Beijing is taking steps to solidify its sphere of influence, including from close ally Russia, with Chinese leader Xi Jinping delivering a strong message during an official visit to Kazakhstan.
Xi told officials that China was keen to nurture relations with Kazakhstan and opposed any interference in the Central Asian country.
Russia Helps Kazakhs With 'Bandits'Beijing's warning comes after widespread civil unrest rocked Kazakhstan in January and February and led to rioting in major cities. The unrest has led to 10,000 individuals being arrested and hundreds killed or injured after a government clampdown.
Kazakh authorities reached out to Russia for assistance while claiming that the unrest was sparked by an unknown foreign power.
"The militants have not laid down their arms; they continue to commit crimes or are preparing for them,” President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said in a televised address. “Whoever does not surrender will be destroyed. I have given the order to law enforcement agencies and the army to shoot to kill without warning.”
Government forces—backed by Russia—are still engaged with alleged national or foreign "bandits."
"We had to deal with armed and trained bandits, both local and foreign. It is with bandits and terrorists. Therefore, they need to be destroyed. And this will be done shortly," he said.
Tokayev also said he had ordered a nationwide communications blackout.
Strategically Vital for Russia and ChinaRussia and China see Kazakhstan as a critical ally because of its shared land borders, also a potential strategic weak point. The country is also resource-rich and tied economically to Russia and China.
Eytan Goldstein, an East Asia expert, said the Central Asian country was a vital link for China to the Caspian Sea and beyond.
Currently, 80 percent of Kazakhstan’s oil exports are moved through the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, where Russia holds a 31 percent stake.
Kazakhs Playing a Balancing ActThe tug-of-war for power means that several Central Asian leaders have maintained ties with both Russia and China to balance out any risk.
Kazakhstan has also decided to not help Russia circumvent global economic sanctions launched by developed countries and has also banned Russian military propaganda symbols in the country.
At the same time, the Kazakh government has moved to be more heavily engaged with China in the past few months.
In June, Kazakhstan and China became "eternal comprehensive strategic partners" and agreed to work together in the areas of finance, energy, manufacturing, 5G, artificial intelligence, and green energy.