Chinese leader Xi Jinping promised to build more railway and other trade links with Central Asia and proposed jointly developing oil and gas sources at a meeting Friday with the region’s leaders that highlighted Beijing’s growing influence.
The two-day China-Central Asia Summit in the western city of Xi’an came as President Joe Biden and other leaders of the Group of Seven major economies met in Japan. It reflected Beijing's efforts to develop trade and security centered on China, which resents U.S. domination of global affairs.
China is making economic inroads into Central Asia, including with its Belt and Road Initiative to build railways and other trade-related infrastructure. That has rattled Russia, which sees the former Soviet republics as its sphere of influence, but their governments look to the world's second-largest economy as an important market and a source of investment.
“We need to expand economic and trade ties,” Xi said in a speech to leaders from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
The Chinese leader promised to increase cross-border trade by developing highways and rail lines and encouraging China's trading companies to set up warehouses in Central Asia. He promised to simplify import procedures.
Xi proposed establishment of a China-Central Asia partnership to develop oil and gas sources. He said Beijing wants to speed up construction of an additional pipeline to supply Central Asian gas to China's energy-hungry economy and to promote nuclear power.
Xi promised Chinese help for Central Asian governments to strengthen security and defense and to fight terrorism. He promised to “jointly promote peace” in Afghanistan.
Beijing earlier announced plans for a regional anti-terrorism center to train Central Asian security forces.
Xi’s government sees political Islam as a threat and is accused of detaining some 1 million people in China’s predominantly Muslim northwest in what Beijing says is a campaign to stop extremism.
“We should remain zero-tolerant to the three forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism,” Xi said.