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News / Brèves

China To Host Economic Development Summit of Five Central Asian Nations

10 May 2023

EIRNS—China’s President Xi Jinping will chair the first ever China-Central Asia Summit, to be held May 18-19 in Xi’an—the starting point of the ancient Silk Road. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin announced May 8 that this will be the first in-person summit between the leaders of China and the five Central Asian nations since the establishment of diplomatic relations 31 years ago. It is also the first major diplomatic event in China this year. The summit will interface with intense Chinese-Russian joint activity in the region (see separate slug). Attending the Xi’an summit will be Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev; Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov; Tajik President Emomali Rahmon; Turkmenistan President Serdar Berdimuhamedov; and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

The Belt and Road will be a driving theme of the conference. The May 8 Global Times reported, “Trade between China and the five Central Asian countries reached $70.2 billion last year, a historic high, China’s Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao said last month. In 2022, China’s imports of agricultural, energy and mineral products from these countries jumped over 50 percent, while its exports of mechanical and electronic products to them increased by 42%.”

The theme of agricultural production will be addressed. Liu Dongmeng, vice president of Xi’an Aiju Grain and Oil Industry Group, told Global Times, “We have already built a processing plant in Kazakhstan with an annual output of 300,000 tons, and we are aiming to set up two grain assembly centers in the nation this year to further expand purchasing and planting.”

The revitalization of Afghanistan will be another theme, as, after years of war, the U.S. suddenly walked out on Afghanistan in August 2021 (even though it still pauperizes that country through sanctions). China supports two major rail projects involving Afghanistan: the construction of the Uzbekistan-Pakistan cross-border railway through Afghanistan, and the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan-Afghanistan Corridor Agreement.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin asserted that President Xi Jinping will present an important speech at the summit, and that the participants “will jointly sign an important political document.” And, Kyrgyz President Japarov, Tajik President Rahmon, Turkmen President Berdimuhamedov, and Uzbek President Mirziyoyev will all hold state visits in China during this period.

There is strong Chinese-Russian cooperation to develop this region, after 150 years of Western imperial failures. Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), and Tajikistan is a candidate member. The group was initiated by Russia in 2014 and includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic and the Russian Federation. Sergey Glazyev, the Minister in charge of Integration and Macroeconomics of the Eurasian Economic Commission (the Commission is the executive body of the EAEU), is spearheading work to develop Central Asia as a “common economic space,” and is closely collaborating with Chinese economists and leaders to work out plans. All five Central Asian members, and also China and Russia, are members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is pushing for a new production-centered world credit and monetary system. [ref]

See also: https://www.ualberta.ca/china-institute/events/2023/indo-pacific-strategy.html