ASTANA — Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli arrived in Astana on the evening of June 24 for a visit aimed to implement the important consensus that heads of state of China and Kazakhstan reached on deepening cooperation and to find effective ways for doing so.
Zhang’s visit came as bilateral relations entered a new stage of development following President Xi Jinping’s successful state visit to Kazakhstan in May. During that visit, President Xi and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev agreed to accelerate the integration of their national economic development strategies.
President Xi first raised the Silk Road Economic Belt Initiative when he visited Kazakhstan in 2013. In his second visit to the Central Asian country more than one year later, Xi and President Nazarbayev agreed to integrate the initiative with the “Path of Light” economic strategy of Kazakhstan.
The two countries reached an agreement to strengthen cooperation on manufacturing capacities when Premier Li Keqiang visited Kazakhstan in early 2014. China has an abundant and high-level capacity of equipment manufacturing, while Kazakhstan has a great demand for steel, cement, plate glass and coal-fired power station. Both sides have decided to encourage investment in these areas and extensive processing of farm produces in Kazakhstan.
During this visit, the vice-premier will meet Kazak government leaders to explore the ways to integrate the development strategies of both sides. Given Kazakhstan is working to develop itself into a hub of transactions between Asia and Europe, it has shown a strong motivation to take an active part in building the Silk Road Economic Belt, which will bring benefits to all countries along this economic belt extending all the way from China to Europe.
The Silk Road Economic Belt, together with the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, commonly known as the “Belt and Road” Initiative, was proposed by President Xi in 2013. The Initiative brings together countries in Asia, Europe and even Africa via overland and maritime networks, with the purpose of boosting infrastructure building, financial cooperation and cultural exchanges in those regions.
Zhang, who wrapped up the visit to Serbia on the morning of June 24 and flew from Belgrade, capital of Serbia, to Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, will also discuss with the Kazhak officials on developing large-scale cooperative projects in the areas of energy, infrastructure development, manufacturing industry and agriculture.
The two sides have greatly expanded mutually beneficial cooperation over the past few years, with China remaining the top trade partner and the third largest source of foreign direct investment of Kazakhstan. The two countries reached deals worth $14 billion in December and agreed to transfer manufacturing capacity in the areas of infrastructure development, joint ventures, petrochemical products and building materials.
The two countries signed cooperative contracts worth of more than $20 billion in March when Kazak Prime Minister Karim Masimov visited China.
Zhang’s visit is expected to further advance the all-around strategic partnership between China and Kazakhstan, which is the final leg of his four-nation European trip.