Beijing is quite generous to Central Asian countries
China is out to reequip the Turkmen army. The Tajik Defense Ministry expects military hardware, equipment, and uniforms for soldiers and officers from China within the framework of the state credit ($3 million) next year, a source in the government of Turkmenistan said. Experts point out that Beijing is generous with credits to Central Asian countries using them as an instrument of buttressing its influence with the countries of the region.
"That's how China is conquering Turkmenistan and all Central Asia as well," Ajar Kurtov, an analyst with the Strategic Studies Institute, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. Along with credits, Beijing is flooding the region with the goods and commodities made in China. Turkmenistan is already using Chinese boxcars even though it always preferred to buy them from Russia in the past.
The Chinese import energy resources, ore, and uranium from Central Asia. Turkmenistan in particular is viewed in Beijing as a major supplier of gas. Beijing and Ashkhabad signed an accord to build a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China by 2009. China is entitled to nearly 30 billion cubic meters every year for 30 years running. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan will help Turkmenistan provide the necessary amount of gas (the pipeline is to be built across their territories).
Some specialists believe that Beijing is widely using credits to bind Central Asian countries to China because it is upset by Ashkhabad's activeness in the Western direction. "President Gurbankuly Berdymuhammedov's promises with regard to gas export by several pipelines at once (Caspian and Trans-Caspian gas pipelines) are a signal to Beijing. Signing the treaty with Ashkhabad, Beijing insists on the tariffs lower than what Berdymuhammedov offers to Russia and the European Union. Western experts claim that China offers Turkmenistan only $90 for every 1,000 cubic meters," Kurtov said.
In the meantime, China is known to be interested in Uzbek oil and gas too. Chinese National Oil and Gas Company is already surveying the Ust-Yurt Plateau and Ferghana Valley. All in all, sum total of Chinese credits and grants to Uzbekistan approaches $430 million.
Governments of China and Kyrgyzstan signed a memorandum of understanding on long-term cooperation. The projects in this country Beijing is interested in include the cascade of Sarujaz and Kambarata hydroelectric power plants, construction of electric power lines to Kashgar, construction of heat power plant working on coal, reconstruction of the Uchkurgan hydroelectric power plant and the heat power plant in Bishkek. It will make China a potential importer of electric power from Kyrgyzstan soon.
Neither do the Chinese forget Tajikistan where a Chinese corporation is already building a hydroelectric power plant on the Zeravshan river.
"China is being smart in its strategy of penetration," expert Yuri Solobozov said. "Viewing the Central Asia as a protectorate, Beijing binds these countries to itself with credits."