China’s Xi hails ‘new era’ of ties with Central Asia

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© Mark Cristino, AFP

Chinese President Xi Jinping hailed a “new era” of ties with Central Asia on Thursday, kicking off a summit Beijing hopes will deepen relations with the strategically vital region.

Held in the ancient Chinese city of Xi’an, the historic eastern end of the Silk Road that linked China to Europe through Central Asia, Beijing has said this week’s meeting is of “milestone significance”.

And in a speech to the region’s leaders at a welcoming banquet Thursday evening, Xi said strengthening ties was a “strategic choice”.

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“I am confident that with our joint efforts, tomorrow’s summit will be a full success and will herald a new era of China-Central Asia relations,” Xi was quoted as saying in a readout of the speech seen by AFP.

“Join us in opening up a bright future of China-Central Asia cooperation,” he said.

This week’s meeting is the first of its kind since the establishment of formal relations 31 years ago.

Beijing says trade with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan reached $70 billion in 2022 and expanded 22 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2023.

China, the world’s second-largest energy consumer, has invested billions of dollars to tap natural gas reserves in Central Asia, while rail links connecting China to Europe criss-cross the region.


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