The Consul General of PRC in Almaty, Zhang Wei: “We believe that the project will be successful and sustainable only if both parties are interested and gain certain benefit from it”.

CCASC: What is the biggest achievement of China since its opening reform?

The Consul General: On December 2018 China has made ceremonial celebration of the 40 years anniversary since the economic policy and openness reform was implemented. Thanks to the policy, which was aimed at internal reforms and external openness, China underwent major changes and has achieved certain developmental results which draw attention of the whole world.

40 years ago
  • GDP of China was reaching approximately $160 bln amounting to 1.8 % of the global economy.
  • GDP per capita was less than $200 taking 120th place among other countries of the world.
  • The volume of external trade turnover was only 5 % of the same indicator of the US.
  • International reserves of the country were not even reaching $1.3 bln.
  • More than 80% of population was living in rural years, per capita income was less than $100. 
  • Many Chinese people didn’t even know what tourism is.
  • There wasn’t even one single high-speed car-road in China.

40 years later (December, 2018) 
  • The volume of the economy has reached more than $13.5 trln.
  • GDP per capita has gone over $8000. 
  • The value of external trade turnover has reached almost $4 trln, and International reserves have reached $3 trln, taking first place in global rankings by these two indicators. 
  • The level of urbanization in China has reached almost 60%.
  • The poverty level in China has dramatically declined with an estimated 700 Million people being removed from poverty.
  • Tourism has become a fashionable lifestyle for Chinese to have recreation. During 2018, the number of Chinese going abroad amounted to an estimated 140 million people.
  • The total length of high-speed vehicle highways exceed 130,000 km, and cover 98% of cities with populations over 200,000 people; taking 1st place in the world.
  • The length of railroad has increased to 131,000 km. 29,000 km of that is high-speed railroad, which amounts to more than 60% of the total length of high-speed railroad in the world.
  • The trains’ speed has increased from an initial 30 km/h to 350 km/h. The cabins within, look like moveable first-class hotels, allowing passengers to travel both fast and comfortably.
  • Mobile payments, internet, quant communications, the largest passenger airplanes, “Tianyan” radio telescope (translated as “Celestial Eye”), low-diving research equipment, biomedicine, artificial intelligence, satellite navigation system “Beidou”, supercomputers, cars using new sources of energy, 4G and 5G internet and many other new high technologies are drawing the global attention.

This year, we are celebrating the 70th year anniversary of the formation of the PRC. In 70 years, China has gone from being a poor country to having the 2nd largest economy in the world.

China has chosen to develop according to the real needs and situation of the country, and is supported by the top management of the Communist Party of China. The tireless and consistent efforts to preserve political and social stability, the firm and tireless advancement of reforms in the market economy and external openness, active integration into the global economy and using opportunities of liberalizing trade and economic globalization – this is the secret behind the Chinese miracle.

As the Chairman Xi said, “You can only know whether the shoe fits if you try it on.” Sticking to our own way, through the policy of reforms and openness and learning to use the advanced concepts of experience and practice of other countries in the world, we bring in foreign investments and we implement advanced technologies. We will continue to do so.

How does China perceive itself, being one of the largest economies in the world?

Throughout the past 40 years, China has created the Chinese miracle and the GDP has increased times 80. But, China still is and will be for a long time, at the beginning stages of socialism. There are many real problems and serious challenges to be regarded, so we must take long-term measures.In 2018, the GDP of China reached over $13.5 trln. If we divide this number by the population of almost 1.4 bln people, our GDP per capita and available income only approaches the level that developed countries had at the beginning of the 1980’s. There remains an uneven development of eastern and western regions. An insufficiently high level of quality and the efficiency of economic growth among many other things, have become the current problems which are hindering high quality economic development and the social progress of China. The dreams of individuals in regards to housing, education, medical services and social security have not yet been fully realized.

How would you characterize the foreign policy of China towards Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries?

