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China-Central Asia Summit

On May 19th, Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled an ambitious plan for the development of Central Asia, signaling China's emergence as a new leader in the region. The plan encompasses various aspects, ranging from infrastructure construction to trade enhancement, with the aim of deepening cooperation and modernizing the Central Asian nations. President Xi addressed these objectives during the China-Central Asia Summit held in Xi'an, emphasizing the importance of trust, support for core interests, and economic collaboration.


China expressed its readiness to coordinate development strategies with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, seeking to foster stronger ties and enhance connectivity between the countries. The Central Asian region, with its trade corridors, offers China alternative routes for transporting fuel, food, and other commodities, ensuring greater resilience in the face of potential disruptions elsewhere.


President Xi outlined several measures to support economic growth and deepen economic ties with Central Asia. China aims to upgrade bilateral investment agreements, increase cross-border freight volume, and encourage Chinese-funded businesses in the region to create more jobs and invest in infrastructure, such as warehouses and transportation services.


In 2022, mutual trade between China and Central Asia reached a record USD 70 billion, with Kazakhstan leading with USD 31 billion, demonstrating China's commitment to strengthening economic linkages for future development. Moreover, China’s main export partner in 2022 in this area is Kazakhstan with USD 16 billion, followed by Kyrgyzstan with USD 15 billion, Uzbekistan with USD 8 billion, Tajikistan with USD 2 billion, and Turkmenistan with USD 1 billion.


In addition, China has signed agreements for the avoidance of double taxation with each Central Asia country (Uzbekistan in 1996, Kazakhstan in 2001, Kyrgyzstan in 2002, Tajikistan in 2008, and Turkmenistan in 2009).


Energy cooperation was a key focus of President Xi's address. China intends to accelerate the construction of Line D of the China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline, facilitating the reliable supply of natural gas. President Xi also called for increased oil and gas trade, development of energy cooperation across industrial chains, and collaboration in the fields of new energy. These efforts highlight China's long-term commitment to ensuring energy security and diversification of energy sources.


In the longer term, China supports the construction of a cross-Caspian Sea international transport corridor and aims to strengthen the construction of transport hubs for China-Europe freight train services. These initiatives align with China's broader Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and aim to enhance regional connectivity, facilitate trade, and promote economic integration between China, Central Asia, and Europe.


China's increased involvement in Central Asia comes as other major economies, such as the United States and the European Union, also seek to strengthen ties with the region. The geopolitical landscape is evolving, and Central Asian countries are eager to engage with various global players to diversify their economic partnerships. However, China's early entry and proactive approach through initiatives like the BRI have positioned it as a significant actor in the region, with substantial investments and connectivity projects already underway.

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