Chinese President Xi Jinping opened a historic summit with five former Soviet Central Asian republics, where he hailed the start of a “new era” in China-Central Asia relations. At the opening banquet in Xi’an, Xi expressed confidence that the summit would be a great success and usher in a new era in China-Central Asia relations. This summit, the first of its kind since diplomatic relations were established between China and these countries in 1992, is of momentous significance, according to the Chinese government.
The meeting is being held in Xi’an, the former imperial capital that was also the eastern end of the Silk Road. The five invited countries have close historical, economic, linguistic, and diplomatic ties with Russia, having been linked to the Russian Empire and later the Soviet Union.
However, Russian influence has waned due to the war in Ukraine, which has led China to seek to expand its international projection and influence in the region. The summit also coincides with the G7 meeting in Hiroshima, where a strategy to counter China’s growing influence in the world is expected to be discussed.
Trade relations between China and Central Asian countries have grown significantly, with trade exchanges reaching $70 billion last year and a 22% increase in the first quarter of 2023. These former Soviet republics play a central role in China’s ambitious New Silk Roads project, which seeks to build overseas infrastructure and develop trade links with Europe.
The summit is expected to promote the construction of major transport links, such as the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway, which is currently at a standstill, and the expansion of the pipeline connecting Central Asia to China. Major announcements are expected to be made on Friday, with the release of a joint statement reflecting the agreements and commitments reached during the summit.