By How Yong Yang
As it practices its “ Peripheral Diplomacy “ with its neighbors along its borders, China recently concluded its inaugural in-person China-Central Asia Summit in Xi’an, the capital of northwest China Shaanxi Province. The city was the starting point of the millennia-old Silk Road.
To enhance cooperation, Chinese President Xi Jinping has pledged a total of 26 billion yuan ($3.8 billion) of financing support and grants to six Central Asian countries, namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. China has proposed 19 multilateral cooperation platforms including establishing Institutes of Governance cooperative networks, industrial alliances, and forums for cooperation. The six leaders present at the Summit signed nine multilateral cooperation documents including the Xi’an Declaration within the summit’s framework.
China’s Grand Strategy for Eurasia Reconnection
Second, it employed a multilateral and consultative approach that considers the partner states’ national agendas. A multilateral and joint-development approach has allowed China to forge stronger relationships with Central Asia as this avoids contentious bilateral issues within the participating countries. China aims to strengthen the interfacing of the BRI with Kazakhstan’s New Economic Policy , the National Development Programme of the Kyrgyz Republic until 2026 (NDP 2026) , the National Development Strategy of the Republic of Tajikistan for the period up to 2030 (NDS 2030) , Turkmenistan’s Revival of Great Silk Road , and New Uzbekistan 2022–2026 Development Strategy .
The Summit spotlighted Non-Traditional Security (NTS) issues confronting humanity. The six countries hope to create a peaceful, open, safe, cooperative, and orderly cyberspace under the Global Initiative on Data Security proposed by China in 2020. To jointly deal with the threats and challenges facing global data security, they call for the negotiation and drafting of a comprehensive international convention to fight the use of information and telecommunications technology for criminal purposes.
All sides would study the possibility of jointly mapping out China-Central Asia Tourism Routes, of which Xinjiang is likely to be a part given it was the only passageway, through which ancient Silk Road travelers must pass, connecting the East and West of Eurasia. Should this be realized, it would offer the Xinjiang Uyghur ethnic minority opportunities to interact with their counterparts in the neighboring countries and preserve their culture.
In terms of the Health Silk Road, China would build more Traditional Chinese Medicine centers to grow and manufacture medicinal plants in Central Asia.
On nuclear energy’s peaceful use, the Summit highlighted that the member states of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have the right to participate fully in all the body’s decision-making processes. The countries support the provision, in the IAEA’s , that “[t]he Agency is based on the principle of sovereign equality of all its members”, and Central Asian countries to join the relevant regional task forces. These came after the IAEA recently endorsed Japan’s plan to discharge Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station’s Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) Treated Water Discharge into the Pacific Ocean in the spring or summer of this year. The Agency’s Director General is due to visit China in late May to visit key nuclear facilities.
Lessons for ASEAN Opportunities for Foreign Companies
The China-Central Asia Summit has shown that the Asian century has dawned on not just the people in the region, but also the rest of the world. Nevertheless, the benefits would only be bestowed on us if we are bold and decisive enough to seize the opportunity.