Tuesday June 2, 2020


September 5, 2013

On Tuesday, Xi Jinping began his first trip to Central Asia as president. The trip which goes from September 3-13, includes stops in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgystan. President Xi has already held successful meetings in Turkmenistan and will pick up his tour in Kazakhstan on September 6 after the attending the G20 summit in St Petersburg, Russia. The final stop of the trip will be at a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting in Krygyzstan.

Xi Jinping’s trip aims to enhance mutual trust and further develop the ties between China and Central Asia that have continued to grow and improve since the establishment of diplomatic relations over twenty years ago. In addition to the goal of reaffirming positive neighborly ties, Xi also hopes to improve cooperation on practical issues. Economics, security, trade, energy, transportation, and culture are all areas where Xi Jinping would like to increase ties.

A key area on the top of Xi’s agenda is ensuring access to energy resources. This goal was at the forefront of his Turkmenistan visit. While there, Xi Jinping signed a natural gas bill, joined Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov in inaugurating the opening of the world’s second largest gas field, and reconfirmed his commitment to a China-Central Asia gas pipeline. Energy will be also be a priority during meetings in Kazakstan, the largest oil exporter in Central Asia.

Energy security is an increasingly high concern for China. China’s economic growth and subsequent urbanization have both led to an ever-growing demand for energy. According the a recent report, China, currently the second largest oil consumer, will soon outstrip the US as the largest net importer of oil. China has been making a concerted effort to invest in new sources of oil and improve relations and agreements with oil exporting countries. Positive energy relations with Central Asia will make China less dependent on the unstable Africa and the Persian Gulf for oil and might give China some of the control over the region’s oil that Russia currently has.

Regional security is another major agenda item. The unrest in the Middle East and North Africa is placing added strain on Central Asia. Any instability or strife in Central Asia has the potential to affect the neighboring countries, including China. It is important to China that it cooperates with Central Asia to guarantee regional stability. Xi Jinping also hopes to work with the Central Asian countries to boost border security ahead of the 2014 withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan. The NATO withdrawal will leave a security void that China will try to fill.

In addition to broader regional stability concerns, China is concerned about possible links between Western China’s Uyghur separatists and Central Asia’s Uyghur population. President Xi wants to create greater security ties with Central Asia in order to combat terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism—dubbed the “three evil forces.” This cooperation has already begun, in the form of anti-terrorism exercises linked to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

When Xi Jinping explained China’s relationship with the various Central Asian countries during a pre-trip interview, a clear attitude and approach to the region became clear. He referred to the countries as “friendly neighbors” who have been strong strategic partners since diplomatic ties were formed but whose culture ties stretch all the way back to the Silk Road. Xi Jinping also points to the region as a strategic priority and as having a global impact.

China expert James Reardon-Anderson also points out the significance of Xi Jinping’s trip: “He’s visiting four out of the five capitals [of Central Asia’s former Soviet republics]… That is unprecedented. That’s an enormous investment of the time and presence of the Chinese chief of state in that region. So it really underlines how important that region is to China’s future.”

For more information about Xi Jinping’s trip, see the following news articles:

Global Times– “Security tops agenda for Xi in Central Asia tour

China Daily- Close ties with Central Asia

Reuters– “China asserts clout in Central Asia with huge Turkmen gas project

Radio Free Europe– “China’s Xi Seeks Central Asian Ties For Energy, Security

Xinhua– “Full text: President Xi’s joint written interview with media from Turkmenistan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan

For Chinese language news on President Xi’s trip, see the articles below:

People’s Daily (人民网)– “中国和土库曼斯坦关于建立战略伙伴关系的联合宣言

Xinhua (新华网)– “中土加深合作 香港也能用上土库曼斯坦天然气

People’s Daily (人民日报)– “习近平和土库曼斯坦总统共同出席“复兴”气田一期工程竣工投产仪式

Sing Tao Worldwide (星岛环球网)– “习近平中亚之行将加强中国能源安全

China Worker Network (中工网)– “中国前驻哈萨克大使:习近平出访开启“巩固中亚和平之旅”

People’s Daily (人民网)– ““中国梦”为哈中合作带来新机遇

Compiled and edited by Ariane Rosen