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Kazakhstan and China: a new milestone in mutually beneficial cooperation

4 September 2019 17:00
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Kazakhstan and China: a new milestone in mutually beneficial cooperation

NUR-SULTAN. KAZINFORM- Assistant to the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Murat Nurtleuov, discussed with a Kazinform correspondent the details of the upcoming state visit of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to the People’s Republic of China.

– Mr. Nurtleuov, the Kazakh-Chinese relations have long and deep historical roots. Moreover, the relations have been considerably developed on the basis of mutually beneficial cooperation between the peoples and states. What is the relationship between Kazakhstan and China today?

– Close mutual relations have been maintained between China and the ancient states of the Great Steppe for centuries. The main bridge of cooperation was the Great Silk Road - a unique trade and transit network that connected East and West not only with economic, but also with cultural and humanitarian ties. There was a rigorous process of mutual enrichment of ideas and knowledge. This has become a favorable basis for bringing our bilateral relations to the level of a comprehensive strategic partnership. Thanks to the focused efforts of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan - Elbasy Nursultan Nazarbayev and the leaders of China, today the world is witnessing the revival of the Silk Road in its new modern concept. Mutually beneficial trade between peoples and countries is the key to friendship, equality, respect for sovereignty and inviolability of borders.

It should be noted that China was the first country with which Kazakhstan signed the Protocol on State Border Demarcation on May 10, 2002, in Beijing. The instrument was signed by the then Foreign Ministers of Kazakhstan and China, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Tang Jiaxuan. And today, the 1,700 kilometers of the Kazakh-Chinese border is considered the border of friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation. Let us not forget that we managed to resolve these issues while fully observing Kazakhstan’s national interests and the principles of international law.

We are actively developing cooperation in multilateral and regional organizations and forums. Kazakhstan and China mutually support international initiatives; we have the same approaches on most pressing issues on the global agenda.

To date, the legal framework of Kazakh-Chinese relations includes over 250 intergovernmental and inter-agency agreements in various areas. Of particular importance are the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation signed in Beijing in December 2002, the Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership (2005), and the Joint Declaration on the New Stage of Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Relations, adopted in 2015, which confirmed the intention for its further deepening.

As for bilateral economic cooperation, nowadays it is characterized by positive dynamics, covering transit and transport infrastructure, trade, manufacturing, financial and energy sectors, engineering and other important spheres. Our countries are implementing a number of large-scale economic projects, building transport arteries between Europe and Asia. In this regard, it is relevant to pair our new «Nurly Zhol» economic policy with Beijing’s «Silk Road Economic Belt» initiative. All of this demonstrates the commitment of both states to long-term cooperation, mutual respect and compliance with generally accepted norms of interstate communication.

We are close neighbors; therefore we understand well that pragmatic and mutually respectful partnership is a key factor for the prosperity of our two nations, as well as a guarantee of regional well-being and security.

– China is one of the largest foreign trade partners of Kazakhstan. What issues of bilateral cooperation are the most relevant on today's agenda? In your opinion, what can be highlighted?

– You are right, today China is one of the largest trade partners of Kazakhstan. I will provide the figures for the last year alone, when the volume of bilateral trade totaled $11.7 billion. Here I would like to note that in recent years there has been a trend to improve the structure and balance in bilateral trade.

According to the National Bank of Kazakhstan, China ranks fourth ($15.6 billion) in terms of foreign investment attracted to our country after the Netherlands, the United States and the UK. At the same time, the fundamental position of Kazakhstan in all investment projects is formed taking into account state interests, commercial feasibility, and creation of new jobs for Kazakh citizens.

Great prospects for cooperation are created by the Astana International Financial Centre. Along with NASDAQ, the London Stock Exchange and Goldman Sachs, the founders of the Astana International Exchange included the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the Silk Road Fund, while the China Development Bank and the China Construction Bank opened their representative offices at the Centre. Of course, there are a lot of proposals from enterprises and the business community for the implementation of various projects. There are a number of bilateral instruments to carefully select the most promising.

In particular, I can mention the Cooperation Committee, headed by the First Deputy heads of governments, the Business Council with the participation of representatives of the business circles of Kazakhstan and China, as well as the China-Kazakhstan Interregional Cooperation Forum.

- In which direction should we move forward together, fully and profitably using the existing potential for cooperation? Which industries will become the «drivers» of strategic partnership?

- From my point of view, it is necessary to take into account global development trends. First of all, this includes the field of digital technology, where China has achieved obvious success. Today, China is actively developing such areas of the innovative economy as 5G, Big Data, the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, cloud technologies and supercomputers, and robotics.

