China Boosts Military Aid To Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan
China has built officers quarters in Kyrgyzstan and has promised Kyrgyzstan an additional $16 million in military aid, as the military elements of China's relations with Central Asia gradually grows.
On Tuesday, the Kyrgyzstan armed forces announced that China was providing 100 million yuan, or about $16 million, in aid: "This money will be directed toward military-technical upgrading of weapons and equipment. In addition, the grant will include special and transport vehicles. The Chinese grant will begin to be implemented this year."
And the following day, Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev formally opened the 108-unit apartment building in Bishkek. The new quarters got a glowing review in the press, which raved about the modern conditions and emphasized how happy the Kyrgyzstani officers were to get new apartments. (But there was an aside: "However, the new apartments have one peculiarity. For some reason the floors of all rooms, including the living room and bedroom, are tiled. Probably the Chinese consider this comfortable. However, one shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, and we're not going to.")
And this sort of aid seems slated to grow. In an interview last month, China's military attache to Bishkek said in an interview with newspaper Vecherniy Bishkek: "With every year the degree of mutual trust, military cooperation in the fight against the 'three evil forces,' conduct of joint military exercises, education of cadets and military aid grows."
China also has built officers quarters in Tajikistan, and this week Tajikistan newspaper Asia Plus quoted a "reliable source" saying that China will soon announce additional military aid. These sorts of things may be going on in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, as well, we just don't hear about them. And China seems to be aggressively pursuing military business in Kazakhstan, if not aid.
All of this is still very small compared to Russian, or even American, military aid to and cooperation with Central Asian countries. But while the trend for U.S. aid is downward, in the case of China it seems like it's on the rise.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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