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China supports Kazakhstan joining BRICS, eyes energy reserves

(Adds details of energy deals in paragraphs 9-11)

By Joe Cash

BEIJING, July 3 (Reuters) - China's President Xi Jinping said he supports Kazakhstan joining the BRICS bloc, Chinese state media reported on Wednesday, as the group of developing nations mulls further expansion to rival a Western-dominated world order it sees as outdated.

Speaking to the press alongside Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev following a meeting in the Central Asian state's capital, Xi encouraged Kazakhstan to «play the role of a middle power on the international stage and make its due contribution to global governance», while endorsing Astana's accession.

China and Russia are pushing for the expansion of the BRICS grouping, which also includes Brazil, India and South Africa, as they seek to counter Western economic dominance.

Originally an acronym coined by Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O'Neill in 2001, the bloc was founded as an informal four-nation club in 2009 and added South Africa a year later.

Last August, the BRICS bloc agreed to admit Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates. However, Saudi Arabia has not yet joined the group.

Argentina had planned to join BRICS, but President Javier Milei withdrew his country soon after taking office in December.

Xi is in Kazakhstan to attend a heads of state meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization from July 3-4.

During his meeting with Tokayev, China and Kazakhstan also agreed to double their two-way trade as soon as possible and deepen cooperation in oil and gas exploration, extraction and processing, the report added.

Crude oil and petroleum gases made up the bulk of Kazakhstan's exports to China last year, according to United Nations COMTRADE data, with outbound shipments to the world's No.2 economy worth $3.8 billion and $1.5 billion, respectively. As such, Xi and Tokayev agreed to take measures to ensure the long-term, safe and stable operation of the crude oil pipeline running between their respective countries and the Kazakhstan section of the China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline running from China's Xinjiang region to Turkmenistan, the report said.

The two leaders also pledged to strengthen cooperation in clean energy, including wind, solar and nuclear power, with Chinese companies stepping in to help upgrade Kazakhstan's energy grid and power stations.

Chinese firms have invested $9.5 billion in Kazakhstan since Xi first proposed his flagship Belt and Road Initiative during a state visit in 2013, data from the American Enterprise Institute think tank shows, almost all of which has been in the state's petroleum or nuclear energy industries.

(Reporting by Joe Cash; Editing by Jacqueline Wong, Christian Schmollinger and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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