Central Asia is a linchpin between Eurasia and Southeast Asia and a strategic node in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Chinese President Xi Jinping notably visited Central Asia in his first foreign visit in over two years. But while China’s economic engagement is welcome in the region, it is currently not a confident security provider. Could things change in the near future?
Zaobao correspondent Yu Zeyuan analyses the outcomes of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit held in Uzbekistan and the implications of China’s perceived stronger courting of the Central Asia region.
China seems to be pulling back while Russia wants to take a step forward, as seen from the Xi-Putin parlay at their meeting in Uzbekistan. But the delicate dance is not only at the surface level of the Ukraine war, but China’s deeper strategic goals in Central Asia, where Russia considers itself a dominant power.
China-Central Asia relations have been growing for mutually beneficial reasons, and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been a chief conduit of that. Projects have gone beyond just infrastructure to other areas such as health and digital development. But the Central Asian countries will have to navigate possible pitfalls in order to reap the benefits while minimising the threats to national sovereignty and risk of social backlash.