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Kazakhstan unrest can have direct bearing on China

Kazakhstan unrest: Thousands have been arrested

The political unrest in the natural resource rich Kazakhstan could have a direct bearing on China, though the situation has been somewhat brought under control. China has large investments in Kazakhstan, which also serves as a vital link between Beijing and the rest of Europe. The multi trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) too runs through the country.

“The unrest has stirred concerns about the impact on Chinese companies operating in the country, which has been showered with investment under President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative,” South China Morning Post said in a report.

The Chinese embassy in Kazakhstan has already issued an advisory, asking its companies and citizens residing in the Central Asian country to continuously monitor the situation.

Also read: Thousands of jihadists involved in Kazakhstan unrest, confirms Russia

Experts told India Narrative that Beijing's concerns would increase further if protests continue as the two countries share a common border. “The Chinese would be worried, not only has Beijing made huge investments in the Central Asian country, the two have a common border. Also protests in Kazakhstan could have a ripple effect across the other Central Asian countries,” an analyst said.    

In 2019, the Kazakh government was forced to publish details on the Chinese investments. China Dialogue revealed, there were 55 Chinese projects with half of the investment totalling about $27.6 billion in the oil and gas sector and the rest are in mining and ore processing, machine manufacturing, energy and food production.

Trade between the two countries stood at $21.43 billion in 2020, according to Beijing based Global Times.

Despite this, anti-China protests in Kazakhstan are not uncommon.

In September, 2019, anti-China protests broke out across several cities Kazakhstan. Claiming that the Chinese companies were eating into their jobs market, protestors held banners saying “No to China expansion.”

In 2016 too, anti-China protests erupted “against a planned land reform which its opponents said would have allowed foreigners to scoop up huge swathes of Kazakh farmland,” news agency Reuters reported.

Lack of transparency in the style of operation has also resulted in discomfort and anxiety for the local Kazakhs. Many of them are worried about the environmental implications.

The mounting unrest within the country has forced its government to seek help from Russia, something that may not go down well with China.

An India Narrative report earlier said, “Interestingly, the jury is out on whether Russia’s audacious move may also have a message for China, which shares a border with Kazakhstan and threatens to intrude into Moscow’s backyard, right now with its economic heft, but which could easily mutate into rival political influence. Russia and China are already engaged in a low intensity battle between Moscow’s vision of the Eurasian Economic Union and China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) across the Eurasian mainland.”

Also read: Russia wins by capping intense power struggle in Kazakhstan

Global Times, in an editorial published a day ago, noted that given the importance of Kazakhstan to the BRI and its energy imports, the Central Asian state's stability represents a high stakes issue for China. The news organisation even advocated assistance by Beijing to restore law and order in the country.

“The fact is that as of now China has not been involved and Beijing cannot unilaterally involve itself in restoring peace, we need to watch the developments in the coming days,” the analyst added.