MOSCOW, September 11 (RIA Novosti) – China will reportedly invest almost $3 billion in energy and infrastructure projects in Kyrgyzstan as part of its newly forged “strategic” partnership with its impoverished ex-Soviet neighbor.
The projects include a $1.4 billion investment in the construction of a pipeline that will carry natural gas from neighboring Turkmenistan to China’s westernmost city, Kashgar, Kyrgyz Economy Minister Temir Sariyev said Wednesday, according to the KyrTAG news agency.
The 225-kilometer (140-mile) pipeline will be completed in two or three years and will carry up to 30 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas, the agency quoted Sariyev as saying.
Beijing will also allocate $400 million to retrofit a thermal power plant in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, and to build a road that will link Kyrgyzstan’s north and south, it said. Another $400 million will be invested in an oil refinery in the northern city of Kara-Balta, it said.
Another 210 million yuan ($34 million) will be allocated for technical assistance and various projects, it said.
The investment was announced Wednesday after a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Kyrgyz counterpart, Almazbek Atambayev, according to the latter’s website. Atambayev hailed the deals, saying that Kyrgyz-Chinese ties “have reached a new level of strategic partnership,” according to his website.
Xi visited Kyrgyzstan on the last leg of his tour of Central Asia. He had already visited Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, striking multi-billion-dollar deals boosting China’s presence in the strategic ex-Soviet region.
A regional expert reportedly claimed that Xi’s trip showed Beijing’s growing interest in the region, long considered Russia’s backyard.
“That's an enormous investment of the time and presence of the Chinese chief of state in that region,” James Reardon-Anderson, a professor of Chinese studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, was quoted as saying by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on Wednesday. “So it really underlines how important that region is to China’s future.”