Driving south from Dushanbe, it seems there’s a Chinese investment story at every turn. But as cash pours in from Tajikistan’s powerful neighbor to the East, local concerns are building over Beijing’s opaque plans.
It appears Turkmenistan is about to lose its second-best customer for natural gas, Iran.
Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said on August 11 that his country no longer needed gas from Turkmenistan. Zanganeh went so far as to say, "Iran is importing Turkmen gas just because it is important to promote political and economic relations with Turkmenistan."
Aside from a famously bland brand of diplomatic rhetoric, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization represents the only major Eurasian club that caters to both Russian and Chinese interests. Yet with Moscow and Beijing presenting visibly divergent visions for economic cooperation in Central Asia, it is unclear how those competing views can be reconciled.
China is striving to forge Central Asia into a streamlined conduit for its regional trade and energy ambitions. But Beijing is finding that domestic insecurity and fractious bilateral relations among the region’s five former-Soviet republics have created a web of obstacles.
With Westerners now leery of investing in Kyrgyzstan, it is perhaps inevitable that officials in Bishkek turn to China as they try to attract capital for infrastructure development. Beijing professes a desire to help Kyrgyzstan without setting conditions on assistance. Yet, as some Kyrgyz experts note, there are still sovereignty concerns connected to forging closer economic ties to China.