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Xi Jinping: China, Central Asia must 'unleash potential'

May 19, 2023

The Chinese president has promised to bolster economic and infrastructure projects in the region at a "milestone" meeting with leaders from former Soviet states in the region.

Xi Jinping, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Sadyr Japarov, Emomali Rahmon, Serdar Berdymukhamedov and Shavkat Mirziyoyev pose for pictures
China is hosting leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan at the landmark summitImage: Florence Lo/REUTERS

Chinese leader Xi Jinping pledged Friday to build more railway and trade links with Central Asia and proposed to jointly develop oil and gas projects in the region. 

While speaking to regional leaders, he called on China and Central Asia to "fully unleash" their potential in trade, economic and infrastructure cooperation.

Xi unveiled a grand plan for Central Asia's development as he wrapped up the landmark Central Asian summit being held in China's historic city of Xian.

Xi committed $3.8 billion (€3.5 billion) of financing support and grants for development projects at the summit which was attended by leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

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"China is ready to help Central Asian countries improve their law enforcement, security, and defence capability construction," he said.

"This summit has added new impetus to the development and revitalisation of the six counties, and injected strong positive energy into regional peace and stability," Xi said later while addressing the media in presence of his Central Asian counterparts.

China grabs opportunity amid Russia's war in Ukraine

By hosting leaders from former Soviet states, China has displayed its relentless pursuit for global leadership and growing its influence in the absence of Russia which is distracted in the Ukraine war.

Central Asia is a crucial region for China's trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative.  At the summit, Xi said the region and China must "take the lead" in that project and "deepen strategic mutual trust."

Belt and Road trade network disrupted by war

The region also offers China alternative routes for trade in case of any disruptions elsewhere.

In the long term, China supports construction of a cross-Caspian Sea international transport corridor, Xi said.

The China summit and G7

The summit in Xian coincides with a meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) leaders in Japan.

"The six countries should resolutely oppose external interference in the internal affairs of regional countries and attempts to instigate 'color revolutions'," Xi said in a reference to movements that Moscow alleges were supported by the West.

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mf/rt (Reuters, AFP, AP)