China has always stuck to the policy of being a good neighbor and a friend. We respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of these countries, and will not interfere with their internal affairs.
In our cooperation, we always stick to the principles of equality, mutual benefit and mutual win. Equality is reflected in us treating countries equally regardless of their size, power or weakness. Mutual benefit is reflected in the fact that cooperation between China and other countries does not bring with itself other ideas, such as that, one party gains and another loses. When we implement certain projects we always ask the other party whether they actually need it. We believe that the project will be successful and sustainable, only if both parties are interested and gain certain benefits from it. As neighbors of China, Central Asian countries are the priority for us in our international relations.
China always pays great attention to the development of friendly relationships with Kazakhstan and other countries of CA, to the constant advancement of mutually beneficial cooperation, and to deepening the integration of interest and joint creation of a “Community of Common Destiny”.
In 2013, Chairman XI, for the first time proposed the concept of a “Community of Common Destiny”. What is a “Community of Common Destiny”? Simply speaking, this means that if something is good for you, let it be good for others also. It is necessary to respect the interests and satisfy the needs of each other through equal and open cooperation. At the same time, together resist various kinds of risk and challenges, thus reaching common development and prosperity.
China has a saying: “If your neighbor feels good, you will feel good.” If everything is good in the world than everything will be good in China.

What are the areas of China and Kazakhstan in most need of improvement?

Throughout recent years, China and Kazakhstan have jointly put forth effort to advance the initiative to create the Silk Road Economic Belt and implement the in-depth juncture of the new economic policy of Kazakhstan “Nurly Zhol”, producing many positive results.
However, we also have to admit that business cooperation is still facing certain difficulties which require more efforts and more decisiveness.
Many Chinese companies came to Kazakhstan, but the insufficient learning of proper Kazakhstani laws led to certain economical disputes. There is currently a lack of highly qualified workers in Kazakhstan, and Chinese workers are experiencing a lot of difficulties in gaining work permits which impacts the deadlines of implementing certain projects. In technologies and specification of China and Kazakhstan, there are still certain differences between state standards. There is still the task of further expanding the sphere in joint investment of both countries into each other.
Obvious problems of cultural and humanitarian exchanges include: insufficient level of simplifying the visa regime between countries and insufficient objective mutual understanding between the people of the two countries. But, I believe the level of mutual trust and interaction of the two countries will constantly grow and these problems will finally be resolved.

In your opinion what are the biggest achievements in bilateral relations between China and Kazakhstan?

China and Kazakhstan have established all-sided strategic partnership relations, which are already at the highest level compared to the affairs between China and other countries. The leaders and the governments of these two countries are maintaining this relationship at the political level. The personal friendship of Chairman Xi and President Nazarbayev has deepened our cooperation and can guarantee its continuous promotion. Mutual trust and mutual understanding is growing every day and every year. In this framework our economic and investment partnership is developing very fast.
Last year the total trade turnover between China and Kazakhstan went over $18 bln, which is 12.9% more compared to the previous year. We have listed 55 innovative-industrial projects, which have a total cost of more than $27bln. This year many of these projects will be implemented and many are located in my consulate region.
I also need to mention cultural and educational aspects. The number of Kazakhstani students studying in China is growing every year. Today, around 17,000 Kazakhstani students are studying in China and around 4000 Chinese students in Kazakhstan. Five Confucius Institutes are already working in Kazakhstan, and more are expected to open. Some Chinese Universities have Kazakh Research centers and teach Kazakh language. Last year 10 students from Beijing University of Foreign Languages came to the Kazakh National University to learn Kazakh language. During their vacations, students visit each other and exchange knowledge. Deeper understanding between younger generations is very crucial for our future cooperation.
We need to overcome the traditional mindset that we got after the Cold War. When it comes to our cooperation, people have certain concerns, even reporters mention this during our interviews. They worry that Chinese people will come to Kazakhstan and stay here forever, that our projects will harm the environment and cause bigger pollution. I fully understand their concerns. But when I ask for an example no one can make one. That’s why I believe that we should trust each other rather than waste our time worrying about possible externalities and losing these opportunities. China always requires only using advanced technologies on their factories. We follow Kazakhstani laws, and are strongly against causing any pollution.
We should not only think about the economic benefits from the project, but also care about improving the welfare of the Kazakhstani population. We are friends and neighbors. Neighbors should help each other. For example, by opening certain educational institutions, charity activities, etc. we will only cooperate on the basis of mutual benefit and will not impose what our friends don’t want to do.

