China-Kazakhstan Economic Cooperation Paving Way for Next Golden Thirty Years

Chinese President Xi Jinping pays another visit to Kazakhstan on July  2-4 to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit, providing new impetus for the development of bilateral relations.

Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1992, China-Kazakhstan relations have rapidly evolved. In 2013, President Xi Jinping first proposed the Belt and Road Initiative in Kazakhstan, which Kazakhstan promptly supported and actively participated in. In 2022, the two heads of state announced the beginning of a new Golden Thirty Years in the development of bilateral relations, elevating the relationship to a permanent comprehensive strategic partnership. 

Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit on  15-16 Sept. in 2022. Photo credit: Akorda

The deepening political ties between China and Kazakhstan have been accompanied by a remarkable growth in their economic cooperation over the past three decades. Bilateral trade volume has skyrocketed from a mere $400 million at the time of establishing diplomatic ties to more than $41 billion in 2023, a 100-fold increase. China is now Kazakhstan’s main trading partner in Central Asia, with bilateral trade accounting for nearly one-third (28.3%) of Kazakhstan’s total trade volume. In the agricultural sector, Kazakhstan’s exports to China saw an annual increase of 84% in 2023. Over the past five years, the export of crop products from Kazakhstan to China has experienced significant growth, rising from 750,000 tons in 2019 to an impressive 3.5 million tons in 2023. 

In the logistics area, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the China-Kazakhstan (Lianyungang) Logistics Cooperation Base in the city of Lianyungang, located in east China’s Jiangsu Province. The base has handled over 500,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) through China-Europe freight trains, up to 80 percent of which pass through Kazakhstan, significantly reducing transportation costs for the country. These trains have transported more than 400 categories of goods, such as household appliances, pharmaceuticals, and construction materials.

Moreover, Chinese investments in Kazakhstan have grown significantly, reaching $1.81 billion in 2023, a 16.4% increase from the previous year. From 2005 to 2023, Chinese investments in Kazakhstan totaled $25.3 billion.

Energy cooperation has emerged as another crucial aspect of China-Kazakhstan economic ties. The China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline, a joint venture between Kazakhstan’s QazaqGaz and China’s Trans-Asia Gas Pipeline Company Limited, has been a significant project in diversifying Kazakhstan’s natural gas supply and developing its transit potential. The project was implemented under the bilateral agreement in 2007. Over the past 15 years, the pipeline has safely and uninterruptedly operated nearly 5,500 days, transporting about over 480 billion cubic meters of natural gas to China. The pipeline, spanning 1,300 kilometers within Kazakhstan’s territory, is designed to have a maximum annual transmission capacity of 55 billion cubic meters, with the actual volume currently exceeding 40 billion cubic meters per year. 

The two sides are also exploring cooperation in renewable energy. Chinese enterprises have been actively investing in solar and wind energy projects in Kazakhstan. The 100-megawatt photovoltaic project invested and constructed by Universal Energy was connected to the grid for power generation in 2019, contributing to the country’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. 

The strong economic ties between China and Kazakhstan are underpinned by their robust political and diplomatic relations, characterized by frequent high-level exchanges and deepening mutual trust. In 2022, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev visited China, and the two leaders announced the elevation of bilateral relations to a permanent comprehensive strategic partnership. President Xi Jinping’s visit to Kazakhstan and his attendance at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit will further strengthen the political foundation of China-Kazakhstan relations.

The two countries have also demonstrated solidarity in the face of global challenges. During the COVID-19 pandemic, China and Kazakhstan supported each other, with China providing medical supplies and vaccines to assist Kazakhstan’s fight against the virus. The two sides have maintained close communication and coordination on regional and international issues of common concern, such as the situation in Afghanistan and the promotion of regional security and stability through the SCO.

Moreover, as the world faces increasing uncertainties and challenges, China and Kazakhstan are poised to play a crucial role in promoting regional peace and stability through multilateral mechanisms such as the SCO, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), and the China-Central Asia Summit.

The China-Kazakhstan relationship has withstood the test of time and continues to grow. With a solid foundation of mutual trust, shared interests, and complementary development strategies, the two countries are well-positioned to forge an even brighter future together, bringing tangible benefits to their peoples and contributing to regional and global peace and prosperity.

The author is Gao Yingshi, a CGTN Journalist. 

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