Young Kazakh building a career on Silk Road

“THERE are two imported things in my company — one is the oil, the other is me,” says Miras Kilybayev, deputy director of Jinsi Oil in the bonded zone of Alataw Pass bordering Kazakhstan in China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

The Kazakhstan businessman, 25, works for one of the largest agricultural companies in his home country. Last year, he was sent to China to expand the business.

“The whole world is looking at the Chinese market, so we can’t afford to ignore it,” he says.

Kilybayev learned Chinese at Tsinghua University and chemical engineering at Beijing Institute of Technology from 2008 to 2014. After graduation he returned to Kazakhstan, but deep down he knew he would come back to China.

“The first time I was in China, I bought a bottle of local cooking oil from a supermarket. It tasted different and made me homesick,” says Kilybayev who speaks Kazakh, Chinese, English and Russian.

According to him, farmers in Kazakhstan follow traditional farming methods, use non-GMO seeds, and seldom add fertilizers.

“Low yields guarantee high quality, especially in the northern province, where my company manages 20,000 hectares of arable land,” Kilybayev says.

At its first factory — also the first foreign-funded enterprise — established in the bonded zone, Kilybayev’s company received support from the local government: from streamlined approval procedures, low-cost office space to considerable subsidies.

The oil refinery, with a total investment of 20 million yuan (US$2.9 million), went into operation in July last year. Crude cooking oil is transported by train from Kazakhstan. Customs duties and value-added taxes are exempted in the bonded zone.

“It’s like producing in my own country,” Kilybayev says. “Our products are on the shelves across Xinjiang, including the regional capital Urumqi. In June, we will enter Guangdong and Jiangxi provinces.”

The Alataw Pass is one of the busiest land ports on the modern Silk Road. Last year, a total of 1,727 China-Europe and China-Central Asia freight trains passed through the port, an increase of 35 percent year on year.

Nine Chinese cities, including Chengdu, Chongqing, Xi’an and Yiwu, have launched China-Europe trains traveling via the Alataw Pass, which makes Kilybayev optimistic about in his company’s future.

“I will be living in China longer than I expected, but my fiancee will be coming so I won’t be lonely,” says Kilybayev, who is getting married in August.