What should be done to facilitate Chinese investors’ activities in Kazakhstan? What about Kazakhstani investors’ in China?

Both sides should take measures to improve the investment environment in their countries. One of the main issues now is the visa procedures facilitation. We are constantly discussing this through our diplomatic channels. However, the solution doesn’t only come from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of both countries. Other departments should also be involved. Thus, this is very crucial both to the Government and to the investors. Last year, a new step in visa facilitation was taken. A 72-hour visa-free regime in Kazakhstan was introduced for transit passengers. But still, it is not enough.
Another issue that requires our attention is the misunderstanding between the people of these two countries. We should put our efforts into increasing trust and developing friendship between our nations. The General Consulate always supports people-to-people contacts between universities and other organizations. More and more educational fairs have been hosted in Almaty, and the number of Chinese Universities participating in these fairs are also increasing. This is a good direction.

What are the plans of the PRC leadership on cooperation with the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan in education and science?

There is agreement between the Ministry of Education and Science of Kazakhstan and the Ministry of Education of the PRC on annual students’ exchange.
We are constantly working to expand the areas and number of students to exchange. Every year, we organize the celebration of Spring Festival in Kazakhstan. The Confucius Institute also hosts such an event. The General Consulate of PRC in Almaty and the Embassy of PRC in Kazakhstan welcomes delegations from Chinese universities. The representatives of museums and writers’ unions also visit China and have a chance to learn about modern China.
This year the Kazakh-Chinese movie “Composer” will be presented in Astana. The movie is based on historical facts and tells a story about the famous Chinese composer Xian XingHai, who lived in Almaty for 2.5 years in the 1940s. This period, was the most difficult in all his life. Here in Almaty, he met a famous Kazakh composer Baikadamov, who helped him a lot. They became good friends and composed many works together. The joint production of this movie shows the depth of our traditional friendship and we should show it to the younger generation so that they value their history.

What are the main directions of internal economic policy of China?

When and how will the reorientation be implemented from export orientation to domestic consumption? When implementing any strategy, China considers the main social contradictions. Before, we had contradiction between increasing social and cultural needs and backward production capacities. For many years, we’ve been developing according to these needs and focusing mainly on the growth rate. But now, social contradictions have changed. Now, it is a conflict between the need for a better life and an underdeveloped social security. Today, China is focused on openness strategies. Last year, we hosted the China International Import Expo in Shanghai and we will open our doors even more. Because only in this way, can we satisfy Chinese people’s needs in a better life, including education and health care. We need high-quality goods and services. For this reason, we should provide a better investment environment. At the same time, we will stick to the principles of green and sustainable development. We choose quality over quantity. In the next stages, China will broaden its cooperation areas by liberalizing trade and establishing new Free Economic Zones.

What plans does China have in terms of outer space research?

This is a very professional question. It demonstrates that you follow Chinese affairs and have noticed the very successful experiments of China in the cosmic sphere. As you may know, on January 3rd of this year, at 10.26 am BJT China’s Chang’e - 4 probe successfully landed on the far side of the moon and within an hour had successfully captured the world’s first close shot of the moon’s far side. This cosmic mission demonstrates that China has reached the global level in mastering the far outer space. Expanding the borders of cosmic activity is a common mission of the whole humanity. On its path of researching outer space, China with an open mind and open soul will develop the cooperation with other cosmic powers. I made such an example only to demonstrate that the external openness of China is also characterized by all sidedness and it covers all sectors and spheres. We are ready to study the powerful sides of other countries and to share with them our advanced experience and technologies.

What are the main priorities for China’s foreign economic policy in the next 10-15 years?

I would say that successful implementation of the BRI initiative is very important for us. It is a new major Chinese foreign policy. We are glad that this initiative was very warmly welcomed by CA countries including Kazakhstan. By implementing “Nurly Zhol” new economic policy, Kazakhstan is aiming to join 30 developed powers in the world by 2050. China has a similar policy. So, we can say that we have a common goal. China and Kazakhstan have obvious complementarities in economic structure. The Energy sector is one of the traditional ways our cooperation has been established for years. The agricultural sector, tourism, communication and infrastructure are the potential areas of future partnership. Our complementarities will enhance our cooperation in the future. We will work on this together, and share the results of our cooperation.


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