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.
At the top of Chormagzak Pass, 40 minutes from the capital, a lone dump truck roams a roped-off field, the future site of a Chinese-operated cement factory that reportedly will produce 1.5 million tons annually—equaling Tajikistan’s current domestic consumption. Down the valley in Khatlon Province, another massive Chinese-built facility produced 368,000 tons of cement in the first half of this year, three-quarters of all cement produced in Tajikistan.
Watching the dump truck from under a pear tree, farmer Abubakyr Umari, 57, complains the Chinese factories help “special interests” by selling to companies widely believed to connected to senior officials while refusing to sell to locals.
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Chris Rickleton is a Bishkek-based journalist.