Oil prices are still crawling out of the cellar. But Chinese President Xi Jinping may be paraphrasing Sarah Palin’s words, “Drill baby, drill!,” when he arrives Thursday in oil-rich Kazakhstan on the first stop of a Silk Road-inspired journey that will also take him to Russia and Belarus.
Xi’s expected to unveil a series of new Chinese-backed developments when he meets with Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayez. Oil, rail and related projects will likely be on tap in a nation sitting at the gateway of China’s “One Belt, One Road” economic zone that stretches from Central Asia to Europe. Xi’s already announced a bevvy of joint developments on a recent visit to Pakistan and is expected to do likewise in Kazakhstan.
Vestnik Kavkaza, a Caucasus region news site, reports that trade between China and Kazakhstan hit $17.2 billion last year. Chinese interests own big oil assets in the country. This includes a stake in the largest Kazakh oil field at Kashang. China firms are also pouring in money to construct oil and gas infrastructure that can pump products to the Chinese market.
Russian news agency TASS says another bilateral goal is to expand transport links and facilities so Kazakhstan can build part of a highway that links western China and Europe as part of the New Silk Road scheme.
Local reports say Xi’s also stopping in Kazakhstan to show his political support for Nazarbayev who wants to help China curb Muslim separatists in the region.
Xi will be in Russia from May 8 to 10 to attend ceremonies with President Putin celebrating the 70th anniversary of the victory over Germany in World War II.
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