In other words, Kazakhstan alone accounts for 61.1% of Central Asia’s total economy, while Almaty’s city accounts for 12.8%, which is almost equal to Turkmenistan is equivalent, more than twice the sum of Tajikistan. This article is from the WeChat official account: Geo valley (ID: Geo-Valley) , of: the side of the sea, from the head of FIG. : Visual China

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There are different opinions on the extent of Central Asia. The most commonly accepted definition is the area under the jurisdiction of the five countries of Turkey, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. As modern nation-states, they are very young, but they all have a long-standing civilization. The cities here have also experienced ups and downs, and enjoy a lot of historical reputation.

from shutterstock

Almaty-the peak has passed, the prosperity will continue

Who is the first city in Central Asia? On the whole, Almaty may be the best answer.

From shutterstock

In 2018, a professional urban research institution—Globalization and World Urban Research Network (GaWC) was awarded “Beta-” in Almaty The evaluation of the world’s quasi-second-tier cities, This is the highest ranking of Central Asian cities, comparable to Dalian, China and Lyon, France.

Some people questioned that in terms of the population of the metropolitan area, Almaty had 1.931 million in early 2020, not as good as Tashkent’s 2.574 million in Uzbekistan. After Kazakhstan moved its capital, it also lost its political center. It Is it a mere fame to be the first?

Almaty used to have the world’s first supersonic passenger route, from shutterstock

The core competitiveness of contemporary Almaty lies in the service industry, which accounts for 86% of the overall economy, especially in the financial sector. The city firmly controls the leading position of regional capital pooling, the People’s Bank of Kazakhstan, Caspian Bank, BTA A group of financial institutions with the strongest regional strength, such as banks and the Kazakhstan Stock Exchange, gather here. As of early 2020, it has nearly 9 trillion tenge (approximately 150 billion yuan) accounts for 45% of the total deposits in Kazakhstan, and has a stock market with a market value of 36 billion US dollars; From 2010 to 2020, Almaty has also absorbed a total of 26 billion US dollars in foreign investment It is one of the most popular Central Asian cities for foreign investors.

HalykBank, headquartered in Almaty, is the largest bank in Central Asia with total assets of approximately 10.7 trillion tenge (approximately 17RMB 6.71 billion)

With this support, Almaty still has the full confidence to move forward.

According to data from the Ministry of Economic Affairs of Kazakhstan, Almaty had a population of 1.391 million in January 2010. By January 2020, Almaty had a population of 1.916 million, an increase of 37.8%, an increase of 525,000; while Nur-Sultan increased from 64.9 10,000 increased to 1.136 million, an increase of 75% and an increase of 487,000, while Tashkent increased from 2.234 million to 2.571 million, an increase of 15.1% and 337,000, respectively. It can be seen that Almaty still has a strong demographic appeal, which will help it ensure its future advantages.

Almaty’s popularity in Central Asia has been unabated, from shutterstock

However, Almaty’s future is still facing challenges. Oil price fluctuations are an ever-present risk. New and old issues such as corruption, ethnic disputes, and industrial relocation still need to be dealt with seriously by urban policymakers, and Almaty also needs to be handled carefully. The existing financial system is relatively fragile, the enterprise’s ability to resist risks is insufficient, and the development of high-tech industries is lagging behind, so as to avoid strategic mistakes and decline.

Looking forward to the future and making good use of its rare geographic advantages is the hope of Almaty. Thanks to its geographical location, Almaty has an irreplaceable hub position in energy supply and transportation, and its financial service capabilities are also valued in the strategy of the Eurasian Economic Union. The construction demand has also enabled it to gain stronger external motivation and benefit a lot, and the vision of the docking of the two major cooperation initiatives here gives Almaty unlimited possibilities for continued prosperity.

The two-way freight special line from Lianyungang to Almaty was opened at the end of 2015, becoming the main artery of the Asia-Europe economy, from shutterstock

Tashkent—Nirvana rebirth, quiet rise

As one of the most famous historical cities in Central Asia,Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, is the first city in many people’s minds, because the city has no doubt in terms of history, population and culture. Big brother status.

Tashkent has a rich cultural heritage from shutterstock

However, in 2018, GaWC only gave Tashkent a “Sufficiency” evaluation, that is, it has the strength of a “quasi-world city”, but there is a significant gap between it and the developed international city, which is much lower than Almaty. The main reason is Its economy is relatively backward.

