Premier Li Keqiang is in the Kazakh capital Astana for a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. He’s just wrapped up a two-day visit to Kazakhstan, the first by a Chinese premier in six years. It produced deals with a total value of around $14 billion.
Enhancing interconnectivity and diversifying trade. With such goals Premier Li Keqiang has overseen some 30 cooperative documents signed in Kazakhstan.
“When President Xi Jinping visited the country last year, the two sides signed deals over $10 billion. However the significance of the deals this time is much bigger. Due to lower oil prices and Russia being sanctioned by the West, the Kazakh economy is not doing as well this year. Its GDP growth has slowed while at this time China’s $14 billion deal has served as a boost of confidence to the country’s economy,” says Xu Tao, from China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.
So far Kazakhstan is the only country in Central Asia that has established a regular meeting mechanism for the their premiers, allowing officials to meet every other year to strengthen bilateral cooperation. As China’s number one investment destination in Central Asia, Kazakhstan also serves as a pivotal joint in the new Silk Road Economic Belt, which aims to revive interconnectivity and trade through Central Asia and Russia to Europe.
“The New Silk Road initiative was met with enthusiasms when President Xi proposed the idea in Kazakhstan last year. All the countries on the belt are inland countries without sea ports to export their goods, so its vitally important to boost regional connectivity through the belt so that all participants can benefit economically. As the heart on the belt Kazakhstan’s geographic location is key to connecting countries all around. China and Kazakhstan are already in talks of building more transport connections and infrastructures,” Xu says.
The Premier is also in Kazakhstan for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting for Prime Ministers, which is expected to put forward practical measures to boost cooperation among the SCO members on security, trade, and infrastructure.