Staunton, Oct. 29 – “Formally, the Republic of Tajikistan is quite a large country,” ZenYandex’s Central Asia page says; but “in fact, 93 percent of its territory” is mountainous and half of that is almost uninhabitable. As a result, Tajikistan suffers from serious overpopulation in the areas where the overwhelming majority of its people live.
More than a million Tajiks have moved abroad to work, mostly to the Russian Federation. But Tajikistan faces another challenge: China has never recognized the republic’s borders and in fact maintains claims on as much as fifth of it, much of which is in the underpopulated east (zen.yandex.ru/media/centralasia/poslednee-kitaiskoe-preduprejdenie-pochemu-knr-pretenduet-na-piatuiu-chast-territorii-tadjikistana-616ece46391f07795522d6a4).
Those claims have become an ever greater threat given the Taliban victory in neighboring Afghanistan, growing chaos in the eastern portion of Tajikistan, and Chinese security arrangements on its side of the border and even inside the republic (jamestown.org/program/tajikistans-pamir-region-descends-into-chaos/ and jamestown.org/program/russia-china-dividing-responsibilities-in-tajikistan-is-conflict-possible/).
According to ZenYandex, Beijing believes that Tajikistan illegally occupies some 28,000 square kilometers, roughly a fifth of Dushanbe’s territory; and Chinese media periodically raise this question despite the fact that the Tajik border is guarded by Russian troops. In Soviet times, that was enough to restrain China; but since then, it hasn’t been.
In 1992, Beijing demanded and Dushanbe returned 200 square kilometers of land along their common border. The civil war in Tajikistan put Chinese demands on hold, but in 2011, China insisted on the return of another 1,158 square kilometers of land – four percent of the republic’s territory -- something Tajikistan gave up when Beijing provided 130 million US dollars in aid.
And in the years since, Beijing has shown little sign of dropping its claims on Tajjk land. If anything, the number of such demands and the insistence which they are advanced appears to have grown, sparking ever more worries in Dushanbe. (For a survey of these exchanges, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/02/tajikistan-denounces-latest-chinese.html