Sick Man of Asia

Author/editor: Rice, D
Published in (Monograph or Journal): "Central Asia and the Covid-19 Pandemic (from The Steppe and Beyond: Studies on Central Asia Book Series)
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Year published: 2022
Page no.: p53-73


Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, interaction between the Chinese and Kyrgyz governments has rapidly increased. The two countries have cooperated over territory/border delineation, trade, investment and security among other spheres. However, not everyone in Kyrgyzstan is happy about China’s growing influence, with concerns being raised among the general populace over possible land takeovers, ecological degradation by Chinese firms and the persecution of ethnic Kyrgyz in China’s Xinjiang region. In recent years, a number of anti-Chinese rallies have taken place across the country, where demands have included a moratorium on Kyrgyz passports to Chinese citizens, deportation of Chinese citizens living illegally in Kyrgyzstan, prohibition of Kyrgyz-Chinese intermarriage and further scrutiny of Chinese companies operating in the country. This chapter explores these popular perceptions of China in Kyrgyzstan, particularly their development in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. More specifically, the chapter examines the noso-symbolic discourses (that is, the associations with disease) that have evolved in Kyrgyzstan in connection to China, the proverbial “Sick Man of Asia”.

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