Global Courant 2023-05-19 13:23:34
Chinese President Xi Jinping presented an ambitious plan for the development of Central Asia on Friday.
This plan includes building infrastructure and expanding trade, marking China’s emergence as a new leader in a region that has historically fallen within Russia’s sphere of influence. Addressing the China-Central Asia Summit held in northwest China, President Xi expressed China’s willingness to link development strategies with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
He emphasized the promotion of modernization for all these countries.
“This summit has given new impetus to the development and revitalization of the six counties and installed strong positive energy in regional peace and stability,” Xi said at a press conference with his Central Asian counterparts.
“We will work together to cultivate a new model of cooperation that is mutually beneficial,” he said.
By becoming actively involved, China has positioned itself as a leader in the race for political influence and access to energy resources in the Central Asian region. For China, this has become easier because Russia is preoccupied with the war in Ukraine, as well as because of the reduced US presence in the region as a result of the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan.
The five former Soviet republics in Central Asia offer China alternative transport routes for fuel, food and other goods in the event of disruptions in other regions. The pledges of support and cooperation made during the two-day summit serve as a stark contrast to the “negative” portrayal of China during the recent Group of Seven (G7) leaders’ summit in Japan.
China’s support for Central Asia also appears to be a counterweight to US accusations of its coercive diplomacy.
Xi said China and Central Asian countries should deepen trust and provide “clear and firm support” for core interests such as sovereignty, independence, national dignity and long-term development. He did not mention Ukraine, which, like the countries of Central Asia, was part of the Soviet Union.
“China is willing to help Central Asian countries improve their law enforcement, security and defense capabilities,” he said.
Trade and investment
Xi stated that China plans to improve bilateral investment agreements and increase the volume of goods exports with the region.
He said he would encourage Chinese-funded businesses in Central Asia to create more jobs, build factories and launch a special train line aimed at promoting tourism.
“To strengthen our cooperation and the development of Central Asia, China will provide Central Asian countries a total of 26 billion yuan (3.5 billion euros) in financial support and grants,” Xi said.
Xi stressed the need to speed up the construction of Line D of the China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline. He also called for increasing oil and gas trade between China and Central Asia, developing energy cooperation in various industries, and promoting cooperation in new energy sources and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
China also supports the construction of an international transport corridor across the Caspian Sea and aims to strengthen the development of transport hubs for China-Europe freight train services, Xi said./REL