Ploy against Xinjiang won't hit Kazakhstan ties
2019/07/19

Editor's Note:

China and Kazakhstan have long had close economic and trade ties. Cooperation between the two countries has achieved bumper harvest since China proposed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013. June saw the first power transition in Kazakhstan since the country's independence. Will China-Kazakhstan relations maintain the development momentum after new president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev takes over? Will China-Kazakhstan relations confront new challenges amid the China-US trade war? In an interview with Global Times (GT) reporter Guo Yuandan, Chinese Ambassador to Kazakhstan Zhang Xiao (Zhang) shared his opinions on issues concerning bilateral relations, the BRI and the China-US trade war.

GT: Kazakhstan is a major country actively participating in the BRI. What has been achieved by China and Kazakhstan under the BRI framework? What is the future course?

Zhang: Over the past six years, China and Kazakhstan have actively implemented major consensus reached by leaders of the two countries and comprehensively promoted cooperation on the "Five Connectivities."

To start with, both sides worked hard to promote policy connectivity. A synergy has been developing between Kazakhstan's new economic policy, the Nurly Zhol (Bright Path), and the BRI.

Second is trade connectivity. Last year, bilateral trade reached $19.88 billion, and this year it is expected to cross $20 billion.

Third, efforts are being made to further improve infrastructure connectivity. By now, there have been more than 10,000 Europe-bound freight trains transiting Kazakhstan since 2011. And the Kazakhstan section of the Western Europe-Western China road has been completed.

Fourth, the two countries have been facilitating financial connectivity by trying to reach a local-currency-swap settlement. Fifth is people connectivity. Last December, Kazakhstan's first president Nursultan Nazarbayev called on young people in the country to learn Chinese.

Besides, during the joint development of the BRI, cooperation on production capacity has been a highlight. Currently, 55 projects have been included in the China-Kazakhstan capacity cooperation list, covering fields like oil and gas, petrochemicals, electricity generation, water conservation, agricultural and animal products processing, with a total contract value of over $27.4 billion.

GT: After President Tokayev came into office in June, will China-Kazakhstan relations maintain development momentum?

Zhang: China and Kazakhstan have long been good neighbors and friends. Since the establishment of diplomatic ties 27 years ago, China-Kazakhstan relations have been enjoying vaulting development.

Kazakhstan's new president Tokayev is a sinologist and also a friend of China. He has made outstanding contributions to the development of bilateral relations. Since coming to power, Tokayev has repeatedly stated that he would continue the policies of his predecessor. During the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit held in Bishkek (capital of Kyrgyzstan) in June, President Tokayev met Chinese President Xi Jinping and said developing relations with China is still the priority of Kazakhstan's foreign policy.

GT: Given the unstable external environment, especially the China-US trade war, are China-Kazakhstan relations facing challenges?

Zhang: People in Kazakhstan are very concerned about the US-launched trade war against China. They worry the trade war would affect Kazakhstan. The trade war will inevitably have a negative impact on China's economy. But it will not bring down the Chinese economy, nor will it damage China-Kazakhstan relations. We need to implement the consensus reached by the two countries and steadily develop the BRI. We should deepen relations and bring more development dividends to our two peoples.

GT: Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is a core area of the Silk Road Economic Belt. What role do the ethnic Kazak people in Xinjiang play in cooperation between China and Kazakhstan?

Zhang: Xinjiang is at the forefront of development of China-Kazakhstan relations. Many ethnic Kazak families in Xinjiang live across the border. They play an important role in promoting cooperation and mutual understanding in the fields of economy, trade and culture, and serve as the bridge of friendship between the two countries. It is necessary to stop individuals or organizations from using the so-called Kazak issue in Xinjiang to harm China-Kazakhstan relations, spread rumors, create fake news, and confuse the public.

GT: People with ulterior motives have been creating a hullabaloo on the internet over Xinjiang-related affairs, especially about the vocational education and training centers. Could you brief us on China's policies for governing Xinjiang and the training centers?

Zhang: Since ancient times, various ethnic groups have been living harmoniously in Xinjiang. However, the three evils, namely terrorism, separatism and extremism, have carried out a series of appalling terrorist attacks there since the 1990s, which deeply affected the people of all ethnic groups. To combat terrorism and maintain stability, the Chinese government has taken decisive measures. Setting up vocational education and training centers is among those measures and it has made remarkable achievements. The centers have nothing to do with imprisonment or persecution. Instead, the centers aim to uproot the three evil forces. Through vocational education and training, many people incited by the three forces have acquired the basic language and vocational skills and are able to lead a normal life rather than ending up as convicts. Over the past two years, no violent terrorist attack has taken place in Xinjiang and public security has significantly improved. Facts have made it obvious that China's policy of governing Xinjiang is right.

GT: What is the attitude of the Kazakh government toward the malice-driven uproar?

Zhang: Kazakhstan has always supported security and stability in China's Xinjiang, because it is significant for the peace and stability of Kazakhstan and the whole of Central Asia. People creating a fuss about Xinjiang-related affairs are after all a small group and their power has been declining because of the legal heat they face from the Kazakh government. The Kazakh government and social elites have high expectations for the development of China-Kazakhstan relations and fully apprehend China's policy on governing Xinjiang. Therefore, the weak ploy will not affect the sustained and sound development of China-Kazakhstan comprehensive strategic partnership, and the grand goal of jointly building the BRI as well as a community with a shared future for mankind.

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