In times of epidemics, a mysterious pneumonia happens to cause China and Kazakhstan to quarrel. The response began after the Chinese embassy in the Central Asian country launched an alert on a “significant increase” in cases of unknown and defined more lethal pneumonia than Covid-19 in three cities across the country.
Serious statements, especially in light of the accusations made against the states of Central Asia on the underestimation of the infections. Cases of a new coronavirus in Kazakhstan increased more than five times after the government decided to lift restrictions in May and a new lockdown was imposed from 5 July to curb the epidemic. A new pneumonia would therefore be a further disaster for the whole region, especially if not controlled. But the former Kazakh President Nursultan, still the de facto leader of the country and positive result at Covid-19 – there is no alarm and the Beijing alarm with a dry «fake news».
It all began when two days ago on the WeChat channel of the Chinese diplomatic seat, buy a message indicating three outbreaks that have spread since mid-June in the cities of Atyrau, Aktobe and Shymkent. It is an unidentified pneumonia – warns Beijing – with a mortality rate “much higher than that of the new coronavirus”. Then the numbers. According to reports from the Chinese diplomatic office, 1,772 deaths from pneumonia occurred in the country in the first half of 2020, 628 of which last month, and among the deaths there are also those of Chinese citizens in Kazakhstan.
According to Nursultan – this is also the name of the capital Astana, renamed in honor of the former president – it would be undiagnosed cases of Covid-19. “The information published by some Chinese media about a new type of pneumonia in Kazakhstan does not correspond to reality.” The cases of “unspecified” pneumonia, he adds, would be in line with the parameters used by the World Health Organization to define the disease in the event that coronavirus infection is diagnosed clinically or epidemiologically, but not confirmed by laboratory tests . The World Health Organization also threw water on the fire and from Geneva the emergency program manager, Mike Ryan, stressed that the situation is “on the radar” of the WHO and above all that “the upward trajectory of the Covid-19” in Kazakhstan “suggests that many of these cases are actually undiagnosed Covid-19 cases.” All this while Beijing itself backed down, with the spokesman of the Beijing Foreign Ministry, Zhao Lijian, who reassured “we are waiting to learn more information and hopes to work together with Kazakhstan to fight the epidemic and safeguard health. publishes in both countries “.
The exchange should also be read in the light of the economic relations between the two countries. Although China is a key economic partner for Kazakhstan, PetroChina has in fact announced the suspension of imports of natural gas from Central Asia, with Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan being the main suppliers. But not only. Violence broke out on 7 February between Kazakh citizens from the villages of Masanchi, Sortobe, Auqatty and Bulan-Batyr, near the border with Kyrgyzstan, and the Dungans, a Muslim ethnic group of Chinese origin. Seen apparently due to a traffic accident, the violence resulted in eleven deaths, the injury of 19 police officers and the partial or total damage to 30 homes, 17 commercial buildings and 47 cars. In fact, since the initial confrontation on the street, the wave of anger has spread to neighboring towns thanks to the publication on the Internet of the videos of the first scuffles. Finally, Sino-Kazakh relations have also been severely tested by the de-radicalization campaign of the Beijing authorities in Xinjiang province, an area where, according to United Nations estimates, more than one million Uyghur Muslims would find themselves under arrest in so-called re-education camps. Chinese policies have also affected the Kazakhs living in Xinjiang. And despite the fact that the Nursultan government has never made direct criticisms of Beijing’s counterpart, simply asking that the Uyghurs of Kazakh nationality be released, local protests have not been lacking and an increasing impatience against the invasive Chinese presence.
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