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Home » China-Central Asia: a surge in activity

China-Central Asia: a surge in activity

by Elis Carter
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The Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the PRC held several meetings with Chinese colleagues, and the Ambassador of the PRC to the Republic of Kazakhstan discussed investment, trade and economic cooperation with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan. 

The Chinese Ambassador to Uzbekistan ends his work in the country with a series of meetings. Uzbekistan also shared data on mutual trade with China for some goods. Kyrgyzstan published information on the import of clothing from China and did not miss another opportunity to talk about the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway project. For the first time in three years, Tajikistan sends its trucks to China and announces the launch of air traffic. Meanwhile, Russia began to show activity in the region, trying, in particular, to cut a “gas window” to China through Central Asia.

Kazakhstan

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kanat Tumysh held a meeting with the Ambassador of China to Kazakhstan Zhang Xiao, the press service of the Kazakh Ministry wrote on February 2. It is reported that during the meeting, the participants discussed “the state and prospects for the development of the Kazakh-Chinese comprehensive strategic partnership.” The Kazakh side paid special attention to “trade, economic and investment cooperation in the post-pandemic period.” It is also emphasized that the participants noted “the positive dynamics of growth in the indicator of bilateral trade, which in 2022 amounted to 24.1 billion US dollars.” True, this figure is $7 billion lower than the one reported by the Chinese customs, which stated that the countries traded $31.17 billion.

Meanwhile, Kazakh Ambassador to China Shakhrat Nuryshev met with Chairman of the PRC State Committee for Nationalities Affairs Pan Yue, the press service of the Kazakh Foreign Ministry wrote on February 1. Nuryshev drew the interlocutor’s attention to “the need to create favorable conditions for free travel between the two countries of citizens of the People’s Republic of China of Kazakh nationality”, and also announced the readiness of Kazakhstan “to provide scholarships for trainingin the universities of the Republic of Kazakhstan” and organize thematic events. Pan Yue, for his part, “supported the proposals of the Kazakh side.” The key outcome of the meeting was “an agreement to assist in the reunification of families who remained on opposite sides of the border during the pandemic.” The treatment of ethnic Kazakhs in China, especially sending them to so-called “re-education camps” (actually strict regime colonies ) , including for cross-border communication , is one of the problematic issues in relations between Beijing and Astana. 

Then, on February 3, Nuryshev met with Deputy Secretary of the Party Committee, Deputy Mayor of Lianyungang City, Yang Xinzhun. The parties discussed “the transit and transport sector, and also outlined plans for cooperation in the field of investment and electronic commerce,” the Kazakh Foreign Ministry said on February 3. The Ambassador noted the growth of railway transportation from Kazakhstan to China in 2022 (we wrote about this earlier) and “the special role of the Kazakh-Chinese terminal in the port of Lianyungang”, which has been operating since 2015. Nuryshev also spoke about delays in the supply of some goods “from China and the countries of East and Southeast Asia, transiting through the PRC”, and asked to pay special attention to this process. Yang Xinzhun spoke about plans for 2023: development of the portLianyungang and the One Belt, One Road initiative, as well as the readiness of the city’s companies to invest in joint projects with the Republic of Kazakhstan in the field of electronic commerce.

On February 4, the LS publication spoke about investment projects in the Zhambyl region. Chinese companies are participating in the launch of production for the production of vaccines for animals, the cost of which is 11.5 billion tenge. 49 people will be able to work on it. Another joint initiative with Chinese investors is a company to “recycle zinc-lead waste from metallurgical production”, the total cost of which is 10 billion tenge, it will help create 200 jobs. The timing of the implementation of these projects is not reported.

Reuters wrote about the increase in oil supplies from Kazakhstan, bypassing Russia, citing data on deliveries towards China. In a February 2 news story, the publication writes that “Kazakhstan’s oil exports via routes other than Russia reached 1.80 million tons (36,000 bpd) last year, up 638,000 tons from 2021. year.” 1.26 million tons of fuel were delivered to China from the Republic of Kazakhstan. As for the main supply route through the Russian Federation – the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) – deliveries through it in 2022 fell by 1% compared to 2021 to 51.99 million tons, which is more than 80% of the total volume of oil supplies from Kazakhstan “.

Kazakh Energy Minister Bolat Akchulakov spoke about the negotiations between Kazakhstan and Russia on “gasification of the northern and eastern regions [of the Republic of Kazakhstan] with Russian gas, ” Kommersant reported on February 1. One of the payment options could be “organizing gas supplies from Russia to Kazakhstan in exchange for pumping in the direction of Uzbekistan and China.” Russia, having lost the European gas market, is actively looking for new markets, including trying to arrange supplies to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, as well as through them in transit to China.

The Russian investment company AFK Sistema can buy a Volkswagen plant in the Russian Federation, as well as “attract the Kazakh automaker Allur into the project ”, the shares of which are owned by Chinese companies. Kommersant writes in a February 6 news report that “the majority owner (51%) of the group in 2020 was C & J Ned Auto B. V. , which is owned by China National Machinery Import & Export Co. , Ltd and Anhui Jiangqi Investment Co. , Ltd. “

Cars from China began to be delivered to Russia through Kazakhstan in containers by rail. The Russian company FESCO “organized the shipment of new electric vehicles from the Chinese city of Guangzhou to Moscow through the Khorgos-Altynkol (China-Kazakhstan) border crossing, ” Interfax reported on January 31. The route takes 14 days, from February the trains will include “50 forty-foot containers” and will depart once a month.

