May 18, 2023 - World

China kicks off summit with five Central Asian countries

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev presides over a signing ceremony

Chinese President Xi Jinping (back right) and Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev (back left) preside over a signing ceremony on the sidelines of the China-Central Asia Summit on Thursday. Photo: Mark Cristino/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

China on Thursday kicked off a summit with five Central Asian countries in a move to deepen its engagement with one of the fastest-growing economic regions in the world.

Why it matters: Central Asia, which straddles China's northwestern frontier and Eastern Europe, has long been considered a strategically important place for centuries. A key component of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), it serves as a bridge between China and much of Eurasia.

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping hosted leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan on Thursday night, in a traditional welcome ceremony loaded with ancient symbolism.

Between the lines: The two-day gathering began on the eve of the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan.

  • Countering China's global influence is expected to be a major topic that will be discussed at the G7 summit.

The big picture: China in the last two days released separate joint statements with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan that are similar to a statement it signed with Turkmenistan in January.

  • In the statements, China and each country reiterated their comprehensive strategic partnerships and the One China principle as it relates to Taiwan, and vowed to strengthen their cooperation under BRI.

What to watch: Xi will give an "important speech" at the Central Asia summit, and all six countries will sign "important political documents" during the summit, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

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