$1.5bn Tajik aluminium plant deal highlights China’s growing influence in Central Asia

A Chinese company has agreed to invest $1.8bn in the construction of a new aluminium plant in Tajikistan, it was confirmed  yesterday, in another demonstration of Beijing’s growing influence in the former Soviet states of Central Asia.  The plant is to be built by the Yunnan Construction and Investment Holding Group  (YCIHG) and will be situated alongside the existing state-run Tajikistan Aluminum Company’s (TALCO) facility at Tursunzoda close to the  country’s western border with Uzbekistan. TALCO currently accounts for almost half of the country’s GDP, 90% of its foreign exchange earnings and 40% of its electricity consumption. 
The decision  follows on from last month’s visit to China by Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and the signing of an MoU with YCIHG to construct a new, more energy-efficient plant that would increase production capacity from 75,000 to 500,000 tons. 
With no ore  of its own, Tajikistan has to import the bulk of the raw materials it requires to produce its aluminium; but in 2008, Tajik geologists discovered deposits of the high-silica sand and refractory clay  used in the production process in the foothills of the Hissor Ridge.
YCIHG’s investment will inevitably raise further concerns  about China’s ambitions in Central  Asia; last year, Beijing offered to build 11 new border checkpoints and a new military facility along the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border. Apologists  point out that with Tajikistan sharing a  border with China’s  Muslim Xinjiang province, the offer should be seen in the context of China’s vested interest in maintaining Tajikistan’s political stability; but Russia in particular is all too aware that  its former satellite state’s economic relations with China have been growing since 2009, when Moscow supported Uzbekistan over the Rogun dam dispute. 

Source: AKIpress