|President Xi Jinping and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev attend the founding ceremony of the China-Kazakhstan Entrepreneurs' Committee in Astana on Saturday. Xi urged entrepreneurs from China and Kazakhstan to boost cooperation. Ju Peng / Xinhua|
No ties, no flags and no statements.
The leaders of China and Kazakhstan continued their second day of in-depth discussions as they joined each other for meals.
President Xi Jinping and his counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev started Sunday with a one-hour breakfast on the plane that flew them from Astana, the capital, to Almaty, the economic and cultural center. They ate Chinese pickles and millet congee.
In Almaty, Xi joined Nazarbayev for a three-hour informal lunch.
The Bellagio Restaurant, famous in Almaty for its beautiful scenery and natural landscape, boasts typical Kazakhstan yurts.
With their aides dismissed, the two leaders had more personal time during which to share their views on bilateral and regional affairs.
The special arrangements show the importance that the two countries attach to each other and the intimacy their leaders share. The countries share a borderline of more than 1,700 kilometers, and have centuries of friendship based on their ties through the ancient Silk Road.
Indeed, the special welcome and treatment that Xi received the moment his plane touched down was testimony to this long-lasting friendship.
Xi, who took office in March, is on his first visit to Central Asia.
When Xi arrived in Astana at around 10 pm on Friday night, Nazarbayev, who had also just concluded his tour to St. Petersburg for the eighth leaders' meeting of the G20, was already at the airport, standing in the cold wind to give his guest a warm welcome.
Nazarbayev further warmed up his distinguished guest by accompanying Xi to the hotel, where they shared tea.
For almost the whole of Saturday, Nazarbayev accompanied Xi on almost all activities, except Xi's meeting with the parliamentary leaders and the prime minister. During a morning speech delivered by Xi at the Nazarbayev University, which is named after the president, Nazarbayev granted Xi an honorary professorship at the university, and joked with him, "You have to come every year to give lectures since you are now a professor here."
I have visited Kazakhstan several times since 2009 and am already well informed of the hospitality of the country, and these recent scenes are still making a strong impression on me.
On this visit to the country, I am witnessing further evidence of the rapid growth of this central Asian country.
When I first came here in 2009, the new capital, Astana, was still mostly under construction. There is a joke that three-quarters of the world's construction sites are in China, while the remaining quarter are in Kazakhstan.
Every year that I return, I see the changes, and now the city is glamorous, with modern buildings everywhere. The Nazarbayev University employs prestigious international faculties, demonstrating the country's development in education, science and technology. About one-third of the country's youngsters can speak English, which is quite convenient for us visiting here.
The biggest country in Central Asia is also demonstrating unprecedented vitality and becoming a weighty player in regional geopolitics.
With a per capita GDP of $12,000, three times that of China's, Kazakhstan's people are now relatively well-off and living stable lives.
The stability of this country remains the one pillar that ensures the security of the whole Central Asian region, which is now concerned about the withdrawal of US troops from war-torn Afghanistan and the turmoil in some countries in the region. The stability of the region also remains vital to Russia and China. Thus Xi's current tour of the region is significant in safeguarding both regional security and the dozens of deals that China has inked with its Central Asian counterparts.