Look at its basic data. In 2019, its GDP was 8.46 billion U.S. dollars, about 22.4% of Almaty’s, and its per capita GDP was 3,290 U.S. dollars, only 16.7% of the latter. In 1991, the gap between the two was not significant.

In fact, Tashkent has better basic conditions, and the middle reaches of the Syr Darya River where it is located is also a rich and prosperous place in Central Asia. After the continuous reconstruction after the 8.3 magnitude earthquake in 1966, its urban facilities are at the forefront of Central Asia, especially the subway and airport, and even the only high-speed railway in Central Asia.

In addition, it is surrounded by important Central Asian cities such as Simkent, Samarkand, and Dushanbe, which have a high population concentration that is conducive to industrial development. Uzbekistan, to which Tashkent belongs, is not bad in its development endowment. Its population accounts for 45% of Central Asia. Its output of natural gas, gold, cotton and uranium is among the top ten in the world.

The Tashkent-Samarkand high-speed railway is the only high-speed railway in Central Asia, with a speed of 250 kilometers per hour, from shutterstock

With these favorable conditions, why has Tashkent not formed the corresponding economic strength?

First of all, the development pattern of Tashkent was greatly influenced by the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union gave Uzbekistan its primary position as a raw material production base. Although the industry has made supporting arrangements for Tashkent, relatively good agricultural machinery, metallurgy, and cotton spinning have been built. Industry, make it workThe industrial output value reached 30% of the total Uzbek’s total, and it also occupies a scale advantage in Central Asia. But these industries are mainly assembly or preliminary processing industries. They rely heavily on the alliance in terms of market, equipment and technology. The economic system also restricted Tashkent’s vitality, so that when it disintegrated, the city’s cotton processing volume was less than 5% of the country’s output, and it was far from taking advantage of its abundant labor force.

Tashkent can be seen everywhere in the Soviet Union, from the shutterstock

The blow to Tashkent caused by the disintegration of the Soviet Union was nothing less than another major earthquake. Without the support of a complete system, the city’s economic circulation capacity was significantly reduced, and the original industries were severely weakened. Industrial achievements are also regrettable decline. For example, the Tashkent Aviation Production Complex, which produced 70 Il-76 transport aircrafts a year at its peak, shrank a lot after its disintegration and went out of business completely in 2012; the well-known Tashkent Tractor Factory and United Machinery Factory are also absent and have already sold 82.75 %, 93.05% of the shares are sold to foreign investors in order to survive.

The Il-76 sealed after the closure of the Tashkent Aviation Consortium, from shutterstock

Such a process of de-quality, coupled with insufficient foreign aid, backward financial system and slow development of modern service industry, Tashkent and Almaty are no longer in positionSame day.

But as mentioned earlier, with many advantages, Tashkent still has a chance to rebirth again. In fact, in recent years, it has been implementing its own characteristic economic rise process, and has gradually achieved results.

The key measures taken by Tashkent include focusing on the development of local processing of raw materials and striving to create more added value, especially in the textile and agricultural sectors. 19 large-scale projects are being promoted, and the new output value is expected to exceed 1 billion US dollars; strengthen the introduction The intensity of foreign investment. In 2019, the city attracted US$2.26 billion in foreign investment, 3.6 times that of 2018, showing a trend of influx; encouraging the development of small and medium-sized enterprises, the number of newly built small and micro entities reached 12,071 and 18,252 in 2018 and 2019, respectively. The vitality continues to increase.

The level of development in Tashkent is not as good as Almaty, but on a larger scale, from shutterstock

Similarly, supporting Tashkent, Dongfeng from China, Anglian-Papu Railway, China-Kyrgyzstan-Ukraine International Road, China-Uzbekistan Natural Gas Pipeline and other major cooperation projects have now been completed and successfully operated, greatly enhancing Tashkent’s cooperation with The level of interconnection with the outside world is contributing to its take-off. In recent years, Tashkent’s economic growth rate has reached a high level of 8%, and even jumped to 10.5% in 2019, which is more than twice that of Almaty during the same period. If this momentum can be maintained, the gap between the two is expected to be achieved in the future reduce.

Nur Sultan—the upstart of the era, the city of the future

If anyone hopes to shake Almaty’s position in Central Asia in the future, then the most powerful contender must be Nur Sultan, who was renamed from Astana.

