Kazakhstan key in China’s connectivity initiative

December 16, 2015 03:35 am | Updated March 24, 2016 10:05 am IST - ZHENGZHOU (CHINA)

China is looking at Kazakhstan as the bridgehead in Central Asia to unroll its ‘Belt and Road’ connectivity initiative across the Eurasian landmass, in partnership with Russia.

Ahead of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) heads of government conference on Tuesday, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang covered extensive ground with his Kazakh counterpart Karim Massimov.

On Monday, a joint communiqué signed between Premier Li and Mr. Massimov covered joint forays in industry, agriculture, energy and regional connectivity, elevating ties to a new level. Mr. Li pointed out that among the 52 bilateral “early-harvest projects,” those related to automobile assembly and polypropylene had already been launched, while construction on a light railway transportation system in Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital, will start by the year-end. A dozen more projects in steel, smelting and cement are expected to kick off next year, Xinhua reported.

The China Railway Group will assist in constructing 22.4 km light railway in Astana. It will have 18 stations and one depot, according to a Sino-Kazakh deal signed in May this year. A China-Kazakhstan capacity cooperation fund, linked to the $40 billion Silk Road Fund, is expected to finance some of the proposed mega projects.

Analysts say that the Kazakhstan is on course to becoming a new “growth engine” that will help absorb China’s excess capacity in cement, steel, glass and other construction material areas that have been badly hit by the domestic economic slowdown.

A China-Kazakhstan capacity cooperation fund, linked to the $40 billion Silk Road Fund is expected to finance some of the proposed mega projects.

Mr. Massimov, on his part, hailed the “remarkable” progress in Beijing-Astana ties, and looked forward to the opportunities that would result from China's Belt and Road projects, "Made in China 2025" initiative and "Internet Plus" strategies - all geared to substantiate China’s transition to a “new normal” economy.

He also advocated stronger ties in gas exploration, nuclear power, infrastructure, finance, agriculture, aviation and environmental protection. The two sides are also expected to strengthen financial ties, which included establishment of an international financial center in Astana, the joint communiqué said.

At the SCO conference, where the Chinese Prime Minister and Mr. Massimov were seen engaged in detailed conversation, Mr. Li pointed out that grouping had entered a new phase. Sitting on the crossroads of civilisations, religions and cultures of the east and the west, peace and stability in the SCO zone will contribute significantly to the well being of the globe.

Mr. Li stressed that security cooper ration must be strengthened as SCO countries account for the two-thirds of the area of the Eurasian continent and a quarter of the world’s population. He added the grouping abides by the postwar world order, the spirit of the U.N. charter. He emphasised that the SCO must remain committed to “the settlement of international disputes on the principles of mutual respect, non-interference and building a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation”.

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