(L-R) Chinese President Xi Jinping, Kazakhstan's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Kyrgyzstan's President Sadyr Japarov, Uzbekistan's President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmon and Turkmenistan's President Serdar Berdymukhamedov arrive for the joint press conference of the China-Central Asia Summit in Xian, Shaanxi province, China, 19 May 2023. EFE-EPA/FLORENCE LO / POOL

China, Central Asia to promote transport corridor, energy development partnership

Beijing, May 19 (EFE).- China and the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan agreed on Friday to promote the construction of a transport corridor and an energy development partnership.

The China-Central Asia summit, held in the central Chinese city of Xi’an and aimed at consolidating Beijing’s influence in that area, ended on Friday with the signing of a declaration, in which both sides also agreed to institutionalize a mechanism for meetings between heads of state in the future.

The summit will be held every two years with the next one scheduled to take place in Kazakhstan in 2025, China’s state-run daily Global Times reported.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Kyrgyzstan’s President Sadyr Japarov, Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon, Turkmenistan’s President Serdar Berdymukhamedov and Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev pose for pictures at a group photo session during the China-Central Asia Summit in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, China, 19 May 2023. EFE-EPA/FLORENCE LO / POOL

Both sides also vowed to “build a China-Central Asia community with a shared future” and provide “firm support on core issues such as sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity” in addition to opposing “external interference in domestic affairs,” Global Times said.

In an address to Central Asian leaders, Xi unveiled an ambitious plan seeking to boost trade and energy ties, strengthen cultural exchanges and safeguard peace in the region.

“It is important that we act on the Global Security Initiative, and stand firm against external attempts to interfere in domestic affairs of regional countries or instigate color revolutions. We should remain zero-tolerant to the three forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism,” Xi said.

The Global Security Initiative was launched by Xi in April 2022 to promote multilateralism and opposition to sanctions on the international stage.

Xi’an (China), 19/05/2023.- Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during the China-Central Asia Summit in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, China, 19 May 2023. EFE-EPA/MARK R. CRISTINO

The Chinese leader stressed the need for a stable, prosperous, harmonious and inter-connected Central Asia and said China was ready to help the region’s countries “strengthen capacity building on law enforcement, security and defense.”

Xi also promised the five nations “clear and strong support on issues of central interest such as those related to sovereignty, independence, national dignity and long-term development.”

Beijing sees Central Asia as an important area, not only for expanding trade, but also for maintaining stability in its Xinjiang province, where the treatment of Uighur Muslims has sparked controversy between China and the West in recent years.

“The China-Central Asia relationship is steeped in history, driven by broad actual needs, and built on solid popular support. Our relations are brimming with vigor and vitality in the new era,” Xi declared.

(L-R) Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon, Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Kyrgyzstan President Sadyr Japarov and Turkmenistan President Serdar Berdimuhamedov hold the signed declaration during the joint press conference of the China-Central Asia Summit in Xian, Shaanxi province, China, 19 May 2023. EFE-EPA/FLORENCE LO / POOL

Xi also pledged to “strengthen theoretical and practical exchanges with Central Asian countries on modernization, synergize our development strategies, create more opportunities for cooperation, and jointly advance the modernization process of our six countries.”

He advocated strengthening cooperation mechanisms in industry and investment, agriculture, transport and education, among others, and promised to provide 26 billion yuan (about $3.72) of “financing support and grant” to the Central Asian nations.

The Chinese president promised to “upgrade bilateral investment treaties”, “increase the volume of cross-border cargo transportation”, and “encourage Chinese companies in Central Asia to create more local jobs” as well as “open special train services for cultural tourism” in the region.

He said that Beijing would “support the development of the trans-Caspian international transport corridor” and “step up the development of China-Europe Railway Express assembly centers.

Xi also called for accelerating “the construction of Line D of the China-Central Asia Gas Pipeline” and to “expand trade in oil and gas, pursue cooperation throughout the energy industrial chains, and strengthen cooperation on new energy and peaceful use of nuclear energy.”

Trade between China and the five countries rose 22 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of this year, according to data cited by Global Times.

During that period, Chinese imports of agricultural, energy and mineral products rose more than 50 percent year-on-year, while exports of mechanical and electrical goods to Central Asia increased by 42 percent. EFE