Kyrgyzstan is being rocked in two directions - Russian and Chinese
In spring, the protest moods are expected to increase in Kyrgyzstan. China and Russia are two directions in which the situation in Kyrgyzstan is developing. "This is a projected approach a year before the 2020 parliamentary elections," Kyrgyz political analyst Mars Sariev told Vestnik Kavkaza.
On Thursday, the participants of the rally held in Bishkek demanded to reconsider the relations with China. In particular, to declare a moratorium on the issuance of Kyrgyz passports to Chinese citizens, in addition to ethnic Kyrgyz, as well as to check the appropriateness of loans given by the PRC. In the case of corruption, to punish the guilty and, finally, to deport Chinese citizens illegally staying on the territory of Kyrgyzstan. The protesters also are not delighted with the fact that Kyrgyz girls marry Chinese guys, so they demanded to ban mixed marriages or fine newlyweds. The activists claim that 60,000 Kyrgyz women preferred Chinese men to Kyrgyz warriors.
About 300 people participated in the rally. The protesters didn’t want to go away for a long time, and the police had to drive them off. About 20 people were detained, including civil activist Amanbol Babakulov. However, President Sooronbay Jeenebekov promised that those who want to spoil the relations with China will be punished within the legislative framework.
According to Mars Sariev, the ethnic component is being emphasized. Kyrgyzstan borders with China and has strong historical and cultural ties with the neighboring country. More than 200 thousand Kyrgyz live in the PRC, and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) has rather large Kizilsu Kyrgyz Autonomous Prefecture. The issue of the ”ethnic cleansing" in China swirls among the human rights activists. Allegedly, there are “re-education camps” in XUAR, where people are tortured and forced to refuse Islam. In fact, these are training and retraining centers for people who have committed minor offenses and found to be sympathetic to extremist ideas. In those centers, they are provided with an opportunity to master any profession. The centers operate as vocational schools that existed in the USSR. Also, ”students” are also assisted in mastering the Chinese language, history, and legislation of the country. In other words, they are being integrated into a normal life.
Sariev blames the West on the anti-Chinese sentiment: “It is unprofitable for the West to build the Chinese Belt and Road infrastructure, which will pass through the countries of Central Asia reaching out the Caucasus and further Europe. They succeeded in its suspending. China had to continue with the old Silk Road project since the route through Central Asia has become a problem, " the expert said.
Such conflicts have arisen in Kyrgyzstan before, but they were local in nature. The current rallies (at the end of December 2018, January 7 and 17, 2019) became possible after the information about the misuse of funds for the modernization of the Bishkek thermal power station and the launch of several criminal cases of corruption were made public. For this project, China allocated a loan of $ 386 million, while Chinese specialists were engaged in the modernization. It became known that Bishkek owed Beijing $ 1.7 bln, which amounts to 41.3% of the country’s total foreign debt. At the same time, as MP Iskhak Masaliyev said, the protesters do not take into account the fact that China is the main trading partner and the largest investor in Kyrgyzstan, the biggest industrial and infrastructure projects were carried out with the help of this country. "At the same time, we believe that Chinese are not good, and they must be expelled. Here it’s not about Chinese, but about the citizens of Kyrgyzstan who are engaged in corruption," Masaliyev said. In his opinion, someone is clearly interested in undermining the stability of the republic.
Deputy Director General of the Center for Strategic Estimates and Projections Igor Pankratenko told Vestnik Kavkaza that the anti-Chinese moods are a purely internal story. According to him, the incitement of nationalism, whether anti-Russian or anti-Chinese, is the last refuge of politicians and bureaucrats losing its influence, excluded from the distribution of financial flows from foreign investors. "The use of public discontent and protest actions to solve self-serving political problems has long become a firm handwriting and reliable tool of some Kyrgyz politicians, including those who are in relations with foreign business implementing their economic projects in the republic," the expert believes. According to him, the anti-Chinese sentiment damages the reputation of Kyrgyzstan in the eyes of foreign investors and partners. Chinese projects are a lifeline for a country the economy of which without them is unlikely to find any decent place in the global division of labor (no matter how insulting this truth may sound to residents of the Republic). Today, the agenda includes the implementation of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway construction project.
Meanwhile, the issue of nationalism is a dangerous and completely unpredictable thing. The greatest naivety is to think that it can be controlled and it will always be obedient to those who use it for their own selfish interests. Someday it will surely and terribly turn against those who play with it.
As for the anti-Russian attacks, in particular, the initiative of opposition politicians to deprive the Russian language of the official status, the former Prosecutor General of Kyrgyzstan, now opposition politician Azimbek Beknazarov, said that representatives of 47 opposition political organizations insist on holding a referendum on amending the Constitution of Kyrgyzstan. In their opinion, there should be only one state language in the country - Kyrgyz. Russian is proposed to be used only as a "language of the international communication".
”Recently, in the Issyk-Kul region, an Orthodox cemetery was plundered in the night. These actions were aimed at creating a suitcase mood among the Russian-speaking population, knocking out confidence from people, primarily Russian and Russian-speaking, including Kyrgyz, who do not know the Kyrgyz language well enough, " Mars Sariev says. The anti-Russian sentiments, he said, create the impression among the average man that they are performed by Jeenbekov’s government.
“What is happening in Kyrgyzstan is a test of the strength of the existing political structure. Today, in power, there is the most Kyrgyz-speaking government and the most Kyrgyz-speaking parliament in the entire history of the country. Despite the international composition of the supreme power, the state language, that is, Kyrgyz is increasingly becoming the working language,” Kyrgyz independent expert Kubat Rakhimov told Vestnik Kavkaza.
The expert did not rule out that the initiative taken by the opposition to reduce the status of the Russian language is nothing more than an inspired provocation of the government, in particular, President Jeenbekov. According to him, it is possible that the opposition representatives are deliberately working to worsen Kyrgyzstan’s relations with other states: some are trying to strike at the Russian-Kyrgyz relations, others - at the Chinese-Kyrgyz ties.
Mars Sariev believes that the goal of the opposition is an intra-elite struggle, because the preparations for the 2020 elections are underway, and hysteria directed against the current government is heating up.