Risks and Threats

China’s expansion into Central Asia poses several risks such as:

— An absence of public monitoring of Chinese financial institutions, lack of independent socio-economic oversight from media and civil society.

Information about large Chinese projects, information about which is either completely closed or lacks the specifics of project lending, the participation of the parties in its implementation and further operation, the payback, and economic and political significance. Outlined risks are not openly discussed in the media and expert discussions held at academic conferences are not widely distributed and therefore have practically no impact on public opinion.

Among civil society organizations in Central Asia, there are also no experts or existing programs monitoring Chinese investments.

Furthermore, many NGOs prefer not to address the issue of Chinese investments. In Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, scrutinizing economic projects results in retaliations from the government against activists. In Kazakhstan, harsh pressure on activists following the land protests in the spring of 2016 also had a chilling effect on NGOs.

Public participation is viewed as interfering with economic cooperation with China;

— Support for the established resource economics in the countries of the region threaten the possibilities for more sustainable production in Central Asia.

— High probability of financing economically damaging and environmentally dirty projects in the region;

— Personal enrichment of governing elites and clans with no economic benefits for local communities.

For the last decades, Central Asian states experienced a degradation of state institutions, pressure from political elites on civic and economic freedoms, and overwhelming corruption.  Elites exploit natural and human resources in order to enrich themselves and their clans, depriving the people of property rights and benefiting from their exploitation.

This led to a sharp impoverishment of the population, a terrifying social stratification of society, a catastrophic decline in the level of employment, education, health, and environmental problems. The region has been turned into a natural resource source for the developing countries of the west and for China.

— Further lowering of social-environmental demands from all investors in the region, growth of threats to the environment and local residents due to bad and environmentally polluting projects

— Degradation of already existing mechanisms for international rights and social-environmental responsibly businesses and international financial institutions

–Domination of foreign companies in the budgeting process of a country as well as in infrastructure can create a serious threat to national economy security.

Rapidly growing presence of China in Central Asia’s oil and gas sector (especially in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan) is creating concern and contributing to the growth in anti-Chinese sentiment among the population and fosters nationalists’ movements in these countries.

Considering the high level of risk of influence of Chinese investment on the social-economic situation within the Central Asian countries, the absence of reliable and full information about Chinese projects on the part of state bodies of Central Asia and China, and also the timely discussion of these questions among the populations of the countries, there is a critical need to create a system of public monitoring of Chinese investment in Central Asia. Oil and gas projects, as well as the infrastructure projects that support them, play an important role in influencing the state of the environment and the well-being of the local population.