Kyrgyzstan: Power plant scandal exposes China’s corrupt practices
The emerging details of a recent corruption scandal in Kyrgyzstan involving a project linked to Beijing have exposed the fraudulent business practices adopted by China to grow its influence in Central Asia.
In 2013, officials in Kyrgyzstan were weighing two rival companies to reconstruct an ageing power plant in the country. Following the “recommendation” by the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek, the contract of the multi-million dollar project was given to a Chinese company called TBEA, which had a moderate experience in building and repairing power stations.
As cited in a report by the New York Times, it was more than just a recommendation by Beijing, which was weighed against the prospect of a loan to Kyrgyzstan. The decision to chose TBEA over a far more experienced Russian company turned into a disaster when the power plant broke down soon after the overhaul was completed. The disaster left much of Bishkek without heat or electricity in freezing weather.
In defence of the 2013 decision, Xiao Qinghua, China’s former ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, told the Kyrgyz news media that TBEA had been selected because it was an “authoritative” company with a “good global reputation.”
“We do not interfere with them,” he said. “We respect the sovereignty of Kyrgyzstan.”
The scandal was highlighted as a result of public outcry over the matter and trial of former Kyrgyz prime minister, Sapar Isakov, and other former officials, underway in Bishkek. The skewed bidding and increased pricing may cost the country $111 million, prosecutors said, states the NYT report.
In consideration of the fact that Russia has viewed Central Asia as its turf for centuries, the matter highlights a deep-seated rivalry between Beijing and Moscow, despite the growing ties in recent years.
“There is a big hidden fight going on between Russia and China for influence in Central Asia,” said Rasul Umbetaliev, a former Kyrgyz official and energy expert. The official added that while Russia has more support from a Kyrgyz population that looks to Moscow as a place to work or study, it lacks on Capital to invest in Kyrgyzstan, said the report by NYT’s Andrew Higgins.
It should be noted here that Central Asia is a crucial part of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). While Russia still has large reserves of goodwill in the former Soviet republics, it lacks capital for the construction of roads, refineries and power lines in the region.(ANI)