On May 19, Xi Jinping, the Chinese premier, unveiled a plan for the development of Central Asia, right from building infrastructure to boosting trade, thereby taking on a new leadership role in a landscape that has always been regarded as being influenced by Russia.
According to Xi, who was addressing a China-Central Asia summit held in northwest China, his country is willing to coordinate strategies of development with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan.
As per Xi, the summit has indeed given a new push to the development and revitalization of six nations and has gone on to give positive energy to regional peace as well as stability. He added that they are indeed going to put forth a new paradigm of win-win cooperation at the highest level. ‘
It is well to be noted that due to this engagement, China has gone on to put itself in pole position when it comes to political influence as well as energy assets in a region that happens to be resource rich, with Russia being distracted by the Ukraine situation and the US no longer present in Afghanistan.
Apparently, these five former Soviet republics, by way of having trade corridors, offer China an alternate option when it comes to transporting fuel, food, and other commodities in case of any disruption.
These pledges of support are indeed a contrast to the negative image that China has invoked at the recent G7 leaders’ summit.
China’s support when it comes to Central Asia appears to be like a counterweight to the accusations made by the US of the coercive diplomacy that it practises. As per Xi, both Central Asian countries as well as China must go on to deepen trust and at the same time offer robust and clear support when it comes to core interests such as independence, sovereignty, long-term development, and national dignity. However, there was no mention of Ukraine, which also happened to be a part of the Soviet Union. Xi added that China is indeed ready to aid Central Asian countries and enhance security law enforcement as well as defence capacity construction. It is also planning to upscale bilateral investment deals and elevate the cross-border volume of freight in the region. According to him, this will help China-funded businesses across Central Asia to develop more employment, build warehouses, and, at the same time, come up with a special train service that will be aimed at promoting tourism. In order to bolster cooperation as well as Central Asia’s development, China is going to provide a whopping 26 billion yuan in financial support as well as grants, which is equivalent to $3.8 billion.
It is well to be noted that the two-way trade between China and Central Asia happened to hit a record $70 billion in 2022, with countries like Kazakhstan leading the pack with $31 billion since China was seeking better as well as deeper links so as to have greater security in terms of energy and food. Xi has also called upon China and Central Asia to boost their oil and gas trade, enhance energy cooperation throughout industrial chains, and push for new energy, besides aiming for a peaceful use of nuclear energy.
Xi said that when it comes to the longer term, China does support the construction of an international corridor on the Caspian Sea and would like to strengthen the construction of transport hubs in terms of China-Europe freight train services.