Another railway train was launched in the Russian Federation. An express train on the China-Europe route on a new route from Chinese Handan to Moscow crossed the Khorgos checkpoint on the Kazakh-Chinese border, CRI – online reported on February 2 . The note says that the train with 41 containers of auto parts and equipment worth $2 million will cover the route in 15 days. “Currently, the Handan International Land Port has opened four directions of railway routes to Central Europe and Central Asia, including Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and other countries,” Zhang Jianming, Director of the Handan International Land Port, commented on the news.

Uzbekistan

Chinese Ambassador to Uzbekistan Jiang Yan is completing his diplomatic mission in the country. The diplomat summed up the results of five years of work in an author’s article, published on February 3 in several Uzbek media at once. On February 4, the article was published on the embassy website. In a text entitled “May the friendship between China and Uzbekistan prosper forever!”, the ambassador emphasized that during her work, the countries have achieved “fruitful results in practical cooperation.” Thus, in particular, “the trade turnover between the two countries has maintained its upward trend, doubling from $4.96 billion in 2017 to almost $10 billion in 2022.”

On the day the article was published, Jiang Yan met with Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan Bakhtiyor Saidov, who stated that “today Uzbek-Chinese relations have reached an unprecedented high level, acquired a systemic and intensive character,” the press service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan wrote . The next day, the ambassador met with Chairperson of the Senate of Uzbekistan Tanzila Narbayeva, the Dunyo news agency reported on February 5. The parties exchanged views on “strengthening and developing inter-parliamentary cooperation”, “activating the activities of the inter-parliamentary cooperation group, as well as establishing a regular exchange of visits of parliamentary delegations of the two countries.” Who will replace Jiang Yan as ambassador, as well as the date of her departure, has not yet been officially announced.

China leads the market for the supply of cars to Uzbekistan, the press service of the State Statistics Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan announced on February 3. According to the agency, 11,159 vehicles were imported from China to the country in 2022. The second and third places are occupied by Korea (9,414 cars) and Kazakhstan (7,208 cars).

Another figure, which the press service of the State Statistics Committee shared on February 6, concerns the import of tangerines for 2022. In this ranking, China ranks 2nd with 5.8 thousand tons. The first and third places respectively were occupied by Pakistan (51.1 thousand tons) and Turkey (4.3 thousand tons). The note also emphasizes that “Uzbekistan imported 63.6 thousand tons of tangerines from 12 foreign countries in the amount of 15.8 million US dollars”, which is 28.3 thousand tons more than in 2021.

Exports of Uzbek red beans to the Chinese market will increase, the Dunyo news agency said on January 31. According to the data given in the note, over the last four months of last year, 2,000 tons of red beans were supplied to China. Moreover, deliveries were carried out by more than 80 Uzbek enterprises. The reason for the increase in supplies is the entry into force of the interdepartmental protocol “On the requirements for supervision, quarantine and phytosanitary conditions for the export of Uzbek beans from Uzbekistan to China”, signed during the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Uzbekistan in September 2022 during the SCO summit.

Kyrgyzstan

The head of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Kyrgyz Republic Akylbek Japarov spoke again about the construction project of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway , the Kabar agency reported on February 3 . In his speech at a meeting of the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council, Zhaparov mentioned that “on the start of construction” of the railway, “active work is underway.” He stressed that the project “will open up new opportunities for the supply of goods of the Eurasian Economic Union to the countries of South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. The Kyrgyz Republic is ready to work with all partners to implement joint projects in all sectors of the economy.”

China has become the leader in the export of clothing to Kyrgyzstan, the Kabar agency wrote on February 6, citing the National Statistics Committee of the Kyrgyz Republic. According to the information given in the note, China sent 11.42 million sets of clothes to Kyrgyzstan for a total of $746,000. True, how these figures correspond to reality is not entirely clear: as we mentioned earlier, the data of the PRC and the Kyrgyz Republic on mutual trade are strikingly different.

Tajikistan

Tajik trucks entered China for the first time in three years , the press service of the Ministry of Transport of the Republic of Tatarstan reported on January 30. Previously, entry into China was limited due to the coronavirus pandemic from 2020, so goods from China were delivered only to the border, where they were then reloaded onto Tajik trucks. At the same time, as the ASIA – Plus agency notes in its January 31 news, “during the acceptance and transfer of goods, Tajik consignees had to pay separately for the container, the real cost of which, according to Tajik suppliers, was overstated by more than 5 times.” Minister of Transport Azim Ibrokhim in a commentary to Sputnik in the newson Feb. 1, said he expected “a significant increase in trade with China.” True, the “increase” relative to which figure is not clear: China’s and Tajikistan’s trade data appear to have significant inconsistencies . 

The lifting of restrictions also affected air traffic between Tajikistan and China. The General Director of Somon Air, Abdulkosim Valiev, at a press conference on February 1, said that direct flights with China would be restored on February 8, his words are quoted by the Avesta agency .in a note dated February 1. “Currently, flights in this direction are carried out once a week by a Chinese airline. From February, flights will be carried out on a parity basis,” the note says. According to Valiyev, in February the flight will operate once a week, in March the company plans to increase the frequency up to two times. Also, the head of Somon Air said that the air carrier plans to purchase new aircraft, which in the future will allow opening new directions: “Dushanbe – Xiyan, Guangzhou and other cities of China”.

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