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President Tokayev: China is Kazakhstan’s largest and most important trading partner

At the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Kazakh President Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev paid a state visit to China from 10 to 12 September. Prior to travelling to Beijing, Kazakhstan’s leader gave an interview to the main Chinese TV channel CCTV. While talking with an interviewer, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev shared his vision of the prospects for the development of Kazakh-Chinese relations. He described the «strengthening of a comprehensive strategic partnership» with Beijing as a «very important» task for the Kazakh leadership.

Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev’s two-day state visit began with a meeting with Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee.
During the conversation, Kazakh President mentioned that Mr. Yang Jiechi and he are old acquaintances and noted his host’s successful work as Chinese Foreign Minister. He emphasized the vital importance of this state visit for Kazakhstan.
Akorda.kz, official site of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, also quoted him as saying the following: «We proceed from the fact that China is a neighboring, friendly state, the second economy of the world. Kazakhstan attaches great importance to this visit. We are grateful to China for supporting CICA and other initiatives of Kazakhstan in the international arena. As far as economic cooperation is concerned, it is strategic in nature. The agreements that were reached by our First President Nursultan Nazarbayev and President XI Jinping will be further developed».
Yang Jiechi congratulated Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev warmly on his election to the presidency of Kazakhstan in June this year. According to the prominent Chinese politician, that convincing victory reflects the high level of trust the people of Kazakhstan has in him and his leadership. Yang Jiechi expressed confidence that the visit of the Kazakh leader would give a new impetus to the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries.
The summit meeting of the heads of State of China and Kazakhstan took place at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. It was preceded by the official welcoming ceremony for the Kazakh President. A guard of honor stood in formation in honor of the eminent guest. The National Anthems of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the People’s Republic of China were played during that event. The commander of the guard of honor gave a welcoming report, and both leaders reviewed the guard of honor. At the end of the ceremony Xi Jinping and Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev proceeded to the hall of negotiations.
The President of Kazakhstan noted that he was pleased to meet again with the Chinese leader a few months after the Shanghai Cooperation Summit held in Bishkek. Expressing gratitude for the hospitality, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev conveyed greetings and best wishes from the First President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev to the President of China.
«Our meeting takes place on the eve of the 70th anniversary of China. This is a very big historical date. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you and the people of China on this date. China has approached this anniversary with great success in socio-economic and political development. I believe that this event is of great historical importance not only for the People’s Republic of China, but also for the whole world. The whole world is watching the development of your state with great attention», the Kazakh President said.
When reviewing the achievements the People’s Republic of China has scored in the past 70 years since it was founded, Xi Jinping pointed out that such a process of moving forward has never been smooth, and stressed that no matter how the external situation changes, China will unswervingly take care of its own business regardless of outside factors.
«We are fully capable of coping with various risks and challenges, and any difficulty or obstacle cannot stop us from moving forward», Xi Jinping said.
«A stable, open and prosperous China will always be an opportunity for the future development of the world», he noted.
Turning to the relationship between China and Kazakhstan, Xi Jinping said China is willing to deepen all-round cooperation with Kazakhstan, seek synergy between the Silk Road Economic Belt and Kazakhstan’s Bright Path (Nurly Zhol) new economic policy, and strengthen connectivity.
He also called on the two sides to boost cooperation in industrial capacity and science and technology innovation, increase people-to-people and cultural contacts, and facilitate exchanges at sub-national level.
The talks resulted in a decision to develop a permanent comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Kazakhstan.
During his visit to China, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev also met with Premier of the State Council of China Li Keqiang. He congratulated Li Keqiang and entire friendly people of China on the upcoming Oct. 1 70th anniversary of China. In the course of further conversation, President Tokayev stressed that the relations between the two countries are developing steadily, and the bilateral partnership has achieved great outcomes in the economy and the development of transport and logistics potential.
Li Keqiang, in turn, pointed out the importance of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s visit to China in the context of further strengthening of multifaceted Kazakh-Chinese relations.
During his stay in Beijing, Mr. Tokayev also attended the opening of the sixth meeting of the China-Kazakhstan Entrepreneurs Committee which was co-sponsored by the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade and the Management Board of Kazakhstan’s Samruk-Kazyna Joint Stock Company, designed to provide an opportunity to discuss the major topics relating to the new business opportunities in bilateral trade, energy, logistics and finance, and gathered about 300 representatives of entrepreneurs from both sides. At the event, the officials of two countries signed a series of agreements in the fields of energy, transportation, agriculture, finance and others.
