Wrapping up a deal done earlier this year, China has now formally taken over 1% of Tajikistan in the desolate eastern Tajik Pamir mountain range. A short but interesting – and ever so slightly sardonic – story on this is on the Asian Correspondent .
At the time, the Tajik government claimed moral victory over their gigantic and ever more powerful neighbours because they had not conceded (sorry, should I say “traded”) the full amount of land that China had asked for.
But friends and colleagues in Tajikistan complained to me over the summer that for a country the size of Greece, even 1% of landmass makes a difference. The main question I heard was “but why does China need even more land?”
It seems to me that the answer is: China doesn’t need more land, but what it does want to do is demonstrate its strength and cement the trading relationship that is putting Tajikistan increasingly into the hands of its new eastern master.
Chinese goods are already apparent everywhere, from “odnorazovie noski” (a pejorative Russian term for the quality of the Chinese socks that are sold in Tajik markets, suggesting they’re only good for one use) to Chinese workers re-asphalting the roads in the capital Dushanbe ahead of the country’s 20th anniversary celebrations earlier this year.
It makes you wonder what China’s next step will be…