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Eurasianet is an independent news organization that covers news from and about the South Caucasus and Central Asia, providing on-the-ground reporting and critical perspectives on…

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Russia Loses Ground to China in Central Asian Trade

  • Kyrgyzstan's trade deficit with China totaled $4.141 billion in the first quarter of 2024.
  • Russia, once the dominant economic power in Central Asia, now lags behind China in bilateral trade with Kyrgyzstan.
  • Kyrgyzstan's attempts to address the trade imbalance, such as cherry exports to China, are unlikely to make a significant impact.
Central Asia

Trade data for 2024 is showing that Kyrgyzstan has an unhealthy dependency on China, even considering a wide discrepancy in figures released by Chinese and Kyrgyz official agencies.

Bilateral trade turnover during the first quarter of 2024 totaled $4.815 billion, according to figures compiled by China’s General Customs Administration. The trade imbalance between the two countries was pronounced: according to Beijing, Chinese exports to Kyrgyzstan totaled $4.163 billion, while only $22 million of Kyrgyz goods and services made their way to China during the reporting period.

Kyrgyz first-quarter data offered a starkly different overall trade picture. On May 13, the Kyrgyz National Statistics Committee reported that the country’s total trade turnover with the outside world amounted to $3.7 billion. But the Kyrgyz statistics did confirm a catastrophic imbalance in bilateral trade in Beijing’s favor: while Q1 turnover with China totaled $1.63 billion, Kyrgyz exports stood at meager $18.8 million. 

There are few means at Kyrgyzstan’s disposal to address the trade imbalance. The K-News outlet reported in mid-May that Kyrgyzstan’s Agriculture Ministry agreed to ship 10,000 tons of cherries to China this year. But the value of those exports will hardly make a dent in Kyrgyzstan’s trade deficit with Beijing.

Russia, the erstwhile dominant economic power in Central Asia, now lags far behind China in bilateral trade with Kyrgyzstan. According to the official Kyrgyz data, the mutual trade volume during the January-March period reached $611.5 million. More broadly, Q1 Kyrgyz turnover with the Russia-dominated Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which encompasses trade with Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Belarus, amounted to $868.4 million, just over 50 percent of China’s total for the same period.

By Eurasianet.org

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Leave a comment
  • Mamdouh Salameh on May 19 2024 said:
    This may be so but Russia remains the master of Central Asia politically, economically and strategically.

    China’s trade with Central Asia is overwhelmingly energy of which Russia is the world’s energy superpower.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Expert

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