(Asia Policy) n 2013, President Xi Jinping announced China’s Silk Road Economic Belt—the land-based component of the Belt and Road Initiative—during his visit to Astana. The choice of the venue did not seem accidental. Kazakhstan had already become a prime partner for China in Eurasia, with various connecting infrastructure projects completed or underway and with bilateral cooperation diversifying and blooming. The announced Silk Road Economic Belt Initiative promises better continental and intraregional connectivity and can only add wind into the sails of China-Kazakhstan cooperation.
This essay will give a brief overview of energy and transportation infrastructure already connecting China and Kazakhstan to show that cooperation between the two countries considerably predates the Belt and Road Initiative. Then I will discuss the complementarity of their interests and current visions for development and prosperity: China’s Silk Road Economic Belt and Kazakhstan’s Bright Path (Nurly Zhol). It is important to address the gap in perceptions of Chinese investments by the Kazakhstani ruling elites and the public at large, which will be the subject of the next section. Finally, I will analyze the implications of growing cooperation between China and Kazakhstan for the latter’s political and economic development. I will also reflect on the geopolitical aspect of the Belt and Road Initiative and raise concerns about its sustainability and potential impact on governance in Eurasia. [...]
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