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Xi's visit to Astana will further boost SCO

By Sun Zhuangzhi | China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-07 07:29

Xi's visit to Astana will further boost SCO

President Xi Jinping meets with his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev during the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing. [Photo/Xinhua]

President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to Kazakhstan from June 7 to 10, during which he will attend the 17th meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the opening ceremony of the World Expo in Astana.

Xi's trip will be the first by a Chinese leader to Central Asia this year, which marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Kazakhstan. It was during his visit to Astana four years ago that Xi proposed the Silk Road Economic Belt, the on-land component of the Belt and Road Initiative. This time, his visit to the Central Asian country is expected to influence in multiple ways the bilateral cooperation under the frameworks of the initiative and the SCO.

Since their comprehensive strategic partnership came into force in 2011, Beijing and Astana have managed to strengthen bilateral exchanges in many fields, as Kazakhstan became the first country to reach agreements with China on cross-border rail transport of goods, overland oil pipelines, and capacity cooperation. China is also its largest trade and investment partner.

With their cooperation deepening, Xi's visit is expected to add fresh momentum to the already exemplary bilateral ties. During his visit, Xi is also expected to compare notes with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on a variety of issues, release a joint statement, and witness the signing of more than a dozen cooperative deals on trade and cultural exchanges.

The two presidents, who have met 15 times on various occasions, will also witness the launch of the Eurasian cross-border transportation through video connection. Thanks to the efforts made by enterprises from both sides, an inland port near the China-Kazakhstan border allows the landlocked country's railway cargoes to reach the port of Lianyungang, East China's Jiangsu province, in five days.

Events like these could further deepen cooperation between the two sides, and China's success in improving its development path could inspire Kazakhstan to do the same as it aspires to play a bigger role in regional and international affairs. And to maintain regional stability, the two key members of the SCO, which will officially include India and Pakistan as members during Xi's visit to Astana, have to work more closely to uphold the "Spirit of Shanghai".

Since the SCO's establishment in 2001, its member states have cooperated extensively and fruitfully over not just defense issues, but also economic and cultural exchanges. The inclusion of India and Pakistan into the SCO at Astana means it will have the largest population coverage of any multilateral organization (except the UN) with great potential to counter terrorism, separatism and extremism. Under the Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure set up three years ago, the organization will continue to make efforts to root out extremism from Afghanistan and contribute to the country's peaceful reconstruction.

Calling for wider participation in the Belt and Road Initiative will also be high on Xi's agenda in Kazakhstan. And Nazarbayev has more than once expressed willingness to connect Kazakhstan's "Bright Road" economic policies with the Silk Road Economic Belt. Moreover, the two countries' cooperation in the fields of energy, railways, agriculture and high technology could encourage other economies involved in the Belt and Road Initiative to join the efforts to build a community of shared destiny.

The author is secretary general of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Research Center affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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