We are interested in creating experimental laboratories, joint innovation and IT centres in Kazakhstan. One of the most convenient venues for hosting such centers today is the Astana Hub, the International IT and startup hub. Fast-growing China is also increasingly in need of high-quality and environmentally friendly agricultural products. And our country, possessing large-scale agricultural opportunities, is aimed at expanding the export of its agricultural products to the Chinese market.

A number of joint investment projects are currently being implemented in the processing and export of wheat, sugar, milk, meat, wool, flax, tomatoes, rapeseed oil and other agricultural products. China is one of the world’s largest energy consumers and at the same time a supporter of global environmental initiatives. Therefore, environmental protection, the rational management of water resources of transboundary rivers, the development of alternative and renewable energy sources are also priorities of bilateral cooperation.

The prospects for cooperation in the cultural and humanitarian sphere, including science, education, cinema and tourism, seem promising. In the future, I believe these areas will organically complement the substantive agenda of the Kazakh-Chinese comprehensive cooperation.

- Kazakhstan has been successfully implementing the Nurly Zhol State Infrastructure Development Programme. China is implementing its global «Belt and Road» Initiative. What are the benefits to our country of connecting these two large-scale projects?

- Today, China is the second largest economy in the world with a colossal market. Over the past four decades, Beijing has acquired the necessary investment and technological potential to implement global infrastructure projects under the «Belt and Road» Initiative.

By the way, this year marks the 6th anniversary of the official announcement of the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping at the Nazarbayev University. In this regard, for Kazakhstan, located in the heart of Eurasia and without access to the oceans, the transcontinental initiatives of China provide new prospects and opportunities.

By developing its transit potential, Kazakhstan seeks to occupy its geo-economic niche as a major bridge between the economic growth poles of Asia, Europe and the Middle East, where today more than 60% of world GDP is concentrated.

In turn, transit routes through the territory of Kazakhstan open up for China quick access to the markets of Europe, the Middle East and the CIS, creating the economic corridors China-Central Asia-West Asia and China-Indochina.

Around 50% of transit flows between China and Europe go through Kazakhstan today. At the same time, we should not slow down, because the competition in this promising market is great. In general, the conjugation of two programmes corresponds to these tasks.

Promising infrastructure projects have been implemented as part of the Nurly Zhol State Programme. These include the dry port and infrastructure at the Khorgos – Eastern Gate free economic zone, the Kazakhstan part of the Western Europe – Western China international transit corridor, and the new Kazakhstan – Turkmenistan – Iran railway corridor with a total length of around 900 km. They are aimed at the socio-economic development of our country, the strengthening of inter-regional ties within Kazakhstan and integration into international transport flows. It can be concluded that Kazakhstan has become a key partner of China in the development of the «Belt and Road» initiative.

- What issues are on the agenda of the first visit of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to China?

What will be the programme of the visit and what are your expectations from the upcoming meetings?

- We attach great importance to high-quality substantive preparation of the first state visit of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to China. It is very symbolic that this visit will take place at the invitation of President Xi Jinping in the run-up to the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the People’s Republic of China.

The visit stresses the need to find new ways to further strengthen the Kazakh-Chinese comprehensive strategic partnership. The programme of the state visit is extensive. Negotiations are planned with President Xi Jinping. Based on their results, it is planned to sign a Joint Statement on the development of a comprehensive strategic partnership at a new stage, which already involves updating the bilateral agenda and priorities of bilateral relations.

Meetings are also expected with the Premier of China Li Keqiang and Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Li Zhanshu. The Head of State plans to attend the Sixth meeting of the Kazakh-Chinese Business Council. The programme also includes a speech at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. An important item in the working schedule of the Head of State will be the city of Hangzhou in the Zhejiang province.

In particular, the President is scheduled to meet with the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Alibaba Group Jack Ma, as well as visit Hikvision. In addition, an agreement will be signed on the transfer to the Kazakhstan side of a supercomputer for processing big data.

Around ten documents will also be signed, including in the field of agricultural exports, cooperation in emergency situations, IT-technologies, electronic commerce, and bilateral commercial agreements. Overall, the upcoming visit of the Head of State meets the long-term strategic interests of Kazakhstan.

Our foreign policy should bring practical benefits to the people, contribute to the creation of new growth points and jobs and contribute to improving the welfare of the people of Kazakhstan – this is the principal position of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

- Thank you for the informative interview.

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