All eyes are on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s proposed visit to neighbouring Kazakhstan on September 14, his first visit abroad since the Covid.
Diplomatic experts worldwide have raised eyebrows over the real intention behind Chinese leader’s visit to Kazakhstan.
His visit is being seen as an attempt to assess future prospects of the existing Chinese companies and explore more areas for bilateral trade and economic cooperation in the oil-rich nation which witnessed unrest in January this year.
China is one of the largest foreign investors in Kazakhstan. January protests in Kazakhstan had sparked concerns on oil and gas deliveries to China.
Local Chinese companies had claimed that they were prepared as the Kazakh government assured of taking corresponding measures to ensure their safety.
China has essentially focussed on trade and investments. The focus of first wave of Chinese investments, prior to around 2014, was on the energy sector. Nearly 20 percent of China’s gas imports come from and through Kazakhstan Volumes of rail cargo-mostly transiting Kazakhstan between China and Europe – have increased impressively each year.
An often overlooked but increasingly central pillar of the BRI is Kazakhstan, representing a second wave of investments picking up from 2016, is manufacturing and heavy industry. Kazakhstan and China concluded agreements to shift production capacity out of China and help Kazakhstan diversify its economy. Fifty-five joint projects worth 28 billion US dollars are foreseen and have been partially implemented in metallurgy, engineering chemicals, and other sectors.
China-skepticism in Kazakhstan is widespread due to China’s potential economic domination and treatment of Muslims – including ethnic Kazakhs – in its Xinjiang region.
China’s broad presence and Beijing’s campaign to “de-radicalise” ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang province had contributed to the anti-Chinese sentiment in 2019. Kazakhs had protested against the construction of Chinese factories in three Kazakh cities and demanded a ban on an initiative which the Central Asian nation’s government hoped would bring investment and jobs, it may be recalled.
China is a major investor in Kazakhstan’s energy sector and buys oil and gas, but critics accused Chinese companies of hiring too few local staff and paying them less than foreign workers. Several protests were organised in 2016 as well, against a planned land reform which was essentially driven by anti Chinese sentiment. People were angry at the changes in the law that allow foreigners to rent agricultural land in Kazakhstan for 25 years. This law, which was approved in November 2015 enabled land to be sold or leased at auctions. The reform was latershelved.
Beijing’s “de-radicalisation” drive in Xinjiang has been a source of tension. That is because a million people, including some ethnic Kazakhs have landed in jail like camps. There have been protests against China from time to time for different reasons.
In September new wave of anti-Chinese protests rolled through Kazakh cities with the slogan “Cancel 55 Chinese Projects!”.
The Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs had given assurance that all projects of bro industrial cooperation included in the List are subject to environmental impact assessment by the State.
-Source: The Economic Times