China Wants More Kyrgyzstan Imports, Alibaba May Assist

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Bishkek developing as a Central Asian ecommerce hub

China is making plans to increase imports of products from Kyrgyzstan, following trade discussions during the 15th meeting of the intergovernmental Kyrgyz-Chinese commission on trade and economic cooperation last week.

Although small, Kyrgyzstan is an important allay for China, as it is also a component part of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway, (CKU) which will act in part as China’s gateway to Central Asia and the Middle East. However, Kyrgyzstan’s national income level needs raising to encourage more Kyrgyz nationals to invest in trade and take advantage of the railway opportunity. The main products that Kyrgyzstan currently exports to China are precious metal ore, rolled tobacco and refined petroleum.

China’s Deputy Minister of Commerce, Wang Shouwen, noted that China attaches great importance to implementation of projects related to the construction of the Bypass Great Chüy Canal, the CKU railway, and the repair and upgrading of highways and roads in Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek.

The Great Chüy Canal is one of an extensive complex of irrigation canals of the Chüy Valley in Kyrgyzstan and to some extent Kazakhstan, composed of three branches: the Western Great Chüy Canal, the Eastern Great Chüy Canal, and the Southern Great Chüy Canal. The Great Chüy Canal flows through the northern part of Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, from east to west. It was built under the administration of the Soviet Union, and is undergoing some repair and additional enhancement work to improve regional irrigation, with Chinese contractors taking on the job.

Shouwen emphasized that China is making efforts to increase the supply of products from Kyrgyzstan to the Chinese market, including agricultural products. He also proposed paying special attention to bilateral cooperation in innovation, green economy and hydropower, mining and oil refining, environmental protection spheres, also investment and interregional cooperation.

Alibaba is likely to be part of this.  The Kyrgyzstan government itself proposed to consider the opening of Kyrgyz outlet of Alibaba, again with the issue being discussed  during the Kyrgyz-Chinese commission meeting. The Kyrgyz side suggested considering the possibility of opening an Alibaba facility in Kyrgyzstan to stimulate economic growth, online commerce and increase volume of bilateral trade.

Should Alibaba take on the challenge, Kyrgyzstan will be well served by online ecommerce vendors – Russia’s Wildberries has also announced it is in the process of establishing a Kyrgyz hub, which could see Bishkek develop as a Central Asian regional ecommerce hub. That makes sense with the CKU railway as an obviously logistics and consolidation hub to reach into Tajikistan as well as Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan,  and onto the Caspian Sea nations including Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, the Caucasus, and Europe.

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Chris Devonshire-Ellis is the Chairman of Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm assists British and Foreign Investment into Asia and has 28 offices throughout China, India, the ASEAN nations and Russia. For strategic and business intelligence concerning China’s Belt & Road Initiative please email or visit us at