China's Xi pledges deeper Kazakh ties in times of 'prosperity and adversity'
By Andrew Hayley
XIAN, China (Reuters) -China wants to further deepen relations with Kazakhstan in times of both "prosperity and adversity", President Xi Jinping told his visiting Kazakh counterpart on Wednesday.
This week, China will for the first time host an in-person summit of Central Asian leaders, building ties in Russia's backyard as Beijing's relations with the West sour.
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan - previously part of the Soviet Union - are all seeking other sources of investment as Moscow channels its resources into the war in Ukraine.
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan, a vast steppe nation with rich energy and agricultural resources, was the first of the five Central Asian leaders to arrive in the northwestern Chinese city of Xian for the summit.
China and Kazakstan should "promote the construction of a China-Kazakhstan community with a shared future featuring friendship from generation to generation, a high degree of mutual trust, together in prosperity and adversity," Xi said.
"Your state visit to China demonstrates the high level of relations between our two countries and once again confirms the indissoluble bond with China."
Kazakhstan will target $40 billion in annual two-way trade with China by 2030, up from over $31 billion in 2022, Tokayev told Xi.
"Kazakhstan is interested in expanding the export of agricultural products to China," he said, praising Xi for his ambitious Belt and Road infrastructure initiative that has boosted transport connectivity.
"Kazakhstan is ready to deliver legumes, high-quality and ecologically clean frozen beef and lamb," Tokayev added.
China's trade with the five Central Asia states has multiplied one hundred-fold since the establishment of diplomatic ties three decades ago, after the break-up of Soviet Union. Investment between China and the five nations reached a record high of over $70 billion in 2022.
The inaugural China-Central Asia leaders summit was held online last year due to COVID-19.
The choice of Xian as the venue for the first in-person summit is a symbolic nod to history as the city was pivotal in the ancient Silk Road trade route that once spanned Central Asia.
(Reporting by Andrew Hayley; Writing by Ryan WooEditing by Gareth Jones)