Kazakhs Call for End to Chinese Resource Deals

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China's leaders have been investing heavily in resource-rich countries, looking to fuel China's economy. But their actions aren't always welcome. In neighboring Kazakhstan, some are calling for a stop of Chinese funding... saying it doesn't benefit ordinary Kazakhs.

Kazakhstan holds 3 percent of the world's recoverable oil reserves, and this has not escaped the notice of China's authorities. They need great quantities of fuel, as cheap as possible, to keep China's economy heating up.

The Kazakh government, which has been dominated by leader Nursultan Nazarbayev for over 20 years, has promoted Chinese investment and financing of resource exploration.

Yet, on Saturday, opposition activists and political leaders gathered in the outskirts of Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty. They say that the government's investment strategy does not represent Kazakh interests—only those of a tiny minority of shareholders in state oil and mining companies.

Some say that for Central Asia's largest and richest nation to go into debt exploiting its own resources, the math just doesn't add up.

[Bulat Abilov, Social-Democratic Party Leader]:
"Why did our country borrow 20 billion US dollars within a few years? Who can explain that? Nobody can."

Chinese companies already control more than 20 percent of Kazakhstan's oil output, with a vast $10 billion "loan-for-oil" deal in 2009. Currently, more investments are underway, adding to China's stake in Kazakh resources.

For some in the opposition camp, the issue is more than just economic. It touches on broader concerns about whether resources belong to the Kazakh people, or just to their autocratic government.