By Paul Goble
China says it will allow 2,000 ethnic Kazakhs from Xinjiang to emigrate to Kazakhstan, and Kazakhstan has an annual quota of 2500 such immigrants. But those figures are a drop in the bucket, Kazakh political analyst Aydos Sarym says, given that there are some 1.5 million ethnic Kazakhs in China that Astana must attract home.
If it continues to allow so few in each year, Kazakhstan would not manage to get all of them back in less than 600 years, he continues, adding that he doubts Kazakhstan has that much time given the Sinification of Kazakhs in China and the departure of ethnic Russians from Kazakhstan (camonitor.kz/32414-massovoe-pereselenie-kazahov-iz-kitaya-v-rk-naskolko-eto-celesoobrazno-i-vozmozhno.html)
Most of the Kazakhs from China will want to settle near where their families came from, in the villages of the southern and eastern portions of the country, or in the big cities. But the oralmans, as these people are called, need to be encouraged to move to the northern part of the republic which will otherwise see a dangerous depopulation with the exit of ethnic Russians.
Many in Kazakhstan are afraid of such mass immigration, fearful that the returnees will be more nationalist than those who never left and thus destabilize the situation or that they will be less skilled than Kazakhs already here and become a burden. But such fears are overstated, Sarym says. Kazakhstan needs people and not just IT workers.
China is the largest potential pool of immigrants, he continues, and Beijing has an interest in getting rid of Kazakhs whom it finds more difficult to assimilate than other groups. But Astana must also be on the lookout for other opportunities to attract ethnic Kazakhs back to Kazakhstan.