Central Asia: China Strives to Shape Belt and Road-Related Media Coverage

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Central Asia

It’s no secret that China is intent on influencing news narratives concerning its economic activity in Central Asia. To promote the Chinese view of developments, authorities staged an international conference, titled Hello, Silk Road, in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in late July. The Uzbek outlet UzDaily reported that the gathering focused on fostering information cooperation among China and its Central Asian neighbors. Sponsored by the government-controlled China Internet Development Fund, roughly 200 media professionals from “over 20 countries,” but mostly China and Central Asia, attended the meeting. The UzDaily report quoted one of the Uzbek attendees, editor-in-chief of news website Podrobno.uz Andrei Teshayev, as saying: “The influence of information on all aspects of society is obvious, and it is growing every day, no longer just shaping the agenda in one single country, but erasing borders throughout the world. At the same time, it is important to understand that in the modern world, information is a commodity no less valuable than gold, oil or other resources.”

Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyz officials and a consortium of power companies have reached a deal to build a major hydropower project, dubbed the Kazarman HPP cascade. Plans call for the construction of four hydroelectric power plants with a total capacity of 1,160 MW, the Kyrgyz government’s press service reports. Total cost of the project could reach $3 billion. Akylbek Japarov, the chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers, hailed the agreement as “the largest in the history of the Kyrgyz Republic.” The consortium is led by several leading Chinese power companies, including PowerChina Northwest Engineering Corp. Ltd and China Railway 20th Bureau Group Co Ltd. An Australian firm, Green Gold Energy, is also participating in the consortium.

China is garnering goodwill in Kyrgyzstan with its Express Health initiative, providing free healthcare services to hundreds of Kyrgyzstan citizens. About 600 citizens will undergo eye operations to correct cataracts, according to Chinese government sources. Chinese oncology specialists, meanwhile, visited Kyrgyzstan in early July to help diagnose and treat Kyrgyz cancer patients. In late July, Kyrgyz Health Minister Gulnara Baatyrova offered thanks to China’s ambassador in Bishkek, Du Dewen, for the healthcare assistance, the embassy’s press service reported.

Uzbekistan

The military prosecutor’s offices of China and Uzbekistan are set to expand cooperation aimed at addressing perceived security threats. The agreement is an outgrowth of a recent visit to China by Uzbekistan’s chief military prosecutor, Botir Kudratkhojayev. Details of the memorandum of understanding outlining enhanced cooperation were not made public. But a report on the military prosecutor’s office’s Telegram channel, mentioned that discussions between Kudratkhojayev and a top Chinese law-enforcement official focused on the “introduction of information and communication technologies into the activities of the prosecutor’s office.” Meanwhile, a delegation comprising members of China’s PLANational DefenseAcademy visited Uzbekistan to discuss “cooperation in the field of military education.” In addition, China is sponsoring the construction of a training center for Uzbek Interior Ministry.

A new Chinese education program aims to “improve the quality of teaching foreign languages and computer science in grades 5-9” for Uzbek students. To facilitate the initiative, China is supplying a large volume of equipment, including computers, laser printers, routers, projectors, electronic boards [and] air conditioners, to over 1,300 schools across Uzbekistan, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported. A number of Chinese educational experts will also be deployed in Uzbekistan.

Kazakhstan

A major Chinese property developer, the Peng Sheng Group, has announced plans for a major agricultural project in Kazakhstan. A local news report indicates that Peng Sheng intends to invest $46 million in the deal, which aims to cultivate cotton in Kazakhstan’s southern Turkestan Region. The report, which cites regional officials, does not specify the location of the land plot to be leased by the Chinese company. Kazakhstan in recent years has witnessed mass public protests against the leasing of agricultural land to Chinese firms. Peng Sheng reportedly has a similar, but smaller-scale project operating in Uzbekistan.

Tajikistan

China has awarded 103 scholarships to Tajik students to study at Chinese universities and institutes in the coming year, the Avesta news agency reported. China’s envoy to Tajikistan, Ji Shumin, participated in a July 28 ceremony in Dushanbe honoring the winners. The scholarships are designed to “stimulate and encourage the activity and initiative of Tajiks who are learning Chinese,” the Avesta report noted.

Source : Eurasianet