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China seeks to extend its regional influence by hosting the leaders of Central Asia


Chinese President Xi Jinping will host a summit of Central Asian countries Thursday, seeking regional influence, as leaders of the Group of Seven countries hold a parallel meeting in Japan.

Beijing stated that the meeting held in the Chinese city of Xi’an, which is located in the far east of the Silk Road and constitutes the link between China and Europe through Central Asia, is of “great importance”.

It is the first of its kind since formal relations were established 31 years ago.

It comes as Beijing moves to fill the void left by the Russian war on Ukraine in the former Soviet Union countries, at a time when Xi presents himself as a statesman on the international scene seeking to expand China’s influence beyond its borders.

“Xi will portray himself as a leader capable of promoting development and peace in the world,” Chikun Chu, professor of international relations and political science at Bucknell University, told AFP.

The summit is being held in conjunction with a meeting of the Group of Seven nations in Hiroshima, which Zhou expects will focus on efforts to “counter China’s growing influence around the world.”

He added that the China-Central Asia Summit is of “diplomatic and strategic importance that cannot be underestimated.”

Beijing asserts that the volume of its trade with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan reached $70 billion in 2022 and recorded a growth of 22 percent during the first quarter of 2023 compared to the same quarter last year.

Central Asia has also become central to China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, the most significant geopolitical project of the Xi Jinping era.

Transmission networks and power pipes

China, the world’s second largest energy consumer, has invested billions of dollars to exploit natural gas reserves in Central Asia, where railways link China with Europe.

Analysts who spoke to France Presse suggested that the summit would witness efforts aimed at establishing large-scale transport networks and energy pipelines, including a long-delayed project to build a railway linking China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, at a cost of six billion dollars, in addition to a project to expand a gas pipeline linking Central Asia with China.

During a meeting with Xi on Wednesday, Kazakh President Kasym-Jomart Tokayev hailed the “unique scope” of the project.

Xi told Kyrgyz President Sadir Japarov at Thursday’s talks that China “is willing to work with Kyrgyzstan to build a community of good-neighbourliness, friendship, common prosperity and a shared future.”

He is scheduled to meet other regional leaders later Thursday before an anticipated reception in the evening.

On Friday morning, a press meeting is expected to be attended by all six presidents, during which a joint statement will be issued.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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