Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday hailed a “new era” of ties with Central Asia, launching a summit where Beijing hopes to deepen ties with this strategically important region.
Held in the ancient Chinese city of Xi’an, the historic eastern end of the Silk Road that linked China to Europe via Central Asia, Beijing has called this week’s meeting of “historic importance”.
Addressing leaders from the region at a welcome dinner on Thursday night, Xi said strengthening ties was a “strategic choice”.
“I am confident that with our joint efforts, tomorrow’s summit will be a complete success and usher in a new era in China-Central Asia relations,” Xi said, according to AFP.
“Join us to open up a bright future for cooperation between China and Central Asia,” he added.
This week’s meeting is the first of its kind since the establishment of formal ties 31 years ago.
Beijing claims trade with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan is set to reach $70 billion in 2022 and up 22% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2023.
Central Asia has also become key to the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ in which China will invest millions. A fundamental geopolitical project for Xi. At a time when Beijing is eager to restart cooperation and fill the void left by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in pre-Soviet states.