Staunton, October 9 – The agreement signed last week by the Russian and Tajikistan presidents that allows Russia to retain its base in that Central Asian country until 2042 and to have soldiers stationed there enjoy diplomatic immunity has attracted a great deal of reportage in Eurasia and the West.
Not surprisingly, in Russia in particular, the agreement’s provisions easing immigration on Tajik gastarbeiters have attracted attention, especially those that give such immigrants the right to stay three years rather than one or less and to visit Russia for up to 15 days without registering (expert.ru/2012/10/8/soldatyi-v-obmen-na-gastarbajterov/?n=66992
But much less coverage has gone to a related phenomenon: As ethnic Tajiks leave their homeland to work in Russian cities, workers from China are arriving in Tajikistan to work under extremely favorable conditions and despite the high levels of unemployment that have driven Tajiks out.
In an article posted on the Centrasia.ru portal, Saydullo Gadoyev suggests that “residents of the Heavenly Kingdom are literally flooding Tajikistan,” where Chinese investors are building plants to supply not the Tajikistan market but rather the one in their own homeland instead (http://www.centrasia.ru/news.php?st=1348815360
Dushanbe, Gadoyev continues, has made numerous concessions to the Chinese in return for credits of “almost a billion US dollars.” In addition, China has invested 250 million US dollars in the construction and refurbishing of Tajikistan’s underdeveloped road network and other facilities.
Just how many Han Chinese are now in Tajikistan is now known, Gadoyev says. The government has registered only 3917, but the local media routinely refers to some 80,000 guest workers from China and notes that for bribes of 500 to 1000 US dollars Chinese and other workers can obtain “a false passport of the Republic of Tajikistan.”
The presence of the Chinese is creating problems, the journalist says. On the one hand, they often appear to be taking jobs that unemployed Tajiks would like to have. And on the other, they are often paid “15 to 20 times” more than Tajiks doing the same work, a situation which led to a strike last year at a Tajik-Chinese gold processing plant.
In order to maintain its ties with Beijing, Dushanbe has even shifted portions of its out population out of place in the Murgab district of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast in order to make ways for Chinese firms and Chinese workers – and it has done so, Gadoyev says, without providing any financial support to the displaced Tajik workers.
These arrangements already have the potential to create social, political and even demographic problems, Gadoyev continues. “The Chinese,” he says, “occupy not only working places of those Tajiks who have gone to Russia, they are gradually replacing the local men” in other ways as well, including marrying or at least cohabiting with Tajik women.
One Dushanbe expert, Feruz Saidov of the Center for Strategic Research, told Gadoyev, however, that “the flow of Chinese migrants” into Tajikistan should not become a matter concern unless purely Chinese enclaves appear. That can be prevented, Saidov said, by “settling the Chinese among the local residents.