Edited by Maria A. Carrai, Jean-Christophe Defraigne and Jan Wouters
Chapter 9: Kazakhstan’s adaptation to the Belt and Road Initiative: tracing changes in domestic governance
Kazakhstan was one of the first and remains one of the most enthusiastic supporters of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The country’s earlier, more cautious approach toward deeper engagement with China and inviting Chinese investments in strategic sectors has given way to a greater appreciation of the opportunities presented by China’s rapid economic growth. Kazakhstan’s government has actively embraced the opportunities, and adapted itself and the country to the rapidly unfolding BRI. Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana), is aligning its national development plans with China’s megaproject, and changing legislation and regulations in areas ranging from investment, finance and technical standards to land use and migration. These changes in regulations are driven by Kazakhstan’s efforts to improve its “doing business” ratings and adopt OECD good governance standards to make the country attractive for foreign investments. They also reveal the constraint of public opinion that is largely negative towards China’s growing economic presence in the country. Slow progress of institutional reforms or lack of such is prompting the government to develop alternative solutions, such as creating enclaves with special regulatory regimes. China’s role in these projects has been on the rise. Kazakhstan’s adaptation to the BRI provides an example of a small state strategizing its path of development in today’s shifting global governance setting.
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