Russian Izvestia: Is China really seeking to outpace Russia in Central Asia?

Among the main goals of the summit of China and Central Asian countries, which was held two days ago in the Chinese city of Xi’an, is to enhance trade exchanges and promote the “Belt and Road” initiative, as the leaders of the participating countries plan to commit to a “political document” that lays the foundation for future decades of cooperation, according to Ma. stated in a report It was published by the Russian newspaper Izvestia.

The Russian newspaper pointed out that while the West interpreted this event as reflecting China’s desire to outpace the Russian ally in Central Asia, experts – interviewed by Izvestia – said that Moscow and Beijing are working in the region side by side in the framework of cooperation, not competition for influence.

The report stated that the summit of leaders of China and the five Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) is the first major diplomatic event hosted by China this year, and the first direct meeting of the heads of those countries in the 31 years since Beijing established diplomatic relations with it.

The symbolism of the place

This summit was held in the Chinese city of Xi’an, the starting point of the ancient Silk Road, which included a network of Eurasian trade routes dating back to the second century BC. Ten years ago, China launched the “Belt and Road” initiative involving the five Central Asian republics.

Over the past decade, the countries of the region have been able to implement many projects such as the China-Central Asia Gas Pipeline (which passes through the territories of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan), the China-Kazakhstan Oil Pipeline, the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Highway, and the China-Tajikistan Highway. , The most notable achievement is the China-Europe high-speed train that runs through Central Asia.

According to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, the volume of trade exchanges between China and Central Asian countries in 2022 reached a record level of $70.2 billion, and the total Chinese investment projects completed in the five Central Asian countries amounted to $63.9 billion.

But China did not stop there, as President Xi Jinping announced last January that he plans to increase investment in the region.

West is watching

The report indicated that the West will closely monitor efforts to intensify cooperation between Beijing and Central Asian countries. Among the narratives put forward is that China’s expansion in Central Asia competes with Russian influence in the region.

Zhao Long, deputy director of the Institute for Global Governance Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, was quoted as saying that the Western media is not only trying to demonize China’s cooperation with Central Asian countries, but also claims that China is seeking to gain influence in this region at the expense of Russia, which is This could lead to a rift in Sino-Russian relations.

Zhao Long emphasized that these two countries have long played complementary roles in Central Asia – as a provider of security and a driving force for economic development – and this logic has not changed.

For her part, Dina Malysheva – a senior scientific researcher at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences – said that talk about China’s attempt to remove Russia from Central Asia has been going on since Beijing began presenting itself as an active player in global politics and economy, but this vulgar propaganda has nothing to do with it. her actually.

According to Malysheva, the countries of the region adhere to a policy in which they cooperate with powerful international centers, especially in the economic field, and are interested in not allowing any center to control their policies and economy.

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