Kazakhstan affected by "anti-Chinese wave"

Kazakhstan affected by "anti-Chinese wave"

On the eve of visit of Kazakh President Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev to Beijing, which will begin on September 11, a wave of rallies against Chinese expansion was held across Kazakhstan. Citizens are unhappy with construction of 55 Chinese enterprises in Kazakhstan. Protest rallies that began on September 2 in the city of oil workers in Zhanaozen have already reached almost all the major cities of Kazakhstan - Nur-Sultan, Almaty, Karaganda, Shimkent, Aktobe and Uralsk. These rallies, which are still few in number, are held under the slogan "Say no to Chinese expansion."

Chinese ambassador to Kazakhstan Zhang Xiao had to make a statement on this matter. He noted that anti-Chinese actions were directed against cooperation between Beijing and Nur-Sultan, especially since they began on the eve of Tokayev’s visit to China. Since the agenda of Kazakhstani leader's visit is friendly and aimed at development of economic relations, "such actions are directed precisely against this important event in bilateral relations." Diplomat suggested that there were “certain forces” behind the protesters who are trying to promote anti-Chinese sentiments among Kazakhstani people “solely out of selfish geopolitical interests.” In addition Zhang Xiao called statements made at the rallies that China plans to occupy the territory of Kazakhstan and even relocate the population from China to Kazakhstan "utter nonsense," as well as "naive and ridiculous." Chinese diplomat also hinted who benefited the most from escalation of tension: "There's world oil and gas giant, who came here earlier than everyone else, who has snatched the most, who still enjoys all kinds of preferences, which others don’t have, and works in the Kazakhstani market. It’s weird to turn a blind eye to all of this."

Political scientist, deputy director general of the Center for Strategic Assessments and Forecasts Igor Pankratenko believes that Chinese diplomat is right on almost every point. “The threat of Chinese expansion, Beijing's plans to occupy foreign territories and resettle them with immigrants from China - favorite slogan of Sinophobes in the post-Soviet space - is really nothing but nonsense. True, this delusional and completely ignorant slogan is extremely tenacious and is often met with widespread support among the masses,” Pankratenko told Vestnik Kavkaza. In his opinion, it's also obvious that there's “geopolitical need” for such sentiments. Of course, we're not talking about certain center in the West, where residents of the State Department are working on introduction of sinophobic sentiments into consciousness of the progressive Central Asian community and civil activists. "It's much subtler than that - there is a hint, there is silence, there is proper intonation and suggestive articlse, which create doubts in the minds of people. But that's not the most important thing when it comes to the surge of sinophobia in Kazakhstan. And not only in Kazakhstan, but also in Kyrgyzstan. There is something else that Chinese diplomat said nothing about. And he couldn’t say anything about it due to the fact that his words, although they would be true, would be considered “interference in internal affairs of a sovereign state,” expert noted.

He believes that we just have to trace these events to where it all began. In Zhanaozen, one of the most problematic cities in Kazakhstan, during an unsanctioned rally, people expressed dissatisfaction with Kazakh-Chinese intergovernmental agreement, according to which Chinese side is going to finance construction of 55 enterprises worth total of $27 billion. These are not new projects. These enterprises were announced back in 2015 when cooperation plan was signed with intent to integrate the Nurly Zhol and Silk Road Economic Belt programs, within the framework of which a list of joint projects was formed. Website of the government of Kazakhstan says that 12 projects from this list have already been implemented. This year, countries expect to launch five more projects worth $310 million, including construction of solar power plants, hydroelectric power stations, and meat factory. 11 more projects worth $5.5 billion are under implementation. However, activists of the rallies argue that it's not construction of new enterprises that makes them mad, but transfer of old Chinese factories to Kazakhstan, with Chinese workers working at them them.

All attempts of Kazakhstani officials to convince people that that's not the case have failed. People insist that the land is a national treasure and that Chinese are quietly conquering Kazakhstan. Public believes that the government is unable to defend national interests, and officials sign contracts that are disadvantageous for Kazakhstan with China. 

According to director of the Center for Chinese Studies "China Center", political analyst Adil Kaukenov, people are protesting because they don't trust the state foreign and domestic policy of Kazakhstan. “Social problems that have accumulated over the years, there's tiredness from devaluations and crises, lack of a sense of prospects for bright future, so all of these sentiments spill over into anti-government rallies. Sinophobia serves as an excellent trigger that helps to accuse authorities of conspiring with outside forces, and state officials can’t explain situation clearly anymore, because there was lack of public policy over the decades, skills and mechanisms of work with population have disappeared,” he believes.