China, Kazakhstan strengthen economic cooperation via Belt and Road

Updated 2017-06-08 17:26:57 Xinhua

In ancient times, caravans trekked through the desert and took Chinese silk, chinaware and tea to Central Asia, facilitating trade via the Silk Road. [Special coverage]

Now, freight trains have replaced the caravans, travelling across Central Asia and Europe, carrying commodities including wine, agricultural products and electronics.

As an important transit point on both the ancient Silk Road and today's Silk Road Economic Belt, Kazakhstan has historically played a vital role connecting China with the rest of the world. With the help of the Belt and Road Initiative, China-Kazakhstan cooperation is showing fresh vitality.

In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the building of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road in Kazakhstan and Indonesia, respectively, which later evolved into the Belt and Road Initiative.

A lot has been achieved since then. Less than a year after Xi's proposal of the Silk Road Economic Belt, the first phase of a logistics terminal jointly built by China and Kazakhstan went into operation in the port of Lianyungang in east China's Jiangsu Province, offering the land-locked country a means to send goods overseas.

In February 2015, the first cargo train carrying nearly 100 containers left Lianyungang bound for Kazakhstan's Almaty, reducing the transportation time and cost for both sides.

"We have a saying that landlocked Kazakhstan has no need for an ocean because China is the ocean for our nation," said Benedikt Sobotka, chief executive of Eurasian Resources Group, a natural resources producer.

According to Ning Jizhe, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, as of mid-May, China and Kazakhstan had signed cooperation projects worth 27 billion U.S. dollars, set up a 2-billion-dollar cooperation fund and earmarked loans of 15 billion dollars for the same purpose.

Some 34 projects, including copper mines, aluminum smelters and cement plants, have been completed and put into operation in Kazakhstan, while another 43 are under construction.

These projects will "increase Kazakhstan's industrial development, create jobs and promote local economic development," Ning said.

During the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held around one month ago in Beijing, the two countries signed deals that will further boost economic cooperation.

China COSCO Shipping Corporation and Jiangsu Lianyungang Port Co. jointly bought 49 percent of the dry port located in the Khorgos-East Gate special economic zone, an inland port near the China-Kazakhstan border.

The cooperation between China and Kazakhstan has gone far beyond infrastructure and resources. Collaboration in fields including clean energy, agriculture, and tourism are also high on the agenda for top officials from both sides.

As Xi embarked on his state visit to Kazakhstan Wednesday, more deals benefiting both countries are expected.

During his visit from June 7 to June 10, Xi will attend the 17th meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the opening ceremony of the World Expo in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan.

The highly anticipated visit will inject new momentum into the development of bilateral relations between China and Kazakhstan and chart the future course for the SCO, analysts said.

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