After being hosted by one dubiously elected former Soviet strongman, Xi Jinping continued his foreign tour with a stop in Kazakhstan, where he met with president Nursultan Nazarbayev.
China and Kazakhstan pledged Saturday to promote bilateral trade and energy cooperation and push forward their natural gas pipeline project.
The two countries made the pledge in a joint declaration issued after talks between visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev.
In the document, the two sides vowed to keep on tapping potential in economic and trade cooperation, optimizing bilateral trade structure, promoting trade facilitation, building more platforms and working toward the goal of increasing bilateral trade volume to 40 billion US dollars in 2015.
Central Asian quasi-dictatorships and the human rights abuses which occur within them are often overlooked by western media. What coverage that does exist is often fawningly positive, or skims over the less palatable behaviour of dictatorial leaders like Nazarbayev, thanks to the work of western PR companies (and Tony Blair).
As Joshua Frost writes in Foreign Policy, Kazakhstan’s national wealth — which is what attracts suitors both Chinese and western — doesn’t tell the full story:
Oil workers in the western town of Zhanaozen spent most of 2011 protesting unfair labor practices. In December of that year, Kazakh security forces swept through the town to end the protesters, killing at least 16 people. Dozens more were beaten by police. And, while Almaty and Astana boom, the countryside languishes in abject poverty. A 2008 study found that Kazakhstan’s energy and mineral windfalls are concentrated in just a few cities and among a relatively small number of people.
In his last election, Nazarbayev won over 95 percent of the vote, a result that would make even a bare-faced election rigger like Vladimir Putin blush. Unsurprisingly, independent observers questioned the fairness of the election. Kazakh security services have also targeted journalists critical of the regime and human rights activists.
Western nations — particularly the US and the UK — long traded in their principles in the name of doing business with Kazakhstan. China, with far less principles to worry about, is also happy to do business with Nazarbayev’s oil-rich regime and other central Asian dictators (Xi visits Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan next).
[Image credit: Xinhua]