BEIJING – Chinese President Xi Jinping and visiting Kazakh counterpart Kassym-Jomart Tokayev affirmed on Wednesday their commitment to multilateralism, agreed to strengthen their strategic partnership and to step up cooperation between the neighboring nations in all areas.
“Our relations must rise to a new level. I am ready to work with you to announce that our two countries will work together in a spirit of mutual assistance and cooperation to develop our eternal strategic partnership,” Xi said during talks with Tokayev.
After meeting for about an hour at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Xi and Tokayev signed a series of bilateral agreements and a joint declaration advocating the “general development of broad and permanent strategic partnerships in a spirit of mutually beneficial cooperation.”
“I believe that this agreement reached at the highest level, is a sound legal and political framework for our future cooperation,” Tokayev said.
The heads of state agreed to intensify economic, commercial, scientific and technological cooperation and strengthen transportation infrastructure between the two countries.
According to the joint declaration, the two leaders pledged to preserve multilateralism and a free market economy and to promote a more active role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in regional and international affairs.
The SCO is an intergovernmental political, economic, and security alliance comprising Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Their signed declaration also calls for increased security cooperation to “jointly meet challenges.”
“China is our neighbor, our friend, the second largest economy in the world. Kazakhstan attaches great importance to this visit,” Tokayev said earlier Wednesday during a meeting with China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi.
“The first state visit of President Tokayev to China is very symbolic as it takes place at the invitation of President Xi in the run-up to the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the People’s Republic of China,” Deputy Foreign Minister Roman Vassilenko told EFE.
The Kazakh leader on Wednesday delivered a speech at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and opened the sixth session of the Kazakhstan-China Business Council, during which he recalled that trade with China last year increased 11.4 percent to $12 billion.
According to the Kazakh Economy Ministry, trade between China and Kazakhstan during the first half of this year increased by 31 percent to reach $6.8 billion, while total Chinese investments during the same period increased by 22 percent to $362 million.
The 66-year-old head of state also highlighted the fact that the Central Asian country had made significant efforts to create a favorable investment climate, so much so that it is currently ranked 28th on the World Bank’s list of the best countries with which to do business.
Since its independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan has attracted more than $300 billion in direct foreign investment, leading the countries of Central Asia, the president said.
Tokayev’s visit takes place in the midst of increased anti-Chinese sentiments in Kazakhstan, where rallies took place in five cities last week to protest Chinese investment projects there.
Kazakh political analyst and director of the pro-reform Risk Assessment Group, Dosym Satpayev, told EFE that there were four reasons to explain the rise of anti-Chinese sentiment in Kazakhstan.
“The first reason is historical memory, when China was seen by the Kazakh people as an enemy laying claim to our land. The second reason is the distrust Kazakhs have towards their own authorities, who may fall into corruption when it comes to carrying out transactions with China,” he said.
The third reason lies within China itself, he notes.
“The re-education camps for ethnic Kazakhs and other Muslim peoples (Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Uzbeks and Kyrgyz) gave rise to indignation. The creation of such camps is a direct violation of human rights and is inhumane,” Satpayev stressed.
He said he expected anti-Chinese sentiment to intensify, not only in Kazakhstan, but also in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – the largest debtors to China.
Satpayev blamed the fourth reason for the rise of anti-Chinese sentiment on external factors.
“Central Asia is a battleground for the global powers: China, Russia, Europe and the US. We can’t rule out that rivals will use information warfare against each other. One should expect to be bombarded with not only anti-Chinese, but also anti-Russian and anti-American misinformation.” he said.
On Thursday Tokayev is scheduled to meet with the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, Li Zanshu, and travel to Hangzhou, the capital of China’s Zhejiang province and the home of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba to meet with its founder, Jack Ma, who announced on Tuesday that he is to step down as chairman of the multinational.