Since the 1990s, China’s Xinjiang region has witnessed an increase in the trade conducted across the border with the Central Asian republics. An important aspect of this trade has been based on shared ethnic heritages. A great number of Kazakh traders from Xinjiang are involved in commercial activities, in China’s border towns, as well as in Urumqi and in connected inland cities. Due to a rapidly changing political and economic context in global markets, however, trade in Urumqi has declined dramatically in recent years. Hence, the Kazakh population who worked for decades in these trading sectors has decreased exponentially. In this paper, I will examine the emergence of the cross-border trading activities of Kazakhs in Urumqi from their periods of prosperity to those of recent decline – a process from international market turning to local market. I will show how ethnic-cultural heritage intersect with other dynamics of trade such as morality, trust, economic interests, market rules and broad geo-political and economic circumstance to shape the experience of Kazakh traders in Urumqi. I argue that although the specific patterns of trade experienced from the 1990s (in the Kazakh case since 2000s) were short lived, they nevertheless brought about great transformations in the lives of Xinjiang Kazakhs. Both ethnic identity and language link played a significant role in building trading networks. Meanwhile, this transformation contributes to circulations of goods, commodities, cultural ideas and ongoing learning processes not just through the interaction with traders from Kazakhstan but also with Chinese partners.