A new financial hub in Central Asia . . .
China and Kazakhstan are collaborating to advance the newly-established Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) to finance infrastructure development projects across the Eurasian continent. The AIFC, modelled after the Dubai International Financial Centre, has been jointly funded by the Shanghai Stock Exchange, the Chinese-Silk Road Fund, Goldman Sachs, and Nasdaq exchanges. In spite of questions over the AIFC’s transparency, China has prioritized Kazakhstan in its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and is hoping to make it one of the BRI’s success stories – while also increasing its stakes in the country’s gas and oil resources.
Diverging views on closer ties . . .
Last month, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who was hand-picked by his authoritarian predecessor, made his first trip to China to announce the two countries’ “permanent comprehensive strategic partnership.” While both presidents lauded the current level of economic relations, many members of the Kazakh public don’t share that view. One reason is that as many as 1.5 million ethnic Kazakhs live in China’s Xinjiang Province, which has come under international criticism for its so-called ‘political education’ campaign. Although it is not known how many Kazakhs living in China have been impacted, there are reports that some have been detained in Beijing’s harsh re-education camps.
Protests suppressed . . .
Public protests in Kazakhstan have also taken aim at closer economic ties with China, especially the increasing involvement of Chinese business entities in Kazakhstan’s infrastructure and mining sectors. Both governments continue to suppress these public protests, but they should be watched carefully by Canada, as Kazakhstan is its largest commercial partner in Central Asia. Interestingly, both Canada and Kazakhstan are member in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which has a mandate to advance human rights.
- Belt & Road News: Can Kazakhstan’s China backed financial hub boost Belt & Road funding?
- The Economist: Kazakhstan promises to allow public protests, just not yet
- The Diplomat: Kazakh President Tokayev goes to Beijing