China and Kyrgyzstan have cooperated on various projects under the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). An oil refinery one of China’s biggest investments in Kyrgyzstan is said to have greatly contributed to local income and employment.

Two hours away from the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek is China’s largest investment project in Kyrgyzstan the Zhongda China Petrol Company.

The refinery was born from 500 million U.S. dollars’ worth of backing from a Chinese company. It processes crude oil imported by rail from Russia and Kazakhstan, as well as a small amount from Kyrgyzstan itself.

“In 2008, our manager found that this country didn’t have a modern oil refinery. Then, through contact with the government, we decided to build this factory. Since it began operation in 2014, it has helped stabilise local oil prices… significantly easing their troubles with oil usage”, says Shi Jianguo, Deputy Manager of Zhongda China Petrol Company.

The Chinese invested Refinery paid the Kyrgyz Government 43 million U.S. dollars last year, making it the country’s second-largest taxpayer. It’s also one of the nation’s largest employers, hiring over 2,000 locals.

Over 80 percent of the employees are locals, including technicians. The company used to send staff to China for technical and language training. 27-year-old Salbarov Esen studied in China for a year before working on safety maintenance.

“I work here because this plant is very close to my home, and the pay is very handsome. I check on the equipment every two hours to see if the pressure levels, oil levels, and all indexes are stable and working well”, he said.

The company’s refined oil products make up almost 40 percent of the local market. The company says the refinery has helped reduce the average price of gasoline by almost half.