China-Central Asia Summit
China, Central Asia must ‘fully unleash’ potential: Jinping
The scheme is a defining geopolitical project for Xi, with Beijing keen to restart cooperation and fill the vacuum left in former Soviet states by Russia’s war in Ukraine
Xi Jinping called on China and Central Asia to “fully unleash” their potential in trade, economic and infrastructure cooperation in a speech to heads of state from the strategically vital region on Friday.
The Chinese president said they must “fully unleash the potential of traditional cooperation in economy, trade, industrial capacity, energy and transport,” according to a state media readout.
He also stressed the need to develop “new growth drivers... such as finance, agriculture, poverty reduction, low carbon, health, and digital innovation”.
“China and Central Asian countries should deepen strategic mutual trust, and always offer clear and strong support for each other on issues of core interests,” Xi said.
The Chinese leader is hosting the leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan at a summit in Xi’an in northern China this week -- a meeting Beijing has said is of “milestone” significance.
Beijing says trade with Central Asia reached $70 billion in 2022 and expanded 22 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2023.
The region is also a crucial link in China’s trillion-dollar global infrastructure project, the Belt and Road Initiative.
The scheme is a defining geopolitical project for Xi, with Beijing keen to restart cooperation and fill the vacuum left in former Soviet states by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
On Friday, Xi said the region and China must “take the lead” in that project and “deepen strategic mutual trust” in a bid to “uphold everlasting friendship”.
“China welcomes the participation of Central Asian countries in special cooperative plans under the Belt and Road Initiative, including sustainable development technologies, innovation and entrepreneurship, and spatial information technology,” Xi said.
He also stressed the need to expand security cooperation on what Beijing dubbed the “three evils” in the region: separatism, terrorism and extremism.
“The six countries should resolutely oppose external interference in the internal affairs of regional countries and attempts to instigate ‘color revolutions,’” Xi said, a reference to unrest in former Soviet states that Moscow and others allege is backed by the West.
This week’s summit comes as Xi positions himself as a global statesman keen to expand China’s reach far beyond its borders.
“Xi will position himself as a leader that can promote global development and peace,” Zhiqun Zhu, a Professor of International Relations and Political Science at Bucknell University, told AFP.
The summit also coincides with a meeting of the G7 in Hiroshima that will likely focus on efforts to “push back China’s growing influence around the world”, Zhu noted.