As China pushes beyond its borders in search of markets, jobs and a bigger voice in world affairs, a nation that once boasted of “having friends everywhere” increasingly confronts a problem long faced by the United States: Its wealth and clout might inspire awe and wary respect, but they also generate envy and, at times, violent hostility.
Since the attack on the Guoying center in April, dozens of Chinese nationals in Bishkek have been assaulted or robbed. In August, thieves broke into Tataan, another big and mostly Chinese shopping center in the capital, prying open the safes of a dozen or more Chinese traders. A Chinese diplomat who rushed to the scene said that as much as $500,000 was stolen. Angry Chinese merchants gathered outside the mall the morning after the heist and listed a catalogue of recent beatings, knife attacks and other assaults.
Xie Yincheng, who trades in wooden doors and paneling imported from China, lost more than $10,000 in the mall robbery. “It is getting very difficult to be Chinese here,” said Xie, who heads an association of Chinese traders.
In Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia, ethnic Chinese businessmen have long been viewed with suspicion and are often targeted in times of turmoil. But the travails of their counterparts here in Kyrgyzstan and elsewhere represent a new phenomenon: They did not arrive generations ago when China was on its knees but came in the past decade as China boomed.