News / Asia

    China Displaces Russia in Central Asia

    Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev (R) with Chinese President Hu Jintao (L) at a pipeline opening ceremony in Astana, 2009. President Hu Jintao's visit highlighted Beijing's growing influence over Central Asia's strategic energy resources.
    Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev (R) with Chinese President Hu Jintao (L) at a pipeline opening ceremony in Astana, 2009. President Hu Jintao's visit highlighted Beijing's growing influence over Central Asia's strategic energy resources.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    James Brooke

    The vendor is Chinese, the products are Chinese, but the market is here in Almaty, capital of Kazakhstan, the most prosperous of Central Asia's five "stans," or former Soviet Republics

    In Baraholka, the city's largest bazaar, vendors offer blue jeans, humidifiers, mobile phone chargers, and fresh apples - all from China.  The trading language is still largely Russian, a legacy of the old colonial power.  But as Alira, a vendor here, says, the products are not.

    "Russian products?  We have no Russian products," Alira says adamantly.

    China is doing more than selling pots and pans to Central Asia's 62 million people.  A thirst for energy is behind China's massive oil and gas investments in Central Asia, long the privileged sphere of Russia.  

    Chinese demand for energy edges U.S.

    The International Energy Agency reports China is displacing the United States this year as the world's-largest energy consumer.  Over the next 25 years, China's energy consumption is expected to double.

    But the bulk of China's imported oil and gas passes through vulnerable sea lanes.  Hongyi Lai, a professor at the University of Nottingham, studies China's global search for energy.

    "The importance of Central Asia for China is in terms of energy security," says Lai. "It provides transport of oil and gas overland, not through sea lanes. So in this form, it is more secure for China."

    Central Asia has some of the world's largest reserves of oil and gas.  Once a dusty stretch of the Silk Road for camel caravans taking Chinese products to Europe, Central Asia is now a destination for Chinese investment - about $25 billion at last count.

    New infrastructure

    Last year saw the openings of the first pipelines carrying Central Asian oil and gas east to China.  Now Turkmen gas heats apartment buildings in Beijing.

    Almost overnight, Turkmenistan, which holds the fourth-largest gas reserves in the world, is selling more gas to China than to Russia.  Kazakhstan, which plans to be among the world's top 10 oil producers, now sells one quarter of its oil to China.

    In addition to paying for pipeline expansions, China is paying for a 3,000-kilometer highway across Kazakhstan that is to be part of a new, asphalt Silk Road, allowing trucks to drive from China to Western Europe.

    Fading Russian legacy

    American author Parag Khanna, says in his new book, "How to Run the World," that these new pipelines, highways and railroads radiate out of China into Central Asia, "like five fingers on a hand."  This puts Russia on the defensive in Central Asia, long its privileged sphere of influence.

    "Russia, if it wants to remain relevant, is going to have to be putting its money where its mouth is, and buying into these kinds of deals as well," Khanna points out. "It has a very strong legacy position in electricity and energy and other sorts of sectors in the former Soviet Republics in Central Asia, but it needs to defend that turf more actively, particularly given the generational change, linguistic change, western orientation, as well as eastern orientation, among the next generation of leadership in all of those countries.  It really cannot take anything for granted," he says.

    With daily flights between Almaty and Urumqui, China's nearest regional capital, a generation of Central Asians is growing up with no memories of the Soviet-Chinese confrontation that kept the border frozen shut for most of the 20th century.

    Kazakh political scientist Dosym Satpayev watches the surge of young Kazkakhs studying Chinese and winning scholarships to study in China.

    "A lot of young people receive education in China and when they will return to our countries, maybe China will use these people as [a] lobby to realize their own interests, not only in economic sphere, but in culture sphere, in informational sphere," Satpayev says. "As for Russia, I believe this country will decrease position in our region because Russia is not a very strong competitor.''

    Kazakhs now say, in Russian: 'If you want to leave, study English.  If you want to stay, study Chinese."

    Some unease with new order

    But a backlash may be brewing. Kazakh authorities dropped a plan to rent one-million hectares of unused farmland to Chinese farmers.

    Aidos Sarym, who runs an opposition research organization in Almaty, says many Kazakhs are uneasy about the Chinese giant. Kazakhs worry about their eastern neighbor with a population 100 times that of Kazakhstan, says Sarym.

    But China's rapid economic thrust may now be irreversible.  An American-trained Kazakh businessman, Baurzhon Doszhanov, looks around Baraholka bazaar as he shops for a Chinese-made camping lantern.

    "If we remove Chinese stuff, we will be naked, " says Doszhanov.

    You May Like

    Video How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of city

    Scientists Detect Gravitational Waves in Landmark Discovery

    Researchers likened discovery to difference between looking at piece of music on paper and then hearing it in real life

    Prince Ali: FIFA Politics Affected International Fixtures

    Some countries faced unfavorable treatment for not toeing political line inside soccer world body, Jordanian candidate to head FIFA says

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    NATO to Target Migrant Smugglersi
    X
    Jeff Custer
    February 11, 2016 4:35 PM
    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.