Half of China’s investment in Kazakhstan is in oil and gas

(The Third Pole.net, 7 Nov 2019) Joint projects worth USD 27.6 billion are heavily skewed toward fossil fuels and extractive industries.

The Kazakhstan government has finally published a list of the 55 projects its neighbour China has invested in. About half of the investment total of USD 27.6 billion is in oil and gas projects. An itemised list of the projects and their cost has been made available in Kazakh and Russian. Only a summary is available in English. Rather than try and compete with China in producing goods, the Kazakh government has focused on industrial cooperation as the best means to develop its economy.

The government had previously mentioned the 55 projects in documents and speeches. Since at least 2015, international policy experts and environmental activists have been requesting the list be made public. They were told the projects were too commercially sensitive to be disclosed. In response, the experts argued that more information would help answer public questions about Belt and Road projects and counter the growth of anti-China sentiment in Kazakhstan.

Secrecy has been counterproductive before. In 2016, the lack of public participation in decisions relating to the agricultural sector led to mass protests against “selling farmland to foreigners”. Ultimately, the government was forced to delay (until 2021) amendments to the Land Code that would allow foreigners to rent land for up to 25 years rather than 10.

The choice not to disclose the information publicly may have been prompted by Russia’s experience. In 2008, Moscow published a full list of planned projects with China in its border regions up to 2018. The catalogue featured 100 projects mainly in natural resource extraction for exports and complementary projects in China to produce added-value products from those raw materials. The projects were ridiculed by media and civil society as “colonial”, which contributed to their failure. A new programme between the countries is not publicly available.

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The Third Pole.net, 7 Nov 2019: Half of China’s investment in Kazakhstan is in oil and gas