On July 3-4, 2024, the upcoming summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will be held in Astana. Astana will play a dual role, serving as a «stabilizer», while Kazakhstan, embodying a «territory of peace and harmony», will adeptly mitigate conflicts and facilitate resolutions. Kazakhstan aims to leverage its position as the SCO chair to «achieve global unity for the sake of justice, peace, and harmony.» Consequently, in the context of the ongoing confrontation between Washington and Beijing, the SCO summit in Astana is poised to become one of the most significant global events of the year, capturing widespread attention from the world’s leading media outlets.


Furthermore, the summit in Astana gains additional prominence due to the official state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Kazakhstan, marking his fifth visit during his tenure. This visit underscores the critical geopolitical significance of Kazakhstan and China, attracting keen interest from political analysts, international affairs experts, and the public concerned with international relations.


Analyzing Kazakhstan’s geopolitical position reveals several key attributes: its vast territory, strategic location at the crossroads of three civilizations in the center of the continent, rich natural resources, internal political stability and resultant tolerance, and its rapid economic, legal, political, and cultural development.

The ­geopolitical position of China also deserves special attention: the vastness of the territory, enormous human resources, access to the open sea and, consequently, highly developed transport communications, rapid economic growth, developed infrastructure, rapidly developing military and industrial sectors of the economy, a widely established network of export supplies of goods to many countries of the world, etc.


Of course, both states have striking differences in many aspects of their activities be it historical ­development or cultural heritage, but in general this does not prevent them from building good neighborly relations based on the principles of mutual assistance, respect and trust towards each other.



         And here, the unifying idea is not only the «Shanghai spirit», but also two thousand years of interactions between the inhabitants of the Great Steppe and the Great Chinese Plain…



Already in the first years of independence in the early 1990s. For Kazakhstan, resolving the entire range of issues of political, economic and cultural interaction (including military), primarily with key regional «players» ( Russia and China ), has become the country’s main foreign policy priority. These tasks were successfully resolved thanks to bilateral negotiations with these countries and the creation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in 2001.



Kazakhstan took an active part in the formation of the SCO , which in turn played an important role in Kazakhstan gaining de facto real international subjectivity in terms of providing the republic with security guarantees, recognition of its territorial borders, economic support for its viability, and creating conditions for non-conflict and harmonious social development. More than twenty years of cooperation with the SCO under the umbrella of a coordinated and balanced international regional environment has allowed Kazakhstan, relying on this organization, to form one of the key external foundations for its independence and the conditions for its progressive, safe and dynamic socio-economic development in the future. And the SCO undoubtedly plays a special role in this.



As one of the initiators of this organization, Kazakhstan actually proposed a new strategic line for the international positioning of the post-Soviet space, focused on the balance of external interests. This strategy is an important basis for the independence of Kazakhstan and, as modern practice of international relations shows, it is very promising for a harmonious combination of the interests of major regional powers, which became especially important for Kazakhstan after the entry into the SCO of such «significant» neighbors as India, Pakistan and Iran.



Particularly important for Kazakhstan is the non-bloc status of this organization, which allows it to avoid confrontation with other countries and foreign policy vectors. Judgments and ideas about the «non-Western» nature of the organization or its strategic orientation against the West as a whole or individual countries are very short-sighted, far from the reality and strategic goals of the organization. At the very least, Kazakhstan perceives the SCO platform as an important regional platform for coordinating interests, coordinating efforts and preparations and compromise solutions between members of the organization in order to harmonize the situation in the Central Asian region and create favorable conditions for its development in accordance with the «Shanghai Spirit».



The global prospects of the organization in the region are connected, first of all, with the creation in Central Asia of a zone of peace, harmony of interests and shared prosperity as a contribution to global constructive development. Attempts to drag the organization into bloc opposition, confrontation, various trade, technological, «cold wars» between countries, as well as to impose their own, extra-regional «agenda» by individual member countries of the organization on others, do not meet the national interests of Kazakhstan and the goals of its participation in SCO.



Therefore, today Kazakhstan fully joins the positive initiatives of the PRC to modernize the economic infrastructure of the SCO member states, establish modern and efficient transport and logistics corridors for interaction, create the effect of economic synergy between the subregions of Central Asia, promote a rational division of labor between countries, investment openness and the formation of wealthy markets in the region. It was precisely from the needs of joint economic development and the tasks of improving people’s lives that the Chinese Belt and Road initiative, supported by Kazakhstan, was subsequently born.



The results of the 3rd Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, which summarized the decade of the initiative (2013-2023), show that thanks to the highest level of bilateral relations, the comprehensive strategic eternal partnership between Kazakhstan and China, it was possible to implement many joint projects in the transport and logistics sector sphere, in terms of diversification of oil trading, industrial cooperation in the construction of joint ventures, increasing trade and economic cooperation and humanitarian interaction. It is extremely important for Kazakhstan to maintain a high level of interaction with China, which is a serious and responsible partner in various international organizations in which both states participate. These are the SCO, CICA, etc. In the multi-vector foreign policy of Kazakhstan, China continues to play the role of a strategic counterbalance with other vectors. This allows Kazakhstan to maintain both its stability and security. At the same time, China presents us with limitless opportunities, as one of the most capacious and affluent markets for our country, offering unique opportunities for business activity of Kazakh entrepreneurs.



Despite the trends towards «eroding» the goals of the organization and turning it into another bureaucratic organization of a global type to demonstrate its formal activity, Kazakhstan, in its relations with both the organization as a whole and with its individual participants, insists on pragmatizing relations, overcoming the contradictions of geopolitical differences between countries. Thus, Kazakhstan counts on a constructive resolution of the situation both in Afghanistan itself and around it, as an important factor in the stable and sustainable development of the entire Central Asian region. As American political scientist Michael Rossi notes, «Suggesting instead» New Great Game» A more modern version is «Great Opportunities», Astana focuses on the prospects offered by the rich natural resources and trade routes of Central Asia.» Another of the large blocks of issues within the SCO for Kazakhstan is the problem of denuclearization and demilitarization of the region as a whole, which creates opportunities for a peaceful and creative life for the countries and peoples of Central Asia.



In conclusion, I would like to note that Kazakhstan and the countries of Central Asia support the main axiom of the Global Civilization Initiative proposed to humanity by China and its leader Xi Jinping about the existence of different types of civilizations that represent a single «human civilization.» In conditions of geopolitical turbulence in the sphere of international relations, it has a certain value, since the civilization of the peoples of Central Asia also contributed to the development of world civilization, along with the Chinese nation «as the ancient and great nation of the world.»



The historical development of Chinese and Central Asian civilizations is epitomized by a maxim from the Chinese chronicle of the Three Kingdoms era (220-280 AD): «the beauty of soup lies in the harmonious combination of different ingredients.» This adage reflects the intertwined evolution of the Celestial Empire and Central Asia, which flourished through the confluence of Confucian-Taoist, Hindu-Buddhist, and Islamic cultural influences. This cultural amalgamation was instrumental in shaping the national identity of the «unity of the Chinese nation» and fostering the cultural synthesis among the peoples of Central Asia, where the historical, cultural, and civilizational heritage is inextricably linked.


In this context, the 2024 SCO Summit in Astana holds significant political importance for Kazakhstan, China, and Central Asian countries, as well as for the SCO. The summit aims to chart a new course for the collaborative construction of a community with a shared future for mankind, thereby contributing to the collective effort of the member states to «achieve global unity for the sake of justice, peace, and harmony».



Erkin Baidarov specially for the China Studies Centre.