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24 August 2023

Central Asia: Quiet flows the natural gas from Eurasia to China

An update on recent developments in Chinese-Russian-Central Asian affairs.

Central Asia: Quiet flows the natural gas from Eurasia to China

Image: Han maomin/Shutterstock

Central Asia

(Eurasianet) Official customs data shows that China imported 13.4 billion cubic meters of natural gas (bcm) during the month of June, a 19 percent increase over the import level during the same month in 2022. Global imports arrived in China via pipelines and in liquefied form. Overall, 5.785 bcm of gas was imported via pipelines in June, a slight increase over the previous month’s totals. The main suppliers via pipelines were Turkmenistan (2.69 bcm), Russia (1.9 bcm), Kazakhstan (610 million cubic meters) and Uzbekistan (370 mcm).


Kazakh agricultural officials are striving to remove obstacles to exports of foodstuffs to China. The Agriculture Ministry’s press service reported that Kazakh officials met with representatives of China’s customs service to discuss logistical issues that have impeded exports. An Agriculture Ministry official, Baurzhan Abyzbaev, expressed Kazakhstan’s readiness to conduct an “audit of the veterinary service system.” In addition, Kazakh authorities expressed interest in boosting exports of rapeseed, peas and lentils to China.

Meanwhile, wheat exports from Kazakhstan to China have rebounded over the past year, but they still lag behind totals from 2020-21. During the 10-month “marketing period” of 2022-23, Kazakhstan exported 273,000 tons of wheat, compared with only 22,380 tons during the previous year’s marketing period. The most recent figures still trail the over 301,000 tons that Kazakhstan shipped to China in 2020-21. According to the state company QazTrade, the average price of wheat shipped to China from Kazakhstan in 2022-23 was $270 per ton, an amount 13 percent lower than the 2021-22 figure of $310 per ton. 


Rustam Emomali, the son and heir presumptive of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, concluded an official visit to China on August 23. Emomali made the trip in his capacity as speaker of the upper house of Tajikistan’s legislature. During the visit, he held talks with Zhao Leji, Chairman of China’s Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, on ways to expand inter-parliamentary cooperation. Emomali also signed several agreements on developing infrastructure, including deal to repair the Kulma-Karasu border crossing between Tajikistan and China and for road repairs in the Tajik capital Dushanbe. Meanwhile, the Russian news agency TASS reports that Tajikistan wants to move ahead with a $227-million road improvement initiative in the remote Gorno-Badakhshan region. The project is designed to expand overland transport options for Chinese-European trade. The TASS report did not specific how Tajikistan will fund the initiative.

A new educational exchange program to train Tajik students in the extractive industries sector is launching, the Khovar news agency reports. Tajikistan’s Mining and Metallurgical Institute has signed an agreement with the Oil and Gas University of China, under which Tajik students will study at the Mining and Metallurgical Institute for two years, and then for an additional two years at a Chinese university. Education in China will be free for Tajik students, who will receive Chinese diplomas.


China is exploring ways to expand its Europe-bound exports via Uzbek railways. Officials from China’s coastal Jiangsu Province visited Uzbekistan on a fact-finding mission in mid-August, holding talks with Uzbek freight railway representatives and scouting potential locations for logistics facilities in Tashkent, Samarkand, Ferghana and Andijan.