XIAN, May 19 (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday unveiled a grand plan to develop Central Asia, from building infrastructure to boosting trade, assuming a new leadership role in a region traditionally a Russian sphere of influence.
China is ready to coordinate development strategies with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and promote the modernization of all, Xi Jinping said at the China-Central Asia Summit in Northwest China.
“This summit has given new impetus to the development and revitalization of the six counties, and injected strong positive energy into regional peace and stability,” Xi later told a press conference with his Central Asian counterparts.
“We will jointly develop a new paradigm of deeply complementary and high-level 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, drawing back the US presence in the region with Russia distracted by its war in Ukraine and the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. .
The five former Soviet republics, along with a network of trade corridors, offer China alternative routes to transport fuel, food and other goods in case of disruptions elsewhere.
The pledges of support and cooperation at the two-day summit will contrast with China’s “negative” image at the Seven Leaders’ Summit in Japan starting Friday.
China’s support for Central Asia and a counterweight America to its compelling diplomatic charges.
China and Central Asian countries should deepen trust and provide “clear and strong support” in core interests such as sovereignty, independence, national dignity and long-term development, Xi said.
He did not mention Ukraine, which was part of the Soviet Union, as were the Central Asian countries.
“China is willing to help Central Asian countries improve law enforcement, security and defense capacity building,” he said.
Trade and Investment
China will also improve bilateral investment agreements and increase cross-border freight volumes with the region, Xi said.
He added that it would encourage Chinese-funded businesses in Central Asia to create more jobs, build warehouses and launch a special train service aimed at boosting tourism.
“To boost our cooperation and development in Central Asia, China will provide a total of 26 billion yuan ($3.8 billion) in funding and grants to Central Asian countries,” Xi said.
Two-way trade between China and Central Asia reached $70 billion last year, with Kazakhstan leading the way with $31 billion, as China seeks deeper links in its quest for greater food and energy security.
Xi said the construction of the D line of the China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline should be accelerated.
He called for China and Central Asia to increase oil and gas trade, improve energy cooperation in industrial chains, and increase cooperation in the peaceful use of new energy and nuclear power.
In the long term, China supports the construction of the Trans-Caspian Sea International Transport Corridor, and will strengthen the construction of transit hubs of China-Europe freight train services, Xi said.
($1 = 6.9121 Chinese Yuan Renminbi)
Report from Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Jacqueline Wong
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