In his speech at the meeting, Kazakh President Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev stressed that China and Kazakhstan are good neighbors and Kazakhstan attaches great importance to its relations with China, the world’s second largest economy. President Tokayev also pointed out that China is Kazakhstan’s largest and most important trading partner. According to him, bilateral trade between the two amounted to $12 billion last year, a year-on-year growth of more than 14 percent. China has already invested around $20 billion in transportation, finance, energy and other sectors of the Kazakh economy.
Kazakhstan is currently considering expanding its collaboration with China in areas such as agriculture, tourism, energy and finance. Kazakh President said he looked forward to boosting cooperation with more Chinese companies such as those working in big data, the internet, AI and supercomputers.
Echoing this position, Chang Zhenming, chairman of the CITIC Group Corporation, expressed his optimism about the outlook of China-Kazakhstan economic ties.
«In last year, nearly 14 million of goods have been transported between the two countries, with an increase of 38 percent year on year. The trade volume in agricultural products between the two sides increased to 590 million yuan, up 18.1 percent year on year. Among them, Kazakhstan’s agricultural exports to China grew by 37.6 percent. Production capacity cooperation has also been steadily advanced. Currently 55 projects are on the China-Kazakhstan production capacity cooperation list, with contracts amounting to more than 27.4 billion U.S. dollars», Mr. Chang said.
The following can be stated in addition to this. Almost five centuries ago, Central Asia had lost momentum and been quickly pushed to the edges of the world scene. But subsequently history has given it a second chance based on abundant natural resources, which became really and in large volumes needed only in the twentieth century. If we let this opportunity pass us by, meekly consenting to what is expected from us, rather than what is essential for our survival, we are likely to succumb to the tyranny of the market and deal with the risk of sliding into deeper poverty and degradation.
But things with regard to situation of Central Asia as a whole and Kazakhstan, in particular, are beginning to change with the rapid development of China, which has continued for several decades. Indeed, they are quickly being reshaped nowadays. So quickly, that stereotypes, which have been widely held for decades or even centuries, are becoming obsolete in front of your eyes.
The Kazakh-Chinese political and economic relations, starting almost from scratch in early 1990s, have made significant progress in their development over the years since our nation gained state independence. In December 1992, an economic and trade agreement was signed between the governments of the Republic of Kazakhstan (RK) and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Since the mid-1990s, a steady growth of trade began to be noticed between two countries. In the year 2000, Kazakhstan–Chinese commodity trade turnover amounted to over $1.2 billion.
Our republic thus became an important trading partner of China, taking second place among CIS countries after Russia. In 2017, the commodity turnover between Kazakhstan and China increased by 37.4% and reached $18 billion. It’s an impressive progress, isn’t it?! Accordingly, the geopolitical environment in which Kazakhstan is located has dramatically changed.
At the end of 1991 and the beginning of 1992, when the Soviet Union finally disintegrated, and former Soviet Union Republics, achieved independence, Russia was undoubtedly the largest economic power in the whole area immediately surrounding Kazakhstan. In 1990 (the last full year of the Union), its gross domestic product (GDP) had been about $570 billion, which represented a per capita income of $3,780. But since then, the situation has radically changed.
The Central Asian republics in general and Kazakhstan in particular faced major challenges in the early years of independence. Their economies were trapped in a «cycle of de-development». Real gross domestic product (GDP) fell by one half or more in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan between 1990 (the last full year of the Union) and 1994. By the end of the decade, a period of high oil prices set in, and Kazakhstan began to see accelerated economic progress. Meanwhile, China’s economy has been continuing to witness tremendous growth. Its gross domestic product has surged from less than $150 billion in 1978 to $8,227 billion in 2012 – and to $12,250.39 billion in 2017. At the beginning of 2006, the Chinese national statistics, showing a national economic output of $2.26 trillion, sent China soaring past France, Britain and Italy to become the world’s fourth-largest economy. In the second quarter of 2010, China China passed Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy behind the United States.
It is important to us that China›s rapid economic development and increasing influence gain within the system of regional and international relations are accompanied with an equally impressive intensification of the ties of this state with Kazakhstan.
But, as they say, it’s the way to go. The point here is that the PRC, while making great efforts to strengthen economic development in its lagging western regions, is promoting progress from its east to the west.
It may be reasonable to assume that, on the one hand, rapid growth of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region’s economy – at one point or another – would build up a new momentum for development of the southeastern part of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
On the other hand, the Chinese, boosting their areas adjacent to Central Asia, would be quite interested in rapid economic and social development on the other side of inter-state borders. Otherwise, their Far West, despite all the efforts, would remain a remote landlocked region, opening onto undeveloped Kyrgyzstan and underdeveloped South-Eastern Kazakhstan. So that is not going to be the path to go. China’s assistance to those parts of Central Asia, by providing a powerful boost to their smaller economies, should – in one way or another – improve the region’s international competitiveness and facilitate its further integration into the global eco nomy, in which China plays a very important role.

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