Kazakhstan's relations with China have been growing extensively since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1992. As the first Chinese ambassador to Kazakhstan, my memory of this bilateral relationship goes back to the initial stage when the two built relations.
Usually when two neighboring countries have border disputes, this would pose potential dangers to bilateral ties. But after rounds of negotiations with the Kazakh side, China finally reached a complete and thorough settlement of the question of the 1700-kilometer-long boundary between China and Kazakhstan. This marks a milestone in the relationship between the two countries.
It has been 24 years since Kazakhstan became an independent country. Meanwhile, political, economic and people-to-people exchanges between the two have become more frequent. When I served as ambassador, the two countries had a friendly and cooperative relationship. Now it has been lifted to new heights of a comprehensive strategic partnership.
The driving force behind this achievement is the common interests of the two countries and the leadership's recognition of these common interests. Kazakhstan used to be a republic of the former Soviet Union. After its independence, it desperately needed to stand in the world in a respected and dignified way. China has treated Kazakhstan as an equal partner and taken Kazakhstan's needs into consideration.
China started to prepare for the establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in 1996, a regional bloc that aims to boost cooperation among China, Russia and Central Asian countries. The move was welcomed by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev as he believed the SCO would help the world to think of Kazakhstan as an independent sovereign country instead of an adjunct of the Soviet Union.
Economically, Kazakhstan needs to export its energy to sustain its economy and China needs to import energy to satisfy domestic demand. In the 1990s, bilateral trade was less than $500 million, while currently it has reached tens of billions.
Kazakhstan, with nearly 3 million square kilometers and abundant natural resources, deserves to play a key role on the world stage. It decided voluntarily to give up nuclear weapons, which won approval from the rest of the world. It also acts actively in world and regional institutions such as the UN, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Eurasian Economic Union.
Nazarbayev has adopted an open and wise diplomatic approach in Kazakhstan's relations with other countries. It maintains good ties with the US, the EU and Russia. Some observers contend that Kazakhstan is trying to get away from the clout of Russia, especially after the crisis in Ukraine, another Soviet republic.
As a former Soviet republic, Kazakhstan has all kinds of connections with Russia and there is no need to get rid of these. As for the possibility of another Ukrainian crisis, there are no conditions for that on the Kazakh soil.
The cause of the turmoil in Ukraine originated from the country's desire to join the EU and opposition to then president Viktor Yanukovych. The geopolitical position of Crimea also made it a contention point between the West and Russia.
Nonetheless, Kazakhstan has no intention to join the EU or NATO and few people in the country would like to return to the Russian sphere. A Ukraine-style crisis will not take place.
Kazakhstan has been trying to establish itself as an independent nation in the world for many years and it will continue its all-round diplomacy under Nazarbayev's leadership.
The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Wang Wenwen based on an interview with Zhang Deguang, the first Chinese ambassador to Kazakhstan and former deputy foreign minister of China.