This article provides an analysis of China's energy cooperation with Central Asia in the context of competition between geopolitical actors. Using historical narrative analysis methods to unfold the dynamics of the interactions between the actors, the author presents a case study of Kazakhstan's energy industry. This study could offer broader implications as the country attracted the lion's share of foreign direct investment in Central Asia, including investment from China within the Belt and Road Initiative. The analysis suggests that Central Asian states benefited from the competition between global actors as they diversified their export routes, which strengthened their political and economic independence. In the end, Central Asian states and energy consumers developed energy cooperation networks in the same area where the ancient Silk Road crossed the Eurasian landmass. Concerning the theoretical implications, this article highlights to the usefulness of applying both realist and liberal frameworks of international relations theory in tandem.