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China-led ‘Belt and Road’ initiative links Kazakhstan with sea

By  Ma Xiaoning, Zhou Hanbo, Xie Yahong and Liu Junguo (People's Daily)    15:37, April 26, 2017

Two Kazakh children accompanied by a senior Kazakh citizen are watching the Silk Road cultural relics placed in the showcase of the National Museum of Kazakhstan. (Photo by Zhou Hanbo from People's Daily)

Thanks to the China-led “Belt and Road” initiative, Kazakhstan was finally connected with the sea, local experts hailed the significance of deepened China-Kazakhstan cooperation since Chinese President Xi Jinping made the proposal in the Central Asian nation more than three years ago.

The “Belt and Road” strategic vision was first introduced by Xi during his visit to Kazakhstan in September 2013. In a speech delivered at Nazarbayev University, Xi suggested that China and Central Asia cooperate to build a Silk Road Economic Belt.

The proposal ushered in an upsurge in China-Kazakhstan cooperation on economy, trade, production capacity, energy and technology.

"I feel honored to be the president of Nazarbayev University, the place where Xi put forward the 'Belt and Road' initiative for the first time," Shigeo Katsu, president of the university, told reporters of the People’s Daily, who are visiting the country to review the progress achieved through bilateral cooperation during the past three years.

He said China has been promoting the initiative by establishing the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), guaranteeing sufficient capital, holding presentations and making investment.

"I know China is also going to host the 'Belt and Road' Forum for International Cooperation this May," Katsu added.

The "Belt and Road" initiative has endowed Kazakhstan, a country without any estuary, with a port facing the Pacific Ocean, Yerzhan Saltybayev, director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics under the Foundation of the First President of Kazakhstan, told People's Daily.

"Our railway goes all the way to China's Lianyungang, where exclusive docks have been built," explained the director, adding that with most of the China-Europe freight trains crossing Kazakhstan, Chinese commodities could reach Hamburg and Istanbul in a short time.

Kazakh public thought the country has lost its seaports when Soviet Union was dissolved, recalled Benedikt Sobotka, CEO of Eurasian Resources Group, adding that everybody back then was predicting a downturn for the country.

"But indeed, we don't need a sea at the door since China offers it to Kazakhstan," he stressed.

The Expo-2017 themed "Future Energy" to be hosted this June by Astana, capital city of Kazakhstan, will provide opportunity for China and Kazakhstan to co-build the "green Silk Road".

The site of the expo is currently under construction, with the China pavilion under a faster pace compared with others.

Kazakhstan plans to build an international financial center at the expo site after the event. China has been selected as the cooperation partner, and the first RMB clearing center in Central Asia is also expected to be established here.

Chinese Ambassador to Kazakhstan Zhang Hanhui stressed China’s extraordinary cooperation with its first comprehensive strategic partner in Asia, saying that the cooperation between the two countries has embraced unprecedented closeness.

Kazakhstan has long had a headache with the selection of crops and buyers, though it has considerable territory and abundant agricultural resources.

Given the situation, Xi, in September 2014, assured his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev that he had asked Chinese departments to address the latter’s concerns by helping it export more agricultural products and mineral resources to China.

The China-Kazakhstan cooperation on agriculture was reinforced in recent years as a result. The phase-1 project of an agro-processing park co-built by Xi'an Aiju Grain and Oil Industry Group and its Kazakh partners was completed at the end of last year, and 20,000 tons of oil and flour were shipped to Xi'an, capital city of Shaanxi Province through the China-Europe freight trains in the first quarter of 2017.

At the end of this year, the quality beef, mutton, honey and milk products of Kazakhstan will reach Chinese consumers.

China and Kazakhstan have given more weight to energy and resources in their capacity cooperation, with the investment into 51 projects totaling at $27.075 billion.

Early fruits reaped from their capacity cooperation has brought tangible benefits to the enterprises and people from both sides.

Because of intensified bilateral cooperation, Kazakh singer Dimash Kudaibergen has not only won numerous Chinese fans, but also a growing popularity in his homeland after performing at Chinese music program.

The final of program was live broadcast by Kazakhstan’s national TV station Khabar. A taxi driver names Jacquin in Astana even asked the reporters whether they knew Dimash.

A lot of young locals downloaded Wechat, a popular mobile social application in China, to vote for the singer.

Zhang added that more and more young generations in Kazakhstan are traveling to China for career, further studies and language learning. Currently, almost all the government departments of the country have some employees that can speak Chinese.

Zhanara Zharmukhametova, now executive head of external affairs department of the National Museum of Kazakhstan, once studied in Xi's hometown Shaanxi province.

She, also a winner of the Chinese Government Scholarship, said proudly that Xi'an, the starting point of the Silk Road, has made her truly feel the friendliness of Chinese people and their passion for the “Belt and Road” initiative. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wu Chengliang, Bianji)

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