China hosts Central Asian leaders and the Group of Seven meet in Japan to confront Beijing’s economic “blackmail”.


Chinese President Xi Jinping inaugurated the “China-Central Asia” summit today, Thursday, while the leaders of the Group of Seven countries are preparing to hold a parallel meeting in Hiroshima, Japan, to discuss countering China’s growing influence around the world.

The meeting held in the Chinese city of Xi’an, located in the far east of the Silk Road, which forms the link between China and Europe through Central Asia, is the first of its kind since official relations were established 31 years ago between Beijing and these countries after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“China sincerely calls on these countries to join the rapid train of their development so that we can jointly build a better future,” Xi said at the opening of the summit.

The summit comes at a time when Beijing is moving to fill the void created by the Russian war on Ukraine in the countries of the former Soviet Union, while Xi is presenting himself as a global leader seeking to expand China’s influence beyond its borders.

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% 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.

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 – speaking to Agence France-Presse – suggested that the summit would witness efforts aimed at establishing large-scale transport networks and energy pipelines, including a long-delayed railway project linking China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, at a cost of $6 billion, in addition to a project to expand a gas pipeline linking Central Asia with China.

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

Japan meeting

On the other hand, the G7 industrialized countries will hold a summit in Hiroshima, Japan, tomorrow, Friday, to discuss a number of issues on the international scene, the most important of which is Russia’s war on Ukraine and “economic coercion” that China may practice, in addition to military tensions in East Asia.

The summit, in which US President Joe Biden will participate, is being held amid escalating tension in the East Asian region, as Japanese officials have warned of the possibility of China repeating the Ukraine scenario in Taiwan.

The leaders are scheduled to begin their summit by visiting the “Peace Museum” in central Hiroshima, dedicated to commemorating the US atomic bombing of the city at the end of World War II.

The leaders of the United States, Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Canada will seek to present a united front against Russia and China, and try to converge on other strategic issues.

The seven countries will devote a large part of their discussions to the issue of China, especially ways to address what they see as “economic blackmail” that Beijing may practice, by diversifying production and supply networks, at a time when the Chinese government has shown its willingness to impose restrictions on trade.

It is expected – according to US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan – that the leaders of the seven countries will denounce this “economic coercion” and seek to overcome the differences between the two sides of the Atlantic regarding the position to be adopted towards China.

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