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Kyrgyzstan: China Muscles into Energy Market, Fueling Suspicion

A new Chinese-run oil refinery should offer Kyrgyzstan some relief from its Russian fuel addiction. But is the opposition using anti-Chinese sentiments to score points in its endless tug of war with the government? (Photo: David Trilling)

China is financing the construction of Kyrgyzstan’s first major oil refinery, and excitement is building in Bishkek that the facility could enable the Central Asian nation to break Russia’s fuel-supply monopoly. At the same time, some observers express concern that the project may stoke local resentment, or become enmeshed in political infighting.

The refinery in Kara-Balta, about two hours west of Bishkek, is expected to produce 600,000 tons of fuel annually, enough to end Kyrgyzstan’s dependency on Russian imports, currently pegged at 1,150,000 tons a year, according to the State Statistics Committee. Slated to receive crude piped from Chinese-run fields in Kazakhstan, the project, operated by a smallish Chinese state-run entity called Zhongda, has already witnessed regular environmental protests and labor disputes, which one lawmaker claims are backed by opposition politicians bent on using the facility as a weapon in a political struggle against the government.

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Chris Rickleton is a Bishkek-based journalist.

Kyrgyzstan: China Muscles into Energy Market, Fueling Suspicion

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