2023 China Central Asia Summit begins

Chinese President Xi Jinping will chair the two-day China-Central Asia summit today in Xi’ian. The meeting is of historic significance:

China Central Asia Summit

Chinese President Xi Jinping will chair the China-Central Asia summit today in Xi’ian where he will discuss economic and security cooperation. Photo: Presidency of Republic of the Tajikistan Press Service

Chinese President Xi Jinping will chair the two-day China-Central Asia summit today in Xi’ian.

The meeting is of historic significance: it will be the first in-person summit between Central Asian leaders and China without the presence of a Russian leader. Officials from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are expected to reach broad consensus with China on topics ranging from economic cooperation to security issues such as the Ukraine crisis.

Since the war in Ukraine, China has capitalized on Russia’s growing wartime distraction to advance its influence in Central Asia. Trade between China and the five countries reached US$70 billion in 2022 and grew 22 percent in this year’s first quarter, highlighting the growing importance of economic cooperation. Bilateral counterterrorism exercises and arms exports are also increasing China’s regional security influence.

Despite Russia ceding ground in Central Asia, expect post-summit public statements devoid of anything overly critical of Russia. New initiatives to firmly promote comprehensive cooperation between China and Central Asia are anticipated. While Russia is not completely down and out, the longer its war in Ukraine continues the more likely it is that China will seek to maximize its influence in the long-run.