China will provide nearly $300 million in credit to help Kyrgyzstan build a strategic road for trade, the ex-Soviet state said Tuesday, as part of Beijing's grand vision to improve transport links across the region.
The allocation from state-run Export-Import bank is part of an $850-million project to create a new North-South route in the Central Asian nation, tying in with China's New Silk Road Economic Belt infrastructure projects across Eurasia.
An agreement for the latest phase of construction of the road, which will connect with Kyrgyz roads into Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, was struck at the third cooperation forum between China and the five ex-communist states of Central Asia in the Chinese city of Rizhao on Tuesday.
In a government press release Deputy Prime Minister Valery Dil, who attended the forum, said Kyrgyzstan "is ready to make all efforts to deepen and consolidate relations" with China.
"We support the initiative of the President of China to establish the Silk Road Economic Belt and are ready to take an active part in the implementation of this large-scale project," Dil added.
China's economic influence in Central Asia has grown tremendously in the last decade, surpassing its traditional partner Russia in regional trade and encompassing deals worth tens of billions of dollars with energy-rich Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
In the resource-poor countries of the region China is a key creditor, accounting for around a third of Kyrgyzstan's foreign debt and over two-fifths of sovereign dues in neighbouring Tajikistan, where Beijing is also building major transport links.
Since the mid-1990s China has pledged to build a railway up to 300 kilometres-long linking its restive western Xinjiang region to Uzbekistan via Kyrgyzstan.
The railway, which would cost over $2 billion is opposed by many in Kyrgyzstan, who argue it could lead to overhelming migration from the country's 1.3 billion-strong neighbour and add to growing dependence on Beijing.