XIAN (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday unveiled a grand plan for the development of Central Asia, from building infrastructure to boosting trade, and assuming a new leadership role in a region that has traditionally been a Russian sphere of influence.
In a speech to the China-Central Asia Summit in northwest China, Xi said China is ready to coordinate development strategies with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and promote the modernization of all.
“This summit has added new impetus to the development and revitalization of the six provinces, injecting strong positive energy into regional peace and stability,” Xi said later at a press conference with his Central Asian counterparts.
“We will jointly adopt a new model of highly complementary, high-level and win-win cooperation.”
With its involvement, China has placed itself at the forefront of the race for political influence and energy assets in the resource-rich region, where Russia has been distracted by its war in Ukraine and the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, which has reduced the US presence in the region. .
The five former Soviet republics, with a network of trade corridors, offer China alternative routes for transporting fuel, food and other goods in the event of disruptions elsewhere.
The pledges of support and cooperation at the two-day summit will offer a contrast to the “negative” image of China that was invoked at the G7 leaders’ summit in Japan on Friday.
China’s support for Central Asia also seems to be a corresponding weight to accuse the United States of its coercive diplomacy.
Xi said China and Central Asian countries should deepen trust and give “clear and firm support” for core interests such as sovereignty, independence, national dignity and long-term development.
He did not mention Ukraine, which like other Central Asian countries was part of the Soviet Union.
“China is willing to help Central Asian countries improve law enforcement and security and build their defense capabilities,” he said.
Trade and investment
Xi said China will also upgrade bilateral investment agreements and increase cross-border freight volume with the region.
He added that he would encourage Chinese-funded companies in Central Asia to create more jobs, build warehouses and launch a special train service aimed at boosting tourism.
“In order to strengthen our cooperation and development in Central Asia, China will provide Central Asian countries with a total of 26 billion yuan ($3.8 billion) in financing and grant support,” Xi said.
Bilateral trade between China and Central Asia hit a record $70 billion last year, with Kazakhstan topping $31 billion, as China seeks deeper ties in its pursuit of greater food and energy security.
Xi said the construction of Line D of the China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline should be accelerated.
He also called on China and Central Asia to increase oil and gas trade between them, develop energy cooperation across industrial chains, and promote cooperation in new energy and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
In the long run, China supports the construction of an international transport corridor across the Caspian Sea, Xi said, and will promote the construction of transportation hubs for freight train services between China and Europe.
($1 = 6.9121 CNY)
reporting by Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Jacqueline Wong
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