In this handout picture released by Kazakhstan's presidential press service on July 3, 2024, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and visiting China's President Xi Jinping hold a briefing for media representatives following their talks in Astana

International news

The 24th summit of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was held in Astana, Kazakhstan, on July 3-4, 2024. 

The SCO, established in 2001, is an intergovernmental organization with nine member states, including Kazakhstan, China, Russia, India, Pakistan, and Iran. It represents 40% of the global population and contributes over $23 trillion to the world economy, giving it a significant role in regional and global affairs.

The summit's agenda covered several key areas, including developing common approaches to security issues like terrorism, extremism, and transnational crime. Discussions also focused on the security situation in Afghanistan and regional counterterrorism efforts. Strengthening trade and economic cooperation among member states was another priority, with Kazakhstan pushing for the creation of an investment fund and enhanced economic partnerships. Additionally, the summit aimed to expand the SCO's international influence by improving contacts with major global and regional organisations.

China's Foreign Ministry announced on June 30 that President Xi Jinping would expand his visit after the SCO summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, and pay state visits to Kazakhstan and Tajikistan from July 2 to July 6. The visits, invited by the respective leaderships of Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, aim to strengthen bilateral ties and enhance cooperation in various fields.

Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasised the importance of security cooperation within the SCO, advocating for a collective approach to combat the "three evil forces" of terrorism, extremism, and separatism. He highlighted the SCO's role in ensuring regional stability and development, proposing the Global Security Initiative (GSI) to advance global security governance. 

A significant development from the summit was the strengthening of logistical ties between China and Kazakhstan. The China-Kazakhstan (Xi'an) Trade Logistics terminal, launched in February 2024, facilitates China-Europe freight train operations, enhancing cargo transportation efficiency. This initiative has significantly boosted trade by reducing customs congestion and transportation times, demonstrating the deepening economic cooperation between China and Kazakhstan.

In just a few months, The China-Kazakhstan (Xi'an) Trade Logistics terminal in Xi'an has become a vital hub for China-Europe freight trains since its launch in February. This terminal, over 66,500 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units) per year, developed in collaboration with KTZ Express and Xi'an Free Trade Port, has significantly reduced customs congestion and transportation times, facilitating efficient cargo transfers. Over 35,000 tonnes of goods have passed through the terminal, cutting delivery times between Xi'an and destinations like Tashkent and Baku. 

In a signed article titled ”Staying True to Our Shared Commitment and Opening a New Chapter in China-Kazakhstan Relations” published by both Chinese and Kazakh media before the trip President Xi Jinping stressed the historical and cultural connections between China and Kazakhstan, highlighting the mutual benefits of their partnership. He underscored the importance of enhancing trade, economic ties, and people-to-people exchanges, reflecting on the ancient Silk Road's legacy and its modern revival through initiatives like the Belt and Road.

He praised the positive history of the China Kazakhstan relations which have affected the whole region: ”It was in Kazakhstan eleven years ago that I first proposed the initiative of the Silk Road Economic Belt, which was warmly received by people from different sectors in Kazakhstan. This marked a magnificent chapter in Belt and Road cooperation between our two countries. And the development of China-Kazakhstan relations have since entered a new stage.” He also emphasised the win-win principle which has been the cornerstone of the Belt and Road initiative: ”China and Kazakhstan have different yet complementary resource endowments and industries. This offers huge potential for cooperation. ..We need to significantly unleash the potential for cooperation in such high-tech areas as new energy, the digital economy, artificial intelligence, cross-border e-commerce, aviation and aerospace, and build more industrial and supply chains with high added-values, in order to inject new impetus to our cooperation.”

In May, China and Tajikistan committed to boosting bilateral cooperation during a meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon in Dushanbe. This followed President Rahmon's visit to China the previous year. China's involvement in Central Asia includes pledging billions of dollars to major infrastructure projects, such as the ambitious China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan (CKU) highway, which is set to improve connectivity and economic development in some of the region's poorest areas.