ASTANA – Kazakhstan and China have excellent economic cooperation, but the two countries need new agreements and deals to move forward, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said in a May 12 interview with China’s CGTN channel.
The interview aired one week before Tokayev’s state visit to China, where he is expected to hold bilateral talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and attend the Central Asia – China summit in Xi’an. The previous time Tokayev paid a state visit to the country was in September 2019.
In turn, Xi Jinping paid a state visit to Kazakhstan in September 2022, in what was his first foreign visit since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Highlighting the significance of economic ties, President Tokayev acknowledged China’s key role as one of Kazakhstan’s major trading partners.
According to the Bureau of National Statistics, bilateral trade between Kazakhstan and China reached $24 billion in 2022. Kazakhstan’s exports to China grew by over a third, exceeding $13 billion. Imports increased by 33.5% to $11 billion.
“That is why I am hopeful about my future visit to Xi’an, which is a cradle of Chinese civilization. I believe we need new agreements, new deals, because we shouldn’t just stay still and wait for some results to come. I think we need to make an effort to push forward our economic ties in this complex world,” said Tokayev, who speaks fluent Chinese.
Kazakhstan exports oil, copper and copper cathodes, copper ores and concentrates, natural gas, ferroalloys, uranium and sunflower oil to China.
Chinese imports to Kazakhstan include telephone sets, computers, electrical generator sets, ferrous metal products, tires, car and truck parts and accessories, road and construction equipment, and automobiles.
Another flagship project in the bilateral cooperation is the Belt and Road Initiative, which was put forward by Xi Jinping in 2013 in Astana and which will mark its 10th anniversary this year. The global infrastructure development initiative aims to enhance connectivity and promote economic cooperation across Asia, Europe and Africa.
In an hour-long interview, Tokayev also emphasized the enduring strategic partnership between Kazakhstan and China, saying China occupies a very important place in Kazakhstan’s foreign policy.
“I think it is very much in the long-standing interests of the Kazakh people, and I am very much committed to this kind of policy. And, of course, we have no doubts about the importance of having a strategic partnership with our immediate neighbor, China,” said Tokayev.
Tokayev sees bilateral relations as “open and sincere.”
“The fact is China is second in terms of its economy in the world. So we should acknowledge the role of China, and we need to build a very good relationship with your country,” he added.
In this regard, people-to-people contacts are essential.
“I am very much committed to developing cooperation and friendly ties between the youth of both countries. The younger generation must be well-acquainted about each other,” said Tokayev.
Central Asia benefits from cooperation with China
The cooperation between Central Asia and China is also promising. Tokayev said his expectations from the upcoming in-person summit, the first of its kind since the establishment of formal relations 31 years ago, are high.
“China plays an increasingly important role in our part of the world, in Central Asia, and it is quite natural. I think all my colleagues in Central Asia would agree with me that we benefit from our relations with China. And we will be doing our best in order to promote this kind of cooperation,” said the Kazakh President.
Kazakhstan’s important role
Tokayev underlined Kazakhstan’s important role in bridging trade routes and international relations.
“I believe Kazakhstan’s future must be bright. That’s why I put all my efforts to promote the further development of Kazakhstan as an advanced country with a very developed economy,” he said.
Tokayev reiterated the country’s multi-vector, balanced foreign policy, describing it as a “historic destiny.”
“It is our historic destiny to be peaceful, to benefit from friendly relations with all countries, particularly with our immediate neighbors, where China plays an extremely important role,” he said.
Kazakhstan’s stance on Taiwan
When asked by the journalist about Kazakhstan’s stance on Taiwan, Tokayev said “there should be no two Chinas.”
“Taiwan is part of China. So the principle of the territorial integrity of all states has been fixed in the United Nations Charter, which must be respected. And this principle is also included in the declaration and in the Charter of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. So, once again, it is absolutely clear for us that Taiwan is part of China. We have no hesitation about that,” he concluded.