Zapad 2013 was a w wide-scale military exercise carried out by the Russian and Belarusian military forces in September 2013. The joint maneuvers, which were held in Belarus and western Russia, simulated an incursion by.
While China’s main center for free trade in its national currency is still its offshore yuan market in Hong Kong (Caixin, January 26), the opening of the Astana offshore yuan center is significant in that it acknowledges the realities of China’s growing bilateral trade with the Central Asian republics. Central Asia sends its oil, natural gas, uranium and grain exports eastward to fuel the Chinese economy. These overland commodities shipments are of great value to Beijing because, unlike maritime energy imports from the Middle East, they cannot be interdicted by pirates or hostile navies.
But Kazakhstan’s value to China extends beyond its utility as a source of raw materials. In China’s “One Belt, One Road” infrastructure strategy, announced in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, Kazakhstan occupies a significant Eurasian transit position. Cargo trains originating in various Chinese cities shuttle across Kazakhstan’s territory to Europe, a trade corridor that China seeks to expand. According to Kazakhstan’s ambassador to China, Shakhrat Nuryshev, by the end of 2015, the state railway company Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ) expected to transport 250,000 Twenty Foot Equivalent Unit (TEU) containers on its trunk lines for transshipment onward to Russia, Europe, Central Asia and the Caspian region. Moreover, KTZ is seeking to boost this trade volume to 500,000 TEU by 2020—a 200 percent increase in four years (The Astana Times, December 15, 2015).