first official visit to Uzbekistan, with which the country also had serious problems. Kyrgyz politician Ravshan Jeenbekov, speaking with Vestnik Kavkaza, said that the elimination of difficulties with Tashkent was more Uzbek leader Shavkat Mirziyoyev's doing, who decided to build partnership with Kyrgyzstan and develop trade and economic cooperation, than President Jeenbekov's.

"It was more in the interest of Uzbekistan. A similar situation concerns Kazakhstan. The first conciliatory gesture was made by President Nazrabayev. During the CIS summit in Moscow he engaged in talks with the Kyrgyz delegation and invited Jeenbekov to pay an official visit to Astana. Therefore, I wouldn't say that Jeenbekov ruled out the situation with both Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and give all the credit to him, "Jenbekov said.

In February, an attempt was made to improve relations with Tajikistan. At the talks with Tajik leader Emomali Rahmon in Dushanbe, Sooronbai Jeenbekov touched on extremely painful and conflict-related issues related to the interstate border. But apart from the declared intention to "continue working together," no results are known.

Jeenbekov's visit to Turkey was more productive. He later called the "Turkish direction" a priority of Kyrgyzstan's foreign policy, since the main issue of social security for migrants was resolved. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was also pleased with the results of the meeting with his Kyrgyz counterpart. He received confirmation that under Sooronbai Jeenbekov there will be no unfriendly attacks on Ankara, which happened under previous president Almazbek Atambayev.

Sooronbai Jeenbekov's visit to Brussels completed the foreign policy activity of the first half of the year. The European Union expects Bishkek to carry out reforms and actions to strengthen democracy, increase the transparency of governmental departments, and effectively manage and develop new economic opportunities. According to Director General of the analytical centre 'Strategy East-West' (Bishkek), Dmitry Orlov, Jeenbekov's visits to the EU and Turkey have confirmed the external legitimacy of Kyrgyzstan's new authorities, and the rest is less important.

"The most noticeable change that took place under Jeenbekov was the disintegration of the opposition to the current Kyrgyz government. Kyrgyzstan is the only country in the world now where the opposition opposes ... the former president Atambaev. Zheenbekov himself has done nothing yet to be praised or criticized. Don't you think that the information war which inflamed between his entourage and Almazbek Atambayev's team is an achievement or reform? Putting bureaucratic officials and "cutters" in jail is not a reform as well, but an everyday duty of the government," Dmitry Orlov told Vestnik Kavkaza.

In particular, it's about the scandal surrounding Bishkek CHP power station (Atambayev may face trial in Bishkek TPP case). Kyrgyz MPs are ready to review all credit agreements with China. There are many of such agreements, including such large ones as the construction of the Datka-Kemin transmission line, as well as the North-South alternative road. The deputies believe that violations can be revealed in other projects as well. It is worth noting that China is the biggest creditor and investor of Kyrgyzstan. Bishkek should pay $1 billion 711 million to the Export-Import Bank of China, which is 41.3% of Bishkek's total foreign debt. Moreover, member of the «Iran-East» (Iran) Central Asian and Afghan Studies Institute's Scientific Council, political scientist Igor Pankratenko, speaking with Vestnik Kavkaza, said that the volume of Kyrgyzstan's debt is only 1.3% of 124 billion dollars promised by President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping last May to implement the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), of which Bishkek is an active participant. Most of its debts to Beijing arose precisely during the "conjugation" of the Kyrgyz economy with this Chinese mega-project. It is possible that the parliamentary proceedings will lead to an outflow of Chinese investments from Kyrgyzstan.

"The Kyrgyz parliament members can review anything they want, even regardless of President Jeenbekov's visit to China. Loans are not a question of relations with China. At the highest level, Chinese president Xi Jinping can smile at Jeenbekov as much as he likes - it's protocol. However, Kyrgyz parliamentarians suffer from a disease, which Lenin called "parliamentary idiocy." The parliament of Kyrgyzstan thinks that everything will be better immediately after they review something. But that's not how it works. There are only two ways to escape from the credit trap into which they were driven. The first one is raising taxes, or tariffs with excise taxes. They are already preparing citizens psychologically: there has been a wave of publications has gone straight, which calculate how much each Kyrgyz owes, they counted $600 per each, including newborn babies. But there is no guarantee that there will not be another coup after that, which will lead to nothing, because they still have to repay the debts, while Lenin-like leaders who will risk refusing to repay the debts of the previous regimes are not yet observed in Kyrgyzstan," Orlov believes.

The second way, according to the expert, is the confiscation of property of everyone somehow involved in signing loan agreements with China. But there will not be much use from this - Chinese loans were initially tied, that is, all the work was done by the Chinese with the use of their own technique. Money were returned back to those who gave them - the Chinese, and Kyrgyzstan only has commissioned objects, with a lot of claims to which, and money "sawn" by officials. Dmitry Orlov noted that the Chinese do not care how much and by whom was "bitten off" from their loans in Kyrgyzstan. They have many ways to get what they need, and they will do it, whatever it costs. Kyrgyzstan can keep pleading poverty - it does not bother anyone in Beijing, the money was not forced into the Kyrgyz authorities' hands. On the other hand, past experience shows that the loans that have been given to Bishkek all these years were allocated in such a way to ensure that they can never be payed back. Loans are always a short leash for long goals, and it seems that  Kyrgyzstan will find out China's goals very soon.


Vestnik Kavkaza

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