China-Central Asia Summit: A win-win for trade and connectivity

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China’s President Xi Jinping welcomed the leaders of five Central Asian countries to Xi’an, the capital city of Shaanxi Province, on Thursday for the first China-Central Asia Summit. The two-day event aims to boost economic and trade ties, as well as regional cooperation and stability.

The summit is the first offline meeting between Xi and the heads of state of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan since they established diplomatic relations 31 years ago. The six countries have formed strategic partnerships and have cooperated closely under the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

The leaders exchanged views on major international and regional issues of common concern and signed important political documents at the end of the conference. They also agreed to establish a regular consultation mechanism to enhance strategic communication and coordination.

The summit comes at a time when Central Asia is becoming more prominent in international affairs and trade, especially as Russia faces sanctions from the West. China, as the world’s largest energy consumer and a major investor in the region, sees Central Asia as a key partner for its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to build infrastructure and connectivity across Eurasia.

According to China’s Ministry of Commerce, China’s trade with Central Asia reached 70 billion U.S. dollars in 2022 and recorded a year-on-year expansion of 22 percent in the first quarter of this year. China’s direct investment stock in Central Asia stood at over 15 billion dollars as of the end of March.

The summit is hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who will deliver an important speech on China’s relations with the region. The heads of state of the five Central Asian countries will also exchange views on bilateral and regional issues of common concern.

The summit marks the first time that the leaders of the six countries gather in China since establishing diplomatic ties 31 years ago. It is also the first major diplomatic event that China hosts this year.

The summit is expected to draw a new blueprint for China-Central Asia cooperation and create fresh momentum for their partnership. The six countries will jointly sign an important political document to chart the course for their future relations.

The summit is based on the China + Central Asia (C+C5) cooperation mechanism, which was established in 2020 to meet a growing demand for deeper cooperation between China and Central Asia.

China and Central Asia have a long history of friendly exchanges dating back to ancient times. The two sides have forged strategic partnerships and achieved fruitful results in various fields such as trade, energy, infrastructure, and people-to-people exchanges.

China and Central Asia are also important members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which has played a leading role in promoting regional security and stability.

The summit is held in Xi’an, a city with a rich historical and cultural heritage. Xi’an was once the starting point of the ancient Silk Road, which connected China and Central Asia for centuries. The summit will inject new vitality into the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to build a community with a shared future for mankind.

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