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Last Updated: Monday, 7 March 2005, 14:13 GMT
Kazakhs gain from China's oil needs
By Kashif Anwar
BBC News Online

Oil pump
Kazakhstan has rich fuel reserves, and China wants to buy
China has recently invested heavily in Kazakhstan, and now plans to build a long pipeline to transport oil bring the promise of wealth and prosperity to many Kazakhs.

However there are fears that mass immigration of Chinese will follow soon afterwards.

Rapid growth has meant that China is influencing many countries around the world.

It recently bought oilfields in Kazakhstan, which is causing an upturn in the fortunes of many people in the mineral-rich country.

As part of the Soviet Union, the region has in the past been used to source a number of minerals.

But the demise of communism saw economic prospects in the region collapse.

"Five years ago this was a cemetery of Soviet machinery," Nurzhan Ayazbekov, deputy manager at one oil well in the west of Kazakhstan, told the World Service's China World programme.

"The picture was pretty grim. Then when the place was finally sold to the Chinese, things started picking up.

Friend or foe

Mr Ayazbekov explained that China's economic growth has produced a thirst for oil - especially in the industrial, rapidly-developing province of Xinjiang.

For some in Kazakhstan, this has had an instant and noticeable effect.

"We are getting salaries on time," said Rafik Shamsutdinov, who works for the local oil and gas board.

"Before, we couldn't even dream of owning a house or a car."

He added that local people liked the Chinese for looking ahead.

"It's a giant country," he said.

"You would have thought they would struggle to feed everyone, yet they're finding the money to invest."

But others believe that China's intentions may not be entirely benign.

Greg Vojak, a lawyer from US firm Bracewell and Patterson who works in the region, believes that China is still tightly controlled politically - and though it offers much potential, it "also threatens to a large degree".

"There's an awful lot of Chinese, their economy is large, and their appetite for oil is just enormous," he added.

"Kazakhstan has a lot of land, and has a lot of natural resources.

"What if you were to use some of the human resources of China to accelerate manufacturing? There are only 14 million people in Kazakhstan."

Uighur population

Dosym Satpaev, an independent political analyst, said that some Kazakhs were already beginning to fear the migration of Chinese into the country.

This was, he said, "the biggest political concern".

And there are other fears, tied into the minority Uighur population living on the border of the two countries.

Taldyk Daulet
Some Kazakhs have been made very wealthy thanks to the oil boom
Last year Kazakhstan gave some members of an extremist Uighur organisation to China, despite concerns over China's human rights record.

"Kazakhstan does not believe that there is a lot of extremism and terrorism in Kazakh territory," Mr Satpaev said.

"But we need to support good relations with China."

One Uighur has already alleged that he was put into jail and tortured.

"Everyone knows Kazakhstan is interested in exporting its oil, and China can use this as leverage - for example in solving the problem of Uighur dissent," Koharman Kozhamberdy, the co-ordinator for the World Congress Of Uighurs, told China World.

"A few years ago, in border negotiations, we could see how China didn't sign anything until Kazakhstan authorities agreed to push down Uighur dissent."

The BBC's Oleg Boldyrev said that the future of the relationship between the two countries hinged on how far Kazakhstan could work as a partner to China's ambitions.

"As we have seen, some people are really afraid that after 13 years of independence, Kazakhstan will once again be overwhelmed by another giant neighbour," he added.

"But some think that China is a peaceful economic giant, which brings more jobs, more investment, and more prosperity to the country."

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18 May 04 |  Asia-Pacific
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18 Dec 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: China
06 Jan 05 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Kazakhstan
02 Mar 05 |  Country profiles


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