Jun 4th 2020FOR MILLENNIA fierce horsemen from Central Asia harried the Chinese empire’s flank, often setting the terms of engagement with their gia
FOR MILLENNIA fierce horsemen from Central Asia harried the Chinese empire’s flank, often setting the terms of engagement with their giant, settled neighbour to the east. In February an echo rolled out of the past when a horde of whooping riders galloped through the town of At-Bashy in south-central Kyrgyzstan, close to the border with China.
Their target was a planned Chinese logistics centre: a $275m investment in roads, malls and warehouses that was touted as a crucial node in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a funnel for revived trade along the old silk road and a source of future prosperity for the locality. But the horsemen of the pristine valley were having none of it: they feared their land would be grabbed and jobs would go to imported Chinese. Facing such hostility, the Chinese investors angrily pulled out, leaving politicians in Kyrgyzstan with egg on their faces.
The incident highlights a growing tension between rulers and ruled in the Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. China is the chief and sometimes only source of prosperity in the impoverished region. It dominates foreign direct investment as well as commercial and concessionary lending.
When Banyan was last in Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan, a foreign-ministry official explained that in return for copious investment in oilfields,…