Chinese President Xi Jinping as the first host

Arief Budi
Arief Budi

Global Courant 2023-05-08 15:20:00

BEIJING — Chinese President Xi Jinping will host a two-day summit next week with the leaders of five Central Asian countries, Beijing said Monday, as China takes steps to increase its influence in the region.

Leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are expected to attend the China-Central Asia Summit from May 18 to 19, China’s foreign ministry said.

The summit in the historic city of Xi’an on the ancient Silk Road is the first of its kind since establishing formal relations 31 years ago, according to the ministry, and will aim to strengthen economic and diplomatic ties with Beijing.

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China, the world’s second largest energy consumer, has invested billions of dollars to tap natural gas reserves in Central Asia.

Rail links connecting China to Europe criss-cross the region and are key to the success of Xi’s multibillion-dollar global infrastructure project, the Belt and Road Initiative.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Monday that Mr Xi will deliver a keynote speech at the summit, billed as China’s first major diplomatic event of the year, and that the leaders will jointly sign “important political documents”.

“The heads of state will review the development of China-Central Asia relations and exchange views on China-Central Asia cooperation in various fields and on important international and regional issues of common concern,” Wang told a regular briefing. .

Foreign Minister Qin Gang said at a meeting with his regional counterparts in Xi’an in April that Beijing has a policy of “good neighborliness and friendship” with regard to Central Asia.

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A Chinese Foreign Ministry report on the meeting said: “All sides reiterated… firm mutual support on issues affecting each other’s core interests, a firm opposition to external interference in internal affairs, and a resolute rejection of… violence that chaos and turbulence in Central Asia.”

The republics of Central Asia were part of the Soviet Union and have been dominated by Moscow since the mid-19th century.

But Russia’s influence has been increasingly challenged since its invasion of Ukraine, with Beijing courting Moscow’s traditional allies in the region.

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In 2022, China’s exports to Central Asia will grow 60 percent year-on-year to US$1.4 billion (S$1.85 billion), according to data released by China’s Ministry of Commerce in April.

In September 2022, Mr. Xi traveled to Kazakhstan for his first trip abroad since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Countries, including Kazakhstan, bordering China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang, have remained silent over allegations of human rights abuses by Beijing against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. AFP

Chinese President Xi Jinping as the first host

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