Beijing and Moscow are being pushed together by the coronavirus pandemic in what could lead to a deepening partnership on next-generation technologies. “The pandemic doesn’t create a new reality, but amplifies existing trends,” said Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Moscow Carnegie Center. “Sanctions and suspicions of relying on Western tech were already driving Moscow and China closer, but COVID allows things to move forward at a faster pace.”
Police from Shanghai have detained Zhang Zhan, a lawyer-turned-citizen journalist who reported on the emerging coronavirus epidemic in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. (Radio Free Asia)
Officials in Kazakhstan have recently begun easing the lockdown that was imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the country. But while the lockdown was in force, there were some in the government and others connected to it who were busy going after civic activists.
The U.S. Congress passed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 on May 27, marking the first legislation by any government to target China for its persecution of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), despite threats of retaliation from Beijing. (Radio Free Asia)
Russian state-run energy giant Gazprom says it has launched feasibility studies for the construction of a second gas pipeline to China that would more than double the volumes it could deliver there. Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller has said that a Power of Siberia 2 pipeline might carry up to 50 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year.
As China cuts back on its commitments to import natural gas, it is trying to spread the shortfall among its increasingly hard-pressed suppliers. Mekhriddin Abdullaev, CEO of Uzbekistan’s state oil and gas company, said "China requested a cut, but indicated that any reduction in gas supplies would be carried out proportionally between Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan." Other reports suggest that significant reductions in deliveries from the China-Central Asia pipeline system have already taken place. (Radio Free Asia)
China says it is nearing completion of a 450-foot-long search and rescue ship, the largest such vessel in its fleet, that will enter service with the Ministry of Transport’s South China Sea Rescue Bureau. The ship will dwarf coastguard vessels from other nations in those disputed waters, where accidents at sea are increasingly common, and China’s maritime presence looms increasingly large. (Radio Free Asia)
Having a good neighbor in a tough part of the world is a real plus. Two very different stories from the borders of Central Asia feature the two wealthiest countries in the region working to cultivate better ties despite the obstacles, and the two poorest countries failing to improve relations that continue to fissure.
Some 60 Chinese workers employed by the Tajik-Chinese Mining Company held a rare protest on May 20 in the Tajik town of Zarnisor. The mining company's administration said police were called after the Chinese workers refused to end the rally. The workers' demands remain unclear. The mining company was created in 2009 and operates lead and zinc mines in Tajikistan.
The latest trade figures published by China’s customs service shows a 61 percent drop in imports from Iran in the first four months of 2020 compared with the same period last year. Total Iranian exports to China for the period reached $2.34 billion. The bulk of the decline is due to a huge drop in Iranian oil exports. (RFE/RL’s Radio Farda)
Seven paramilitary troops were killed in attacks in Pakistan's southwestern province of Balochistan on May 18. The separatist United Baloch Army claimed responsibility, saying in a statement that it targeted Pakistani soldiers assigned to protect engineers of an oil and gas facility in the region. The violence is seen as a reaction by separatists to China's proposal for a $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor linking its Xinjiang Province with the Arabian Sea. The plan would give Beijing access to markets in the Middle East, Europe, and Africa through the shortest overland and sea route. RFE/RL’s Gandhara)
With Irina Busygina, a visiting scholar at Harvard University's Davis Center; Askar Sydykov, executive director of the Bishkek-based International Business Council of Kyrgyzstan; and Ben Godwin, head of analysis at London’s PRISM political risk management.