Staunton, August 27 – Since 1991, 200,000 ethnic Kazakhs have moved from China to Kazakhstan, and another 500,000 may do so in the coming years, Eldeç Orda says. But Kazakhstan would be wise not to try to attract more back – there are two million Kazakhs in China now – but to ensure they are treated well there and help influence Beijing on Kazakhstan.
On the Kazakh-language site, Kerey.kz, the specialist on the Kazakhs of China who himself has lived there and speaks Chinese says that Kazakhs talk a lot about their co-ethnics who have returned but much less about the larger number of ethnic Kazakhs in China and other countries who have not (
That is a mistake in two senses, Orda says. On the one hand, it prevents an honest discussion of why such people choose not to come back to Kazakhstan. And on the other, it constitutes a missed opportunity: If Astana takes up the cause of these people in their host countries, ethnic Kazakhs will become an important foreign policy resource.
The ethnic Kazakhs who have come to Kazakhstan already, he continues, include “young people, representatives of the intelligentsia, students and ordinary rural residents.” Another half million may leave largely because they are “victims of political repression,” have relatives in Kazakhstan, are businessmen, or are simply “patriotic” young people.
But the other 1.5 million ethnic Kazakhs in China, Orda says, are not likely to come back. (The same thing is true, he says, of Russia, Mongolia and Uzbekistan where other sizeable Kazakh communities live.) To think otherwise, he continues, is “laughable.” And their decision to remain abroad is not a bad thing.
If Kazakhstan shows that it is concerned about the way in which they are treated rather than spending its time in appeals to resettle in the homeland, these people, Orda suggests, could easily become “a guarantee of Kazakhstan’s influence in the countries where they are located,” something more important than simply adding to the ethnic Kazakh majority in Kazakhstan.