It is common knowledge that Central Asia is distant from the major centers of world economic activity. The lack of connectivity between this remote post-Soviet region and the outside world remains a major obstacle to trade and economic development. But now the states of Central Asia are living in anticipation of changes. More accurate to say, that they are waiting for systemic, large-scale changes to happen.
Indeed, this is already happening within the framework of the One Belt One Road project initiated by Xi Jinping. On September 7, 2013, the president of PRC made a speech titled «Promote People-to-People Friendship and Create a Better Future» at Kazakhstan’s Nazarbayev University, in which he said «To forge closer economic ties, deepen cooperation and expand development space in the Eurasian region, we should take an innovative approach and jointly build an «Economic belt along the Silk Road». This will be a great undertaking benefitting the people of all countries along the route. To turn this into a reality, we may start with work in individual areas and link them up over time to cover the whole region». Turning to the relationship between our two countries, Xi Jinping noted: «China and Kazakhstan are friendly neighbors as close as lips and teeth. Our 1,700-kilometer long common border, two millennia of interactions and extensive common interests not only bind us closely together, but also promise a broad prospect for bilateral ties and mutually beneficial cooperation. Let us join hands to carry on our traditional friendship and build a bright future together».
Much has already been done in the previous three and a half years. But more remains to be done. One Belt, One Road is becoming a reality with every other day.
The project that aims to restore a modern-day equivalent of the legendary Great Silk Road, the historic trade route linking Central and West Asia with South Asia and China, astounds imagination with the enormity of the challenge its entrepreneurs face. Yet things are moving along.
And it can be said that project entrepreneurs have already started making credible progress towards implementation, matching words with action.
The One Belt, One Road initiative, undoubtedly, carries with it a promise of unprecedented breakthrough. There are indeed important expectations vested in this endeavor. And in particular, that is the case for Kazakhstan and its Central Asian neighbors.
China is the only major world power that not only holds the key which could help Central Asia’s landlocked developing countries, including Kazakhstan, facing geographic handicaps and remoteness from the major corridors of international commerce, to escape their isolation by much more actively integrating themselves into the global economy in a beneficial manner, but also sees benefits in using such a tool. No other powerful state is interested in having such an option as much as China. As a result, Kazakhstan is now in transition from being a remote, hinterland country beyond the reach of many nations from different parts of the world towards being a state playing a major role in oil transit between Russia and China through Atasu – Alashankou pipeline and in transit trade between Europe and Asia through the Eurasian railroad network.
Yet today Kazakhstan stands at the beginning of the road to transformational changes. It is difficult to say how far these new developments would spread. We have been witnessing a time when profound changes are sweeping across the globe. Our region, Central Asia, is no exception in that regard. The Trans-Eurasian land routes connecting Europe and Asia are once again becoming more and more competitive vis-à-vis the sea routes via the Suez Canal accounting roughly for two thirds of the world trade. This in turn leads to gradually re-establishing Central Asia’s role as a major transit hub of the global network of commercial exchanges. It is China – the second largest economy which is increasingly playing an important and influential role in development and in the global economy – that primarily drives the change process. Our country has been contributing within its capability to it.
In an exclusive interview with Xinhua News Agency, «Interview: Kazakh president says China’s progress aligns with his country’s interests», Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev characterized China as «the closest and most reliable friend and partner» of Kazakhstan. He commended the efforts of both countries to revitalize the ancient Silk Road and hailed the tangible results in their cooperation.
«Kazakhstan attaches great importance to consolidating relations with China», the president said, noting that the alignment of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and Kazakhstan’s «Bright Path» («Nurly Zhol») new economic policy has been advancing markedly over the past five years.
According to him, the railways passing through Kazakhstan are expected to further expand the country’s import and export volume, with the China-Europe and China-Central Asia freight services being put into exploitation.
It therefore means that our country’s leader sees collaboration between Kazakhstan and China as being mutually beneficial.