In 2019, the city’s per capita GDP was US$16,500, reaching 84.4% of Almaty’s. Of course, byThe gap in population size is 48.6% of the latter. In 1998, when the capital was just moved, the proportion was only 19.5%, which shows the advantages of Almaty and the fast pace of Nur Sultan.

In 2018, GaWC classified Nur Sultan as “Sufficiency”. But objectively speaking, this evaluation does not reflect the fact that it is currently the most modern and most promising city in Central Asia.

Nursultan’s skyline is unbeatable in Central Asia.

So what are the current factors that make it possible to catch up with Almaty’s huge advantage?

First is the country’s determination. Nur Sultan can become the capital and gradually develop into a new economic and cultural center. Former President Nur Sultan Nazarbayev has devoted a lot of effort, and he led the country for 27 years The prestige and honor enjoyed by the Kazakh people is unmatched, especially after he is named, the city is a symbol of the ambition of the leader. In order toit’s long-term prosperity, it is natural for the Kazakhstan government to attach importance to policies and funds.

Nazarbayev, the first President of Kazakhstan, from shutterstock

Secondly is the objective need for balanced development. Kazakhstan is a very diverse country. It has a vast territory and is influenced by the civilizations of East Asia, Europe, and Central Asia. The ethnic composition and development level of various regions vary greatly. Try to take into account the central cities of national development. In this regard, Almaty is too close to the southeast border and cannot play a role in revitalizing other regions. Nur-Sultan, located in the north of the central part, can better drive the economy of remote areas and improve the uneven development of the country. status quo.

The above factors have enabled it to get a strong boost in urban development. From 2008 to 2017, the average annual fixed asset investment in Nur-Sultan reached 620 billion tenge.(about 10.26 billion yuan), while Almaty’s 489.3 billion tenge (about 8.09 billion yuan) during the same period ), which is 126.8% of the latter, and by 2018, the data has become 10674 billion tenge and 732.9 billion tenge, the ratio has become 145.6%, and this type of gap may continue to expand.

On the other hand, the stimulation of its own vitality and potential is also an important reason for the rapid development of the city. Despite the support of the state, it is the dynamic small and medium-sized enterprises that actually dominate the development of Nur-Sultan. Data in 2018 show that the output value of small and medium-sized enterprises accounted for 61% of the city’s GDP and tax payments accounted for 57%. In the same year, The number of small and medium-sized enterprises in the city exceeded 49,000, an increase of 20% over 2017, the fastest growth rate in the country.

The good business and investment environment constructed by Nur Sultan is an important reason for this phenomenon. For example, in recent years, the “New City” and “Technology City” Special Economic Zones with a number of tax-free concessions have been continuously improved, the Astana International Financial Center has been successfully opened, and the Astana Global Economic Forum has been held consecutively.Continue to enhance the investment attractiveness of the city. In 2018, the city attracted more than US$7.9 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI), accounting for more than one-third of the country.

Astana International Financial Center (AIFC) is an important symbol of the sudden emergence of Nur-Sultan in the financial field, from shutterstock

Currently, the twin-city battle between Nur-Sultan and Almaty has entered a new stage. In general, Almaty’s strength is still dominating, but Nur-Sultan has been able to do so. The momentum of development and rise is even greater. In addition to the gradual narrowing of the total gap, its sense of existence has not fallen. For example, the 2017 World Expo held here has attracted a lot of attention; the two are also competing in Almaty’s traditional advantage field—the financial industry. Intensified, the total market value of the Nur-Sultan International Exchange has reached 15 billion US dollars, more than 40% of the Almaty National Stock Exchange, and the headquarters of the National Bank of Kazakhstan moved from Almaty to Nur in July 2020 Sudan has also had a major impact on the competitive situation between the two.

Astana Expo with the theme of future energy has changed the world’s impression of Central Asian cities, from shutterstock

More importantly, Time is on Nur-Sultan’s side, because it is expanding faster. In January 2019, the mayor of the city Suritanov predicted that the annual number of permanent residents of Nurdan is expected to increase to 2 million in 2030, and to surpass Almaty and exceed 3 million by 2050. If this The prediction comes true, and Nur Sultan is expected to become the strongest contender for the first city in Central Asia.

