Tokayev’s visit to Xian shows Kazakhstan deepening economic ties with China, cooperation with Central Asia: expert
SINGAPORE President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s state visit to the Chinese city of Xian and his attendance at the China-Central Asia Summit last week underscored the importance of bilateral relations and multilateral interaction. This underscored Kazakhstan’s eagerness to engage with China, said Raffaello Pantucci, senior fellow at Singapore’s S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies and senior associate fellow at the London-based Royal United Services Institute, in an interview with The Astana Times.
Pantucci is the author of several publications on China’s relations with Central Asia, including the book Sinostan: Chinas Inadvertent Empire. According to the expert, economic ties have always been a key part of China-Kazakhstan cooperation and are likely to develop further in the near future.
The two countries announced new agreements in different areas, including in the fields of investment and large-scale construction in Kazakhstan, as well as new technologies and green energy.
Some trade agreements, which were signed before the pandemic, will likely come into effect after being added to the new agreements in Xian. Minerals, oil and gas, renewable energy and electric vehicles will be among the most important sectors in the medium term, he said.
During his visit, President Tokayev signed a joint statement with Chinese President Xi Jinping, participated in multilateral sessions between China and Central Asian countries, and held talks with Chinese officials and representatives of businesses.
The signing of the mutual visa-free agreement between the two sides was one of the key developments, the expert noted.
Pantucci also referred to the growing attractiveness and strategic uncertainties regarding the Trans-Caspian international transport route, also known as the Middle Corridor. It begins in Southeast Asia and China, passes through Kazakhstan, the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Georgia and further to European countries.
We will see more investment in the middle corridor. At the same time, it remains to be seen whether it will ever be able to replace routes through Russia. Expanding its ability to compete with routes passing through the territory of northern neighbors will require a lot of effort and investment, given Russia’s strong influence and ties in the region, he said. declared.
The China-Central Asia Summit was the first in person. At the May 19 high-level meeting in Xian, China reaffirmed its commitment to coordinate development strategies with Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
The fact that China hosted this major summit demonstrated the willingness of Central Asian states to engage with Beijing. Meanwhile, G7 leaders [Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States] gathered in Japan to issue statements on China’s increasingly assertive foreign policy, the expert said.
In terms of increased cooperation in Central Asia, coordination and unity will strengthen the region in a world where conflicts are becoming more frequent between major powers. According to Pantucci, this will clearly benefit Kazakhstan and help the country push back against the fact that the region has a shrinking maneuvering space between China and Russia as the two draw closer.
According to him, the idea of creating a business grouping between the five Central Asian countries and China, as well as President Tokayev’s initiative to offer Kazakhstan as a place of transit and storage for goods from Central Asia from China reflect a positive dynamic within the C5 format (the five Central Asian countries), which should be encouraged.
On the day of the China-Central Asia Summit in Xian, the Kazakh city of Almaty hosted the high-level session of the second European Union-Central Asia Economic Forum. He focused on EU-Kazakhstan cooperation, trade, investment and economic opportunities between Central Asia and Europe.
There has been an increase in regional discussions and there are many prospects for positive engagement in the Central Asia region. However, it should be pointed out that there are still limits to the regional committee. Tensions between the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan are an example of this. Also, the Uzbeks, Tajiks and Turkmens are still not cooperating on Afghanistan, Pantucci said.
However, the fact that we are seeing much more positive C5 engagement with outside powers and together is a good trend for the whole region, he concluded.
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