BEIJING, June 7 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping's upcoming visit to Kazakhstan is highly anticipated to inject new momentum into the development of bilateral relations and to chart the future course for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Xi's four-day tour, starting on Wednesday, includes a state visit to the Central Asian country at the invitation of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, and the attendance of the annual meeting of the SCO's supreme decision-making body, the Council of Heads of State, as well as the opening ceremony of the 2017 World Expo in Astana.
BOOST BILATERAL TIES
The Chinese leader has visited Kazakhstan twice since taking office, respectively in 2013 and 2015, forging a profound friendship with the country and its people.
Xi's visit will, in the first place, further promote the China-Kazakhstan political trust and chart the course for bilateral pragmatic cooperation in future, said Zhang Xiyun, a former Chinese ambassador to Kazakhstan.
The two countries, since establishing diplomatic relations 25 years ago, have "made great strides in their ties both in form and in substance," he said. "Beijing and Astana have remained quite attentive to each other's development needs."
Xi brought up the initiative on the construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt, part of the Belt and Road Initiative, at the Nazarbayev University in September 2013, during a visit to Kazakhstan.
The country has since then made efforts to align its development strategy of "Nurly Zhol," which means "bright path" in the Kazakh language, with the Belt and Road Initiative, and worked together with China to promote productivity.
Zhang noted that Kazakhstan, the most prosperous nation in Central Asia, has made itself a key post in pragmatic cooperation in implementing the Belt and Road Initiative.
"The China-Kazakhstan productivity cooperation has become a typical example of successful bilateral and regional pragmatic cooperation. China has committed to transferring advanced and edge-cutting productivity to Kazakhstan for all these years, a sound proof that the bilateral cooperation is for win-win results and is mutually beneficial in nature," he said.
"Meanwhile, the Chinese city of Lianyungang in east China's Jiangsu Province has become a vital sea port for the products of landlocked Kazakhstan to export to other countries," he said. "The geopolitical position of Kazakhstan also provides Chinese goods and companies a convenient gateway to Europe."
The diplomat added that Xi's visit will also boost security collaboration between Beijing and Astana in fighting terrorism, extremism, separatism, cross-border crimes and drug smuggling, among others.
GUIDE SCO DEVELOPMENT
This year marks the 16th anniversary of the founding of the SCO. Experts say that although its members harbor a strong desire for national security, stability and economic growth, the bloc is facing mounting uncertainties and threats.
The most prominent highlights of this year's summit will be the formal accession of India and Pakistan to the SCO and China's takeover of the bloc's presidency after the meeting, according to Sun Zhuangzhi, secretary-general of the SCO Research Center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).
The joining of New Delhi and Islamabad, the first ever expansion of the SCO, will make it an eight-member cross-continent regional organization that covers the largest population and widest area in the world.
SCO Secretary-General Rashid Alimov said earlier that the membership of India and Pakistan, both regional heavyweights, will enhance the SCO's role in combating cross-border terrorism and promoting free trade.
"There is no wonder that India and Pakistan want to join in and take a share," said Alexey Maslov, head of the Oriental Studies Department at the Russian Higher School of Economics Research University.
"The SCO's founding principles, featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, respect for cultural diversity and common development, have received wide recognition. In fact, far more countries have expressed readiness to join in than we expected," he added.
Speaking of China's upcoming presidency, Sun said, "All member states pin high hopes on President Xi's statements to enhance the SCO's role and his country's work in this regard in the coming year."
"China has become the first or second largest trading partner of most SCO members, and offered key proposals to set the legal and operational basis of the SCO. All such efforts have made the bloc more influential in regional political, economic, cultural and security arrangements," he added.
The Belt and Road Initiative will be another keyword of the Astana summit. "The SCO eyes members' cooperation not only in security, which was indeed the top priority when the bloc was founded more than a decade ago, but also in such areas as economic and trade, culture and people-to-people exchanges," said Sun.
"The Belt and Road Initiative will further highlight China's constructive role within the SCO," he said.
"Comprehensive cooperation at all levels based on mutual trust is indispensable for regional integration. It is also the general direction of the SCO's future work," said Sheng Shiliang, a researcher at the Xinhua Center for World Affairs Studies.
"The Belt and Road Initiative has offered a timely and convenient framework for SCO members to facilitate regional inter-connectivity and achieve free flows of goods, capital, service and technology in the end," he noted.
PROMOTE CLEAN ENERGY COOPERATION
The Chinese pavilion at Astana Expo 2017, under the theme of "future energy," was the first to start construction and the first one put into test operations. Covering around 1,000 square meters, it is also among the largest at the expo.
All these moves show the importance the Chinese leadership attaches to the expo and to the development of clean energy and the battle against climate change, said Sun, the CASS researcher.
The gesture is in line with Xi's proposal to build "a community of shared future for all mankind," and is highly symbolic especially when the global efforts in this regard are encountering the sudden headwind of U.S.withdrawal last week from the hard-won Paris climate deal, said Sheng.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said earlier this month that China will continue its implementation of the Paris agreement and actively participate in the multilateral process of global climate governance.
Noting that climate change is a global challenge and no country can remove itself from the issue, Hua said that even if other countries change their positions, China will continue its plan of green development.
Ruslan Bultrikov, a former Kazakh vice minister of environmental protection, said last month that Xi's proposal to build a community of shared future for all mankind accords with "the Chinese culture to foresee and plan for generations ahead, and not just for the five to 10 years to come."
"We therefore understand why the Chinese leader has made pledges which are directed to future generations," he said. "I believe that with political will from other countries and from China, of course, these ideas can be implemented and we will share the future together peacefully."