China intends to expands its sphere of influence in the region as Russia is busy in Ukraine war, which has created vacancy in the region. Russia has been one of the key influential players in the Central Asian region. Unfortunately, Russia’s influence is waning gradually thanks to the Ukraine war.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is hosting the first-of-its-kind summit famously known as the China-Central Asia Summit since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1992. This inaugural summit is part of a two-day event. Xi Jinping met with the leaders from five Central Asian nations consisting of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. China has rolled out the red carpet for all five countries in the grand welcome ceremony.
This summit overlaps with the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan. Xi Jinping wants to strengthen and deepen China’s sway in the region. The location of Central Asia is strategically very important as it straddles China’s north-western frontier and Eastern Europe. And China wants to leverage this rapidly growing region’s strategic location. This summit has given a huge opportunity to these Central Asian countries to expand their economic prospects.
This summit is being held in Xian, China. Xian is a Western Chinese city and also holds historical significance. At one point this city was considered as the initial point of the famous Silk Road. Silk Road is an ancient trade root that linked China to Europe, it passed through medieval Central Asia. Xi Jinping wants stronger engagement with Central Asia for its new Silk Road, which is being called as Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China also wants to increase its realm of clout through this kind of cooperation.
All these Central Asian countries were the part of USSR and these former Soviet republics have historically been dependent on Russia for security, trade, and other things. But since the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian sphere of influence over these countries has been continuously declining. China wants to use this opportunity to forge deeper economic, security, and diplomatic ties with these Central Asian nations.
China convened the summit on Thursday on the eve of the G-7 summit in Japan. While G-7 leaders discussed China’s activity of economic oppression of poor counties, China is strengthening economic and political engagement with these Central Asian countries.
During the summit, President Xi Jinping announced its progressive plan which help in the alleviation of Central Asia to its development. President Xi also envisages a free, well-connected, and stable Central Asia. He also stressed building stronger China-Central Asia relations with the leaders of all the countries. Xi’s plan includes Revamping developmental strategies with all the Central Asian heads in a bid to encourage the modernization and development of all six countries.
During bilateral talks with all these countries, President Xi revamped investment plans and agreements to increase economic cooperation. China plans to promote Chinese-funded businesses in all these countries to create more local jobs and opportunities for the common people of the region. Beijing has decided to launch special train service focused on promoting people-to-people exchanges and cultural tourism within Central Asia. China also pledged to provide food and energy security to the region to build deeper and stronger economic connections.
President Xi and leaders of all the countries agreed to increase in oil and gas trade and develop energy cooperation. President Xi also called for the peaceful and safer use of nuclear energy, which includes accelerating the construction of “Line-D” of the China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline. China and Central Asia have become a community with a shared vision said, Xi Jinping.
Way forward in China-Central Asia relations-
China has already invested billions of dollars in Central Asia under its Belt and Road Initiative. China’s plan to create an overland trade route connecting to Europe is a part of this initiative. Bilateral trade and investment between Central Asian countries and China has hit a record high and reached 70 billion dollars in 2022. China pledged to increase investment in the region in natural gas and railway sectors.
Both sides have also discussed reducing trade barriers for smooth movement. Amid the ongoing Ukraine war, these Central Asian countries are skeptical about their dependence on Russia and this thought has prompted them to increase their economic and security relationship with China. This summit has given a huge boost to China-Central Asia relations. Increasing investment and trade will help the people of these countries in their development.
According to Xi Jinping, this summit marks a new era in China-Central Asia relations. This summit will help China and all these Central Asian countries to forge closer bilateral ties, which will be strategically beneficial for both China and Central Asia.