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China and Central Asian Heads of State Meet in Xi’an, Where Optimism Replaces Geopolitics

May 18, 2023, 2022 (EIRNS)—The Presidents of the five Central Asian Republics were warmly welcomed today in historic Xi’an, capital of China’s Shaanxi province, by President Xi Jinping. He met with each of them individually and then held a welcoming celebration with them and their wives this evening. Xi’an is, of course, well known as the eastern terminus of the ancient Silk Road. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Xi Jinping’s announcement of the “New Silk Road,” now known as the Belt and Road Initiative, which Xi revealed at Kazakhstan’s Nazarbayev University on Sept. 7, 2013 in a speech on “Promote People-to-People Friendship and Create a Better Future.”

Attending the Xi’an summit are Presidents Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan, Sadyr Japarov of Kyrgyzstan, Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan, Serdar Berdimuhamedov of Turkmenistan, and Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan. On May 19, President Xi will keynote the formal China-Central Asia Summit and present what has been described as a major development strategy for the region. A number of important documents will be signed and the six presidents will hold a joint press conference after the Summit.

Giving a sense of the optimism surrounding the gathering, Uzbekistan’s Ambassador to China Farhod Arziev wrote in a commentary in CGTN, “the China-Central Asia Summit stirs within me a wellspring of expectations,” mentioning, among other things, the proposed establishment of a China-Central Asia Business Council and the planned launch of the “Year of Culture and Art of the Peoples of Central Asia and China.” The latter was an initiative proposed by Uzbek President Mirziyoyev, the ambassador explained.

The bilateral meetings that Xi held today with each of the Presidents were extremely positive, during which a “raft” of bilateral agreements were signed, Xinhua reported. In the case of Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan, their bilateral relationships with Beijing were elevated to being comprehensive strategic partnerships. In each case, the leaders discussed the need for “high-quality” Belt and Road cooperation and support for the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative, and the Global Civilization Initiative.

China’s semiofficial Global Times points out in its editorial that relations among the Central Asian nations and China in recent years have been stable, “almost unaffected by geopolitical factors.” Contrast that to “the geopolitical manipulators in the West [that] have long eyed Central Asia and considered it as a chess piece to use against China and Russia, in their words, to expand its influence in the region at the cost of China and Russia.”

Speaking for those “geopolitical manipulators,” various Western media are harping that Russia has been “left out” of the Central Asia gathering and has to watch China moving into what has been Russia’s “backyard.” Russia, a state “in decline,” is “nervous,” says the Europe’s Edge journal for the Center for European Policy Analysis geopolitical think tank. Thus, Moscow is in no position to “compete” with China in the region. “China has a lot to offer; Russia does not so much,” opines author Emil Avdaliani. These astute observers argue that Russia is so insecure about maintaining its Central Asian allies that it had to invite them all to the Victory Day parade in Moscow, to put on a good show.

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