Nur Sultan, known as the Pearl of Central Asia, from shutterstock

At the foot of Tianshan Mountain—Who can stand out

The western part of the Tianshan area has the densest urban agglomeration in Central Asia since ancient times. In addition to the older brother Tashkent, the more important ones are Bishkek in the Chu River Basin, Simkent in the Syr River Basin, and Taras Taraz in the river basin, Samarkand and Bukhara in the Zelavshan river basin, Osh, Andijan, Namangan in the Fergana Basin, etc., are generally the most suitable for the development of agriculture in Central Asia The rich areas of cities and towns are densely populated and grow steadily, with good conditions for urban expansion.

So, do these cities have the potential to challenge the first city in Central Asia?

The answer is yes, but it is very difficult.

First, the overall strength of these cities is too far apart from Almaty. Even Shimkent, the third largest city in Kazakhstan, with the strongest economic strength, has a total GDP of only 5.87 billion U.S. dollars in 2019, less than one-sixth of Almaty, and other cities have at least one order of magnitude. Unless the latter declines, it is impossible to catch up in the short term.

At the same time, the development level of each city still needs to be further improved. At present, the region as a whole has not yet got rid of its dependence on the export of agricultural products and resources. The industries are mainly primary processing industries and some heavy industries, except for textiles, energy and metallurgy. In addition, there are not many bright spots. The development of large-scale manufacturing and high value-added service industries are relatively lagging behind. Industrial investment, consumption, innovation, etc. are too concentrated in a few economic sectors in a few large cities, and their ability to drive employment is not strong and difficult to Give full play to the demographic advantage.

Simkent Refinery is one of the largest and most advanced refineries in Central Asia, and it is also the city’s economic pillar, from shutterstock

Secondly, the region has not yet formed an overall synergy, and the level of economic internal circulation is low. In recent years, with the help of the outside world, the Wahdat-Yawan Railway, Beineu-Akhzhiget Highway, Osh-Batken-Isfana Highway, Central Asia Natural Gas Pipeline A/B/C project The completion of other important infrastructure projects has improved the interconnection problems between cities belonging to the four countries of Hajitaou, as well as the level of external transportation and energy connections. However, due to historical issues and many other issues, the foundation for cooperation between cities is still fragile and vulnerable to emergencies and national sentiments.

In addition, the economic homogeneity in the region is relatively high, and the driving force for complementary development of cities is insufficient, and it is difficult to provide good internal circulation conditions structurally. In terms of public cooperation, although there are cooperation mechanisms between the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Shanghai Cooperation Council, they are still far from an overall effective framework, making it very difficult to form a unified market.

The CIS and SCO cooperation mechanisms, but they are still far from an overall effective framework, and are still in the consensus stage, from shutterstock

In addition, there has not yet been a star city with strong driving ability in this area. In terms of overall strength, apart from Tashkent, Simkent and Bishkek, which belong to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, are the future of this region. It is most likely to be promoted as a candidate for a leading city in Central Asia, but Simkent is facing the problem of an industrial structure that is too dependent on heavy industries such as refining and chemical, and is vulnerable to international market risk fluctuations. Bishkek has a weak economic foundation and lack of natural resources. Such obvious shortcomings, the two are affected by the squeeze competition of Almaty, Nur-Sultan and Tashkent in terms of foreign investment, industrial development, and national policies.

Bishkek is relatively backward in general, from shutterstock

In the long run, due to the growing population and relatively superior natural conditions, as long as the region adheres to an open economic policy, actively integrates into the development initiatives of countries outside the region, and gradually strengthens the cooperation process of intraregional integration, it belongs to many cities It will continue to move forward steadily, but whether there are outstanding students who can be promoted to the top level in Central Asia, it needs long-term observation.

Like the division of nations and territories, the current urban competition pattern in Central Asia is inevitably still affected by the history of Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union. However, there is no doubt that the cities in this region today already have the dominant power over their own destiny. In the future, no matter who can be the first in the region, these brilliant pearls are prosperous.The city is bound to move on to a more exciting development journey.

Reference material:

[1]The new trend of Central Asian integration and its impact on the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Zhang Ning;

[2] Comparison of urbanization levels between Xinjiang, China and the five countries in Central Asia. Ren Qun Luo Wen Yani;< /p>

[3] The shadow of the Central Asian crisis in the oil bear market. Mei Xinyu;

[4] Basic information about the consular area of ​​the Consulate General. Consulate General in Almaty.

This article is from WeChat official account:Geo-Valley (ID: Geo-Valley) author: sea side