Following Kyrgyz Prime Minister Temir Sariyev’s December 14-17 visit to China, the government announced that it plans to abolish the visa regime for Chinese citizens. Local analysts and residents are worried about unabated Chinese expansion as a result of this policy.
Kyrgyzstan’s Minister of Economy and Industry, Arzybek Kozhoshev, who was part of the Kyrgyz delegation in China, says that the two countries have already started negotiations about abolishing visas.
“Currently we are only discussing abolishing tourist visas. Of course there are various risks affiliated with this, but I think this question will be soon resolved. And this will mean that up to one million Chinese tourists will visit Kyrgyzstan every year,” he says.
He also adds that the two countries have a great potential for developing the economy of Kyrgyzstan, and that the visa abolishment will help enormously to boost Kyrgyz tourism, especially considering the declining numbers of Russian tourists due to Moscow’s economic troubles.
“Let’s not forget that 30% of our trade is currently with China, and opening our doors to China will affect our economy only in a positive way,” he adds.
In 2012 the Kyrgyz government abolished visas for tourists from 45 countries, and since then the list has kept growing. At present, China allows tourists from 66 countries to enter without a visa, though change has not affected Kyrgyz tourism numbers.
Meanwhile, with the China news many in Kyrgyz social media space are saying that for China with its 1.5 billion of population Kyrgyzstan with its 6 millions of people is like a small village, and that the country’s independence is in danger.
Meanwhile, the most recent news has Kyrgyz social media abuzz. Many have highlighted that for China, with its 1.5 billion residents, Kyrgyzstan and its 6 million are like a small village, leading some to fear for the country’s independence.
Many business owners and regular citizens are not welcoming the government’s decision to abolish visas for the Chinese.
Bishkek business owner Maksatbek Gapyrov says that this step will be dangerous not only for the country’s independence, but also for its economy.
Political scientist Marat Kazakpayev says that Kyrgyzstan should keep in mind the potential security threats that could come from China.
“We shouldn’t forget that China, aside from other problems, also faces terrorism threats. Abolishing visas opens the door to terrorists from China as well,” he says.
Civil activist Mavlian Askarbekov says that a visa-free regime with China will, within five years, turn Kyrgyzstan into a workspace for Chinese workers.
But some also see positive sides of the story. Business owner Arzygul Beisheyeva, who brings clothes for sale from China to Kyrgyzstan, says the visa-free regime will enable people like her to improve