Published: 11:43, May 22, 2024
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Sino-Kazakh shared path to prosperity
By Erlan Karin
(JIN DING / CHINA DAILY)

The Kazakh people have a proverb: "Friendship is an inexhaustible wealth." This proverb reflects the essence of Kazakhstan's foreign policy, particularly in our relations with China. We deeply value the friendship, good neighborliness, and strategic partnership that unite us. Chinese President Xi Jinping noted during his conversation with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in 2023 that our relations are grounded in mutual respect. This strong partnership is key to our successful interaction over the years.

As Kazakhstan enters a new phase of its political journey, marked by significant reforms within the state, our partnership with China becomes increasingly important in achieving our shared goals of security and stability.

Political reforms boosting China ties

Kazakhstan's recent political transformation is a testament to its commitment to progressive governance and the well-being of its people. From 2019 to 2021, four political reform packages were implemented in Kazakhstan, focusing on liberalizing the political landscape, and enhancing local governance and human rights.

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A 2022 nationwide referendum, the first since 1995, approved some constitutional amendments, transitioning Kazakhstan from a super-presidential system to a presidential republic with a stronger parliament. These reforms, interlinked with economic and social initiatives, have balanced presidential powers, strengthened the parliament and the judiciary, and encouraged public participation in governance. Internationally well received, these reforms are part of Kazakhstan's ongoing political, economic and social modernization for building a "Just and Fair Kazakhstan".

By strengthening democratic institutions and enhancing transparency and accountability in government, we are strengthening our position as a reliable and forward-looking partner. Our commitment to the rule of law and enhancing the framework of business regulations profoundly resonates with our Chinese partners, who value stability and predictability in international relations.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, in his speech at the National Kurultai (parliament) on March 15, 2024, vividly articulated a vision for Kazakhstan's future and reiterated the country's core values which should guide our development. His emphasis on unity and solidarity is echoed in our international relations, especially with China. In a world where geopolitical complexities often divide nations, our unity with China exemplifies how solidarity can transcend borders despite differences in culture and political systems.

As President Tokayev emphasized, justice and responsibility are values that guide us both domestically and in the foreign policy arena. The values of creativity and innovation are particularly relevant to Kazakhstan-China relations. As we embrace the "Fourth Industrial Revolution", our partnership with China plays a key role in integrating advanced technologies into our industries and infrastructure projects.

Strengthening Sino-Kazakh economic relations

In this regard, our reforms also mirror Kazakhstan's ambition to develop a robust, diverse, and competitive economy. In the trade sector, China became the leading market for Kazakhstan's exports in 2023. The high-quality economic collaboration between the two countries is underscored by a record trade turnover of $41 billion in 2023, a significant increase from 2022. The signing of 47 agreements worth $22 billion at the Kazakhstan-China Investment Roundtable in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, in 2023 underlines the depth of our economic cooperation.

Today, China is one of the leading investors in Kazakhstan. Over the past 18 years, more than $24 billion has been invested in our economy, and about 4,700 Kazakh-Chinese enterprises operate in Kazakhstan. Nevertheless, there are several areas where our countries can further strengthen cooperation. Our shared goals of achieving carbon neutrality by 2060 and increasing the share of renewable energy to 15 percent by 2030 present new opportunities for investment in the energy sector. Additionally, we can expand our engagement in the financial sector, leveraging opportunities presented by the Astana International Financial Center, which hosts more than 1,800 companies from 73 countries, with one-tenth of them being from China.

Introducing a mutual visa-free regime in November 2023 has promoted business contacts, trade, investment, and tourism between our two countries. This initiative is particularly significant in the "Year of Tourism of Kazakhstan in China", which was launched on March 29, 2024, in Beijing.

Transit and logistics are the primary areas of our bilateral cooperation. Our active participation in the Belt and Road Initiative underscores Kazakhstan's pivotal role in transcontinental trade. Sharing a 1,783-kilometer-long border with China, Kazakhstan is a most crucial link in this ambitious project. Our country accounts for about 80 percent of all land-based transit traffic from China to Europe. The significant increase in rail freight traffic between our countries, which reached 28.3 million tons in 2023, has further strengthened our stance as a regional transit hub.

President Tokayev said in 2023 that the Belt and Road Initiative has become an internationally acclaimed project. It is a significant platform for cooperation, symbolizing China's economic strength and global ambitions.

By expanding these ties, we are contributing to a more interconnected, prosperous, and mutually beneficial future for Kazakhstan, China, and other countries.

Shared vision and strategic partnership

In international diplomacy, Astana and Beijing share a common vision of a multipolar world where dialogue and peaceful development take precedence over confrontation. Kazakhstan deeply values China's support for safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Central Asian countries. In fact, the two countries have seen frequent high-level exchanges on this issue.

Just in March, President Tokayev visited China to participate in the Boao Forum for Asia in the island province of Hainan. During the visit, the president encouraged all Kazakh government departments to cooperate closely with China to forge a comprehensive strategic partnership. President Tokayev's visit to China last October to attend the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation provided new impetus for the growth of bilateral ties.

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As Kazakhstan chairs the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and will host a summit this year along with the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, we look forward to closer cooperation with China. Such platforms enable us to deepen our strategic partnership and strengthen collaboration on issues of regional and global importance. This is particularly relevant given Asia's growing economic dominance, influence and innovation acumen. In this context, President Tokayev, speaking at the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan on March 28, highlighted Asia's crucial role in shaping the world's future and underscored the importance of international dialogue platforms such as the BFA and the Astana International Forum.

Ultimately, the ties between the Central Asian country and the People's Republic of China are rooted in a shared history and a common desire for a prosperous, interconnected future. Our aim to deepen this partnership across various fields reflects our commitment to mutual respect and beneficial cooperation.

The author is a state counselor of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The views don’t necessarily reflect those of China Daily