China’s Xi hails ‘unique’ links with Kazakhstan, ‘looks forward’ to SCO summit

President Xi Jinping hailed China’s long-standing “unique” ties with Kazakhstan as he arrived in the Central Asian country on Tuesday for a state visit.

He also pledged an “in-depth exchange of views” on bilateral and international matters with his Kazakh counterpart Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who received the Chinese leader at the airport in the capital Astana.

China and Kazakhstan have developed “a unique permanent comprehensive strategic partnership” in 32 years of diplomatic ties and a friendship that “has endured for generations”, Xi said.

“I am looking forward to an in-depth exchange of views with [President Tokayev] on China-Kazakhstan relations as well as on international and regional issues of common concerns … and to make new arrangements for the development [of relations],” he added.

In Astana, Xi will also attend the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a security-focused bloc largely led by Beijing, before heading to Tajikistan for a state visit.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will be among SCO leaders taking part in the summit. It is expected to run over Wednesday and Thursday.

Xi said he looked forward to attending the SCO summit, which would discuss “the future of the organisation, plans for cooperation and the promotion of new and greater development of this important multilateral mechanism”.

This is Xi’s second visit to Astana in as many years, as Beijing strengthens economic and security ties with the former Soviet state that had long been in Moscow’s sphere of influence.

Xi also “chose Kazakhstan” as the destination for his first post-Covid overseas trip in September 2022, when the two countries agreed to cooperate on multiple fronts, from the economy to regional security.

And it was during a state visit to Kazakhstan in 2013 that Xi proposed the building of an “economic belt” along the ancient Silk Road, a concept that later became the Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing’s high-profile transcontinental infrastructure and investment project.



Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Kazakhstan on first trip abroad since pandemic began

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Kazakhstan on first trip abroad since pandemic began

In a signed article for Kazakhstan’s state-backed media published earlier on Tuesday, Xi vowed greater bilateral cooperation on the economy, international affairs, security and people-to-people exchanges.

He also pledged to “further open China’s mega-market to Kazakhstan”, deepen partnership in traditional fields such as energy and agriculture, and open new vistas of cooperation in “new energy, digital economy, artificial intelligence, cross-border e-commerce and aerospace”.

China last year overtook Russia to become Kazakhstan’s biggest trading partner, with two-way trade reaching US$41 billion.

In his article, Xi also called for “high-quality operation” of the China-Europe Railway Express, or China Railway Express, and the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route. Both are major belt and road transport projects that cut across Central Asia to link China with Europe.

With regard to international affairs, Xi said that China and Kazakhstan should hold fast to the political tradition of mutual support and practice “true multilateralism”.

“China will work with Kazakhstan to uphold the international system with the United Nations at its core and the international order underpinned by international law, act on true multilateralism, oppose hegemonism, power politics and bloc confrontation,” Xi wrote.

“We will work together to build an equal and orderly multipolar world, promote universally beneficial and inclusive economic globalisation, and bring about more positivity and certainty to world peace and stability.”

The origins of the SCO lay in the “Shanghai Five” bloc set up in 1996 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, with China, Russia and the Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It formally became the SCO following the accession of Uzbekistan in 2001.

The main objectives of the SCO are to combat the “three forces” of terrorism, separatism and extremism, and to negotiate border issues in the post-Soviet era.

But the group has since expanded its membership to India, Pakistan and Iran, and allowed several countries including Turkey and Saudi Arabia to join as dialogue partners. Its functions have also expanded to cover broader issues, including industrial chain security and economic cooperation.

China will assume the SCO’s rotating presidency for 2024-2025 after the Astana summit.



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