BEIJING, May 11, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Since China established diplomatic ties with five Central Asian countries 31 years ago, regional exchanges and cooperation in strategic, economic and security fields have been making increasingly substantial strides.
The closer ties are expected to reach a new high late next week when the first China-Central Asia Summit takes place in northwestern China’s Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, a city that is known as the starting point of the ancient Silk Road that went through Central Asia to Europe. Chinese President Xi Jinping will host the summit to be attended by state leaders from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Experts say the upcoming gathering of the heads of state highlights the fact that China and the Central Asian countries share broad common interests and that regional cooperation is becoming increasingly profound amid growing global turbulence.
“Head-of-state diplomacy is the biggest political advantage of all-around cooperation between China and the Central Asian countries,” according to Sun Zhuangzhi, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Such a summit can enhance strategic mutual trust, establish cooperation mechanisms and remove political obstacles by resolving differences. At the same time, through head-of-state diplomacy, countries will be more likely to support each other on core interests and major concerns, and coordinate with each other in international affairs, which can help to improve global governance, Sun wrote in a recent article published in the journal Contemporary World.
In January last year, President Xi chaired a virtual summit commemorating the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the Central Asian countries. One month later, five Central Asian countries’ state leaders attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics. And the third China-Central Asia Foreign Ministers’ meeting in June decided to upgrade the gathering to the head-of-state level.
Following that, Xi visited Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and attended the SCO Summit in Samarkand in September, his first major overseas visit since the outbreak of COVID-19.
Experts say these intensive diplomatic activities demonstrated the great importance China attaches to the Central Asian countries.
Deng Hao, a researcher at China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), noted that a good China-Central Asia relationship helps improve the strategic and security environment in China’s western regions and it also promotes stability and development in the Central Asian countries, a win-win strategy.
Multi-pillar cooperation, impressive results
Deng wrote in the journal of China International Studies that China has made great diplomatic achievements in Central Asian countries, especially the building of three pillar cooperation mechanisms: Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the China-Central Asia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.
The SCO, born more than two decades ago with a mission to combat terrorism, separatism and extremism, aims to provide a safe and stable developing environment for SCO member countries. Over the years, the SCO has witnessed burgeoning security cooperation in regional and international arenas, and unleashed enormous development opportunities for the region and the wider world, Deng said.
And the BRI, put forward by Xi in 2013 and with a focus on connectivity, aims to build Central Asia into a channel connecting China and Europe, which can further activate the economic circles of Asia and Europe. Ten years on, China has signed BRI cooperation documents with all Central Asian countries and has yielded impressive results in infrastructure construction, economic and trade cooperation and financial facility.
Official data shows the trade volume between China and the Central Asian countries reached $70.2 billion in 2022, a more than 100 times increase compared with the trade volume when the two sides established diplomatic ties.
“The BRI has brought China and the five Central Asian countries even closer. The upcoming China-Central Asia Summit will further guide the six countries to continue the friendship and deepen cooperation, jointly building the China-Central Asia community with a shared future,” said Yu Xiaoshuang, an assistant researcher at the CIIS.