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Vox Pop: Central Asians Comment On China's Growing Presence In Their Region

Manizha, a Tajik medical student, says: "China gives us money, but then brings Chinese workers to Tajikistan. Chinese people are taking jobs in Tajikistan, as Tajiks are forced to seek jobs in Russia."
Concern among Central Asians about Chinese influence in their counties occasionally come to the fore; for example, during protests over local jobs taken by Chinese. But an informal poll taken by RFE/RL in the wake of Chinese President Xi Jinping's whirlwind tour of the region reveals that the average citizen generally accepts Beijing's economic and cultural presence in Central Asia.

Jibek, waitress, Bishkek:
"I think it is a very good thing that we are cooperating with a country as developed as China. I wish Kyrgyzstan had good relations with European countries, too. I myself work with Chinese people. And we receive almost all goods from China."

Unidentified pensioner, Almaty:
"I see Chinese people everywhere in our city, in bazaars, shops, streets, and bus stops. I think there are many Chinese living here now because I live in the city center and I see them all the time. They are mostly smart-looking young men in suits, so it means they work somewhere."

Davlat Usmon, former Tajik economy minister, Dushanbe:
"Weak Central Asian economies needed generous donors like China, and Chinese investments are good for our country. However, the real Chinese strategy is aimed at gaining access to the natural resources of the region."

Ruslan, Bishkek:
"If our strategic partnership doesn't hurt Kyrgyzstan's interests then we can support it. China is interested in our country as a transit zone. We each have mutual interests."

Shahnoza Kamiljonova, Tajik State University student, Dushanbe:
"We have not seen any harm come from the expanding Sino-Tajik relationship so far, and have always benefitted. China is helping Tajikistan very much."

Unidentified woman, Almaty:
"I don't mind the Chinese working here. For me all people are the same. They don't bother me."

Khoudaiberdy Orazov, former Turkmen Central Bank chief, Ashgabat:
"When Turkmenistan does business with China, Beijing is the one that provides credit. Chinese companies handle the projects; they install the pipelines; they control everything. The question then is who owns the projects? Turkmenistan's business culture in doing business with others is not suitable for an independent state. It has to change."

Bezhan Beknazar, driver, Dushanbe:
"It is good to build roads, buildings, factories with Chinese money. But bear in mind that all that money is debt that has to be repaid to China sooner or later."

Serdar, shopkeeper, Turkmenabad:
"I am against the rising number of Chinese coming to Turkmenistan. I fear that if the Chinese continue to come, Turkmen might disappear. China has a population of over 1.5 billion (ed: China's population is estimated to be 1.35 billion), but our population is only about 5 million. If Chinese people continue to come, Turkmen will slowly disappear."

Janysh, Bishkek:
"One can do lots of good business with China, but we still need to be very careful. Getting too close to them is not good. They have more than 1 billion people. There are some dangerous things coming from China."

Compiled by Farangis Najibullah based on reporting by RFE/RL's Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Turkmen, and Tajik services.
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