Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev visit a section of the Chinese national pavilion of the Expo 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan, June 8 (XINHUA)
Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up his latest visit to Kazakhstan on June 10, the third trip to the neighboring country since taking office. Given that Kazakhstan is the country where President Xi first proposed building the Silk Road Economic Belt—part of the Belt and Road Initiative, Xi's frequent visits are of great significance to both China-Kazakhstan relations and the advancement of the Belt and Road Initiative. It is believed that Kazakhstan is becoming China's model partner under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, and Xi's most recent visit will inject new impetus to the growth of the bilateral relationship.
In his talks with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Astana, Xi said that the political mutual trust has reached an unprecedented height, and that China is willing to build a stronger community of shared interests and shared future with Kazakhstan.
Actually, since establishing diplomatic relations in 1992, China and Kazakhstan have had high-level reciprocal visits almost each year. Frequent official exchanges have helped the deepening of mutual political trust. In June 2011, when the two countries announced the establishment of a comprehensive strategic partnership, relations between the two advanced to a new stage. Moreover, ever since President Xi announced the joint construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt with Kazakhstan during his first visit to the country in 2013 as head of state, cooperation between the two entered the fast track. On January 3 this year, the two countries celebrated their 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations, and both leaders agreed that relations between China and Kazakhstan have reached their highest level ever.
Under the Belt and Road Initiative, cooperation between the two countries has grown over the past four years, covering multiple areas such as trade, energy, infrastructure, industrial capacity and environmental protection.
The cooperation between the two countries exemplifies a successful partnership under the Belt and Road Initiative. Via industrial capacity collaboration, China has committed to transferring advanced and cutting-edge productivity to Kazakhstan, which has yielded rich results.
Eager to diversify their business operations in the country, Chinese companies such as the China National Machinery Industry Corp., Power Construction Corp. of China, China Communications Construction Co. and Huawei Technologies Co. have all begun to work with local companies to carry out aviation, power, telecommunications and road projects in Kazakhstan.
According to statistics provided by China's National Development and Reform Commission, the two governments have signed a framework agreement for capacity cooperation and held 12 dialogues on the matter in past years. In late 2014, China and Kazakhstan reached a preliminary consensus on industrial capacity cooperation worth more than $14 billion. Up to May this year, China and Kazakhstan had signed major cooperation projects worth $27 billion, set up a $2 billion bilateral capacity cooperation fund and earmarked loans of $15 billion for the same purpose.
To date, 34 projects, including copper mines and electrolytic aluminum and cement plants, have been completed and put into production in Kazakhstan. Another 43 projects in areas such as chemical engineering, non-ferrous metals, machinery manufacturing, high technology and telecommunications, are under construction. These projects will not only help increase Kazakhstan's industrial development, but also are conducive to creating jobs and pushing social progress.
Benefiting from the close economic cooperation, China has become Kazakhstan's second largest trading partner and fourth largest source of investment. Meanwhile, Kazakhstan remains China's second largest trading partner and largest investment destination within the Commonwealth of Independent States region. Chinese investment in Kazakhstan amounted to over $42.8 billion, and two-way trade in the first four months of 2017 surged by 45.6 percent. China's lending to Kazakhstan has exceeded $50 billion on an accumulative basis.
Along with the continually growing political and economic affinity, people-to-people relations are also getting stronger. At present, there are more than 50 flights between the two countries every week. In 2016, nearly 500,000 mutual visits were made between the two countries, and 14,000 Kazakh students were studying in China. Five Confucius institutes and seven Confucius classrooms have been set up in Kazakhstan while four Kazakhstan Centers have been inaugurated in Chinese universities. The Kazakh singer Dimash Kudaibergen is a household name in China. Popular Chinese films or TV series, such as A Bite of China and Family On the Go, have captivated many Kazakh viewers.
During Xi's stay in Kazakhstan, he attended the opening ceremony of the Specialized Expo 2017 in Astana. It is the first time that a Central Asian country has held the expo. China has provided full support for the Astana Expo, being the first to sign up to participate in the event. In fact, the two countries have shown their strong support to each other in holding major events, which was hailed by scholars from the two countries as having set a good model for mutual support between neighboring countries. Kazakhstan was among the first batch of countries to show support of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. It also sent top-level delegations to China to attend the V-Day parade in 2015 and the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in May this year.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (right front) and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev (left front) inspect via videolink two key hubs of the cross-border transportation at the Chinese national pavilion of the Expo 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan, June 8 (XINHUA)
On the basis of existing achievements, President Xi has called for greater joint efforts to promote cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative.
In his signed article in the Kazakh newspaper Aikyn Gazeti, Xi wrote: "We need to synergize our development strategies in a faster manner and work together to implement the outcomes of the Belt and Road Forum. We need to further unlock the potential for cooperation on ports, transportation and logistics, speed up the construction of projects such as the New Eurasian Land Bridge, the China-Central and Western Asia Economic Corridor and the Western Europe-Western China Road so as to promote connectivity and trade facilitation."
Since the initiative was first proposed, Kazakhstan has placed great importance to the regional development blueprint. President Nazarbayev has hailed the initiative on many occasions, claiming that it can contribute greatly to the economic development of his country as well as other regional countries.
Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world. The Belt and Road Initiative, which prioritizes the development of infrastructure, service and trade networks, could help the Central Asian country promote both its land and maritime connections with other parts of the world. In 2014, President Nazarbayev introduced his new economic plan known as the Bright Path, which also lays emphasis on investment in infrastructure and priority sectors, trying to align Kazakhstan's development strategy with the Belt and Road Initiative.
A lot has been achieved in advancing regional interconnectivity since Xi's proposal of the Silk Road Economic Belt. In 2014, the first phase of a logistics terminal jointly built by China and Kazakhstan went into operation in the port of Lianyungang in east China's Jiangsu Province, offering the landlocked country a new means to send goods overseas. In February 2015, the first cargo train carrying nearly 100 containers left Lianyungang bound for Kazakhstan's Almaty, reducing the transportation time and cost for both sides.
Cooperation between the two countries under the Belt and Road Initiative is being further expanded. During their meeting in Astana, President Xi and President Nazarbayev agreed to further integrate the Belt and Road Initiative and Kazakhstan's development strategy of Bright Path. The two countries will focus on aligning the New Eurasian Land Bridge and the construction of an economic corridor linking China, Central Asia and West Asia, with the Kazakh strategy of building an international logistics corridor. They will join efforts in connecting the international production capacity cooperation with Kazakhstan's push for industrialization, sharing China's transportation advantages on land and by sea with Kazakhstan, and linking China's digital Silk Road initiative with the digital Kazakhstan strategy.
The two presidents also signed a China-Kazakhstan joint statement and witnessed the inking of a series of bilateral cooperation documents in areas such as trade, finance and infrastructure. According to the joint statement, China and Kazakhstan also agreed to develop more international cargo train services, starting from China via Kazakhstan to Central Asia, Europe and Gulf countries and to effectively lower logistic cost, making railway freight a major solution for cargo transportation between Asia and Europe by 2025.
Copyedited by Bryan Michael Galvan
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