Heartfelt welcome reflects robust ties

2024-7-3 9:28:08

"Dear Grandpa Xi Jinping, welcome to Astana, Kazakhstan," Daria, a 10-year-old Kazakh girl, told the Chinese president in Mandarin shortly after his arrival on Tuesday. "We are honored to meet you, and we like you!"

The interaction at the Astana airport came after a dozen Kazakh children sang the popular Chinese song Ode to the Motherland in front of President Xi and Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who welcomed him at the airport.

Xi, smiling, praised the children for their Chinese and asked where they learned it.

Speaking in fluent Mandarin, Daria told Xi that she wants to study at prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing in the future.

"We welcome you to study in Chinese colleges in the future," Xi said.

This was part of the heartfelt gestures and diplomatic goodwill extended by President Tokayev to welcome Xi on his fifth visit to the Central Asian country and on his attendance at the 24th Meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Tokayev expressed warm welcome to Xi in Mandarin at the stairway of his plane, which was escorted by three Kazakh Air Force fighter jets upon its entry into the nation's airspace.

At the airport, Tokayev hosted a welcoming ceremony that involved an honor guard of more than 100, and 100 Kazakh children waving flags of the two nations and enthusiastically greeting the Chinese president.

After the ceremony, Tokayev presented Xi with a copy of the newspaper Kazakhstanskaya Pravda, which carried President Xi's signed article published ahead of his visit.

The warm reception epitomized the close personal bond between Xi and Tokayev and the vitality of ties between the two neighboring countries.

"Over the past 32 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations, China and Kazakhstan have withstood the tests of time and international changes, forging a unique and enduring permanent comprehensive strategic partnership," Xi said in written remarks delivered at the airport.

"The enduring friendship between our two nations has grown stronger over generations, setting a model for neighboring countries by exemplifying mutual support, win-win cooperation and shared achievements."

Two-way trade between China and Kazakhstan registered a record high of $41 billion in 2023, with China now being Kazakhstan's largest trading partner and its top export destination.

The unique and high-level nature of the bilateral relationship was also exemplified in September 2022 when Xi chose Astana as the destination of his first trip overseas since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The trip saw Xi being conferred the Order of the Golden Eagle, the highest honor of Kazakhstan, by Tokayev.

"A genuine great leader," Tokayev said of the Chinese president while bestowing the order, underscoring the historic role and immense contribution from Xi in consolidating friendship between the two nations and strengthening bilateral ties.

"I treasure this medal deeply, a symbol of the enduring friendship between our peoples. With our combined efforts, I am confident that China-Kazakhstan relations will soar like a golden eagle, reaching new heights and bringing even greater benefits to our nations," the Chinese president said at the conferring ceremony.

Another quintessential moment of the camaraderie between the two leaders took place in May 2023, when Tokayev was in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, for a state visit and the China-Central Asia Summit.

The visit coincided with the Kazakh leader's 70th birthday, and after the formal state activities, the two leaders shared a dinner that featured local performances and steaming bowls of Shaanxi longevity noodles, complete with warm birthday wishes.

"On this special occasion, your visit speaks volumes about the strength of our bilateral ties and reaffirms your unique bond with China," Xi told Tokayev.

Zhao Huirong, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies, said the mutual trust and strong emphasis of both leaders on bilateral relations has kept taking ties to historic high levels.

The interaction between Xi and the Kazakh children mirrored the increasingly robust public support for the strengthening of ties between the two nations, she added.

Mutual visa-exemption arrangements have spurred people-to-people exchanges, and Sino-Kazakh pragmatic cooperation has delivered tangible benefits to the two peoples, she said.

President Tokayev, who is highly knowledgeable about China and speaks fluent Mandarin, has demonstrated a keen interest in and high expectations for China-Kazakhstan cooperation, and he is optimistic about the future prospects of this partnership, Zhao said.

"We have every reason to believe that, led by head-of-state diplomacy, the mutual trust and cooperation between China and Kazakhstan will surge to higher levels and broader scopes, setting an example for ties between China and countries in the region," she said.

(Source: China Daily)