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The endeavors of C+C5

By MUHAMMAD ASIF NOOR | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-05-29 07:20
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The China-Central Asia Summit provides a pivotal platform for a future of robust economic cooperation and shared development


The recently concluded 2023 China-Central Asia Summit held in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, has left an indelible mark on regional cooperation, marking a pivotal moment in the history of the relationship between China and the Central Asian countries. This momentous gathering witnessed the convergence of all the leaders China and the Central Asian countries.

A defining outcome of this summit was the signing of the Xi'an Declaration by all participating nations, symbolizing their shared objectives and aspirations for enhanced cooperation. The signing of this comprehensive accord injected a fresh impetus into the collaborative endeavors between China and Central Asia, paving the way for a new chapter of strategic partnership and mutual growth.

The summit also served as a platform for the negotiation and formulation of a multitude of significant bilateral agreements, highlighting the depth of cooperation between China and its Central Asian partners. For instance, China signed 41 documents of cooperation with Uzbekistan and 47 documents worth $22 billion with Kazakhstan. These bilateral agreements encompass diverse areas such as trade, investment, infrastructure development, cultural exchanges and people-to-people contacts.

The comprehensive nature of these agreements reflects the mutual commitment to fostering robust ties in various sectors of mutual interest. Such bilateral engagements serve as catalysts for economic integration, sustainable development and regional stability, laying the foundation for a prosperous future for both China and the Central Asian countries.

The Xi'an Declaration, a pivotal outcome of the China-Central Asia Summit, holds significant implications. The establishment of a formal mechanism for regular meetings among the heads of state signifies a deeper commitment to sustained engagement and dialogue. This fosters an environment conducive to trust-building and long-term collaboration, as both sides equally invest in hosting the biennial summit.

The endorsement of the Belt and Road Initiative as a crucial framework for cooperation between China and Central Asia is important. It signifies the Central Asian countries' intent to leverage economic opportunities and enhance regional connectivity. By aligning their development strategies with the initiative, these nations are opening their doors to increased investment, trade diversification, and mutually beneficial projects that can drive sustainable development across the region. By fostering knowledge exchange, cultural understanding and people-to-people interactions, China and Central Asia are strengthening the foundation for regional integration and stability.

The Central Asian countries have made substantial headways at the bilateral level with China. For instance, Kazakhstan and China have solidified collaboration through the establishment of a new industrial transfer program, demonstrating a commitment to mutual economic development. In addition, the two countries have pledged their support of businesses operating within their borders and expressed a desire to boost tourism to each other.

As more countries successfully establish visa-free regimes with China, it paves the way for increased tourism, trade and cultural interaction. The ongoing negotiations with Kyrgyzstan exemplify the shared desire to expand bilateral relations. Through these initiatives, China and Central Asia aim to strengthen regional connectivity, promote economic cooperation, and forge closer bonds.

China's significant direct investment in Central Asian countries exceeds $15 billion, reflecting its commitment to fostering economic ties and enhancing cooperation with these nations. The introduction of visa-free initiatives is another important step that will further solidify China's intent to deepen people-to-people exchanges and promote seamless travel between China and Central Asia. The burgeoning trade between China and the five Central Asian countries, which reached a staggering $70 billion in 2022 and demonstrated a remarkable 22 percent growth in the first quarter of this year, serves as a testament to the escalating significance of economic cooperation.

The rise of challenges such as extremism in the region, particularly in Afghanistan, has prompted heightened security concerns among the Central Asian countries and China. Through bilateral counterterrorism exercises, military cooperation and multilateral initiatives under the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and through the "China+Central Asia" (C+C5) cooperation mechanism, China has expanded its regional security cooperation and achieved fruitful outcomes with the Central Asian countries.

For Pakistan, this summit holds great significance as the country enjoys strong partnerships with Central Asian countries and China. The promotion of regional connectivity, including the development of transport networks and the facilitation of trade flows, can provide Pakistan with increased access to markets in both China and Central Asia. C+C5 cooperation can lead to the development of energy infrastructure, such as pipelines and power transmission projects, which can help address Pakistan's energy needs and contribute to its energy security.

The summit's emphasis on connectivity and infrastructure development complements Pakistan's ongoing efforts to strengthen its transportation networks and create linkages with regional economies especially on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The promotion of cultural exchanges and people-to-people interactions under the framework of the summit can foster closer ties between Pakistan and the Central Asian countries.

Looking ahead, the China-Central Asia Summit provides a pivotal platform for envisioning a future of robust economic cooperation and shared development.


The author is the founder of the Friends of Belt and Road Initiative Forum. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily.

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