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China, Central Asian Nations Gather for Summit in Historic ‘Silk Road’ City, Xi’an

May 16, 2023, 2022 (EIRNS)—China and the leaders of five Central Asia nations will convene a major conference, the first in-person China-Central Asia Summit, on May 18-19 in Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi Province. Xi’an is the city from which the Han Dynasty’s Zhang Qian launched the Silk Road 2,100 years ago. The Presidents from Central Asia are: Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan; Sadyr Japarov of Kyrgyzstan; Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan; Serdar Berdimuhamedov of Turkmenistan; and Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan. China’s Xi Jinping will chair the meeting.

Four of the Central Asian leaders arrived in China today, making state visits, which involve one-on-one meetings with host Xi Jinping. Turkmenistan’s Berdimuhamedov made a state visit to China on Jan. 6. At the summit on May 18, President Xi will present a grand development plan for this critical region.

At today’s press conference Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, gave an overview of what China and Central Asian nations have accomplished through the Belt and Road Initiative:

“Over the past decade, we have jointly implemented a number of major projects which have benefited the region and its people in various ways. The China-Kazakhstan Horgos International Border Cooperation Center and the China-Kazakhstan Logistics Base in Lianyungang have been completed, providing a gateway to the Pacific for Central Asian countries. The Chinese-built tunnel of the Angren-Pap railway line, the longest tunnel in Central Asia, saved local residents the trouble of climbing through the mountains or taking a detour via neighboring countries. The China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan (CKU) highway has become an important international transportation route that runs smoothly through the region’s mountainous terrain. Four-fifths of the China-Europe Railway Express trains run through Central Asia. They are a steel caravan for the Eurasian continent. Last year, the total trade volume between China and Central Asian countries hit a record high of $70 billion. These tangible outcomes lay a solid foundation for the two sides’ continued commitment to mutual respect, good neighborliness and friendship, mutual support in times of difficulties and win-win cooperation.”

The revitalization of Afghanistan will be another theme taken up at the summit, as, after 20 years of war, the U.S. suddenly walked out on Afghanistan in August 2021, leaving the country severely impoverished, with millions of Afghans on the edge of starvation. China supports two major rail projects involving Afghanistan: construction of the Uzbekistan-Pakistan railway through Afghanistan, and the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan-Afghanistan Corridor Agreement. The method for creating a healthy, growing Afghanistan involves both its direct rebuilding and development of the region’s infrastructure as a whole.

China-Central Asia trade, after growing in 2022 to $70 billion, has also surged by 23% in the first quarter of 2023, compared to the first quarter of last year.

China appears to be coordinating on Central Asia’s development with Russia. The Central Asian leaders had travelled to Moscow on May 9 to attend ceremonies for Victory Day of the Great Patriotic War. All had discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin, with some very specific discussions on economic development in their country. Russia’s bilateral trade with the Central Asian nations grew to $42 billion in 2022.

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