China and Kazakhstan share a vast border of 1,700 km in the North Western province of Xinjiang. As with each of the post-Soviet republics on its western border, they have had border disputes dating to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990. A 1998 treaty signed between the two countries ended border demarcation issues by resolving disputed areas near the Baimurz pass and the Sary-Charndy River. To help conclude negotiations, China offered to invest in one of Kazakhstan’s biggest oil fields, construct a 3,000 km pipeline connecting the two republics, and establish a 15-year program for joint economic cooperation.
Since then, Kazakhstan has become a strategic ally in securing China’s long-term interests in the post-Soviet region. Kazakhstan’s oil, natural gas and minerals reduce China’s excessive reliance on imported oil from the Middle East. Furthermore, diplomatic relations with Kazakhstan play a key role in combating Uighur nationalism in Xinjiang province – cultural ties between the Kazakh people and the Uighurs (a Turkic ethnic group) have raised concerns in China of a potential separatist movement. While cooperation with Kazakhstan affords China a buffer zone between it and Russia, an alliance with China also helps Kazakhstan balance the heavy geopolitical influence of its Northern neighbor.
The following is a time line of mutual development projects and agreements:
- The People’s Republic of China and Kazakhstan first formed diplomatic relations on January 3, 1992. Since then, both countries have kept close ties and solved border disputes.
- In 2001, China and Kazakhstan were co-founders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (previously Shanghai Five, 1996), along with Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
- In 2005, China and Kazakhstan established a strategic partnership. Bilateral cooperation has expanded to trade, energy, science and technology, culture and even education.
- In 2007, Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev announced that further strengthening ties with China is one of Kazakhstan’s most important foreign policy initiatives in upcoming years.
- In 2008, both Nursultan Nazarbayev and Wen Jiabao paid visits to China and Kazakhstan respectively. Agreements were made to expand cooperation beyond extractive industries.
- KazStroService completed the second leg of the Kazakhstan-China oil pipeline, between Kenkiyak and Kumkol, on July 1, 2009. The pipeline is China’s first direct method of oil importation from Central Asia and has a capacity of 10 million tons per year. Construction of Line C of the pipeline is scheduled to begin this year, and will begin to supply China with natural gas by January 2014.
- As of 2011, both countries have cooperated within the UN and SCO, and cemented bilateral agreements through documents such as the Good-Neighborly Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, the China-Kazakhstan Cooperation Strategy for the 21st Century and the Blueprint for China-Kazakhstan Economic Cooperation and Development.
- China and Kazakhstan will jointly build a 1,050 km long, high-speed railway connecting Astana and Almaty by 2015. The railway will run at a maximum speed of 350 km/hour and will service up to 5 million passengers annually.
- China and Kazakhstan built the first trans-border, international free trade center in Eurasia in 2011. The center, which lies on the border of China and Kazakhstan in Horgos (Xinjiang province), was inagurated along with a railway connecting Horgos – Ah Teng Corey.
- Kazakhstan extradited Arshidin Israil, a Chinese citizen of Uighur ethnicity, to China on May 30, 2011. The abolition of Israil’s refugee mandate upheld the Kazakh-Chinese extradition agreement of 1996 and helped solidify bilateral relations between the countries. Israil was wanted by Interpol on terror charges; China has promised that he will not face capital punishment.
- Kazakhstan has begun supplying China with electric batteries worth around $30 million USD annually. In April of 2012, Kainar AKB supplied a first shipment of around 1 million batteries to FengFan Co. Ltd. Kainar AKB is the largest battery manufactuer in Central Asia – its products are regularly used in automobiles, as well as agricultural and military equipment.
- The Development Bank of Kazakhstan (DBK) and China Eximbank agreed to invest $500 million together on energy cooperation, beginning in June 2011. The announcement followed an individual loan agreement of $1.5 billion in October of 2009.
- From a $5 billion credit line for energy cooperation, China's Export-Import Bank agreed on a $1 billion construction plan for the Atyrau oil refinery, a major hub for the massive offshore Kashagan deposit now under development. This falls into the profile of Kazakhstan's program to modernize the country's three oil refineries at a cost of up to $4 billion. Chinese companies already produce 20% of all the oil produced in Kazakhstan.
- 2011, Kazakhmys PLC signed a memorandum of understanding with the China Development Bank Corp. to secure a US$1.5 billion loan facility to develop a copper project at Aktogay in Kazakhstan. Further negotiations will be undertaken to move the MOU to a full loan agreement by the end of 2011, the company said in a press release. The loan will be in addition to the existing China Development Bank's US$2.7 billion loan facility, which is being used for the development of a major copper project at Bozshakol and a series of mid-sized projects.
Bi-lateral relations and trade between these two countries will only increase over the next few years, dominated by the energy sector which already has seen 7 billion in loans from China for various projects. Whilst there is little cultural connection with China (Kazakhstan's people have long felt a deep connection to Russia, in language, culture and lifestyle) the investments speak for themselves and provide Kazakhstan with access to deeper political ties to a world power. However in the minds of ordinary Kazaks there is a fear of loosing their identity and culture to their neighbor.
We believe this relationship truly represents the much used ‘win win’ nature of Chinese investments in emerging countries. All that remains if for the two countries to agree on the nationality of their Weightlifters.