China is described as a potential hegemonic power in the evaluations regarding the global power struggle. Despite this, the Beijing administration does not display a confrontational character in transforming its economic development, which is called the “Great Chinese Miracle”, into political influence; on the contrary, it presents an approach that does not interfere with the internal affairs of other states, respects their territorial integrity and sovereignty, and develops win-win relations by building cooperation bridges, not blocks. In this sense, China, rather than seeking a hegemony; it advocates a multipolar world order in which no single power is hegemonic in the international system. As a matter of fact, the statements and actions of the Beijing administration also point to this.
In this respect, it can be stated that the Belt and Road Initiative announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 is a concrete output of Beijing’s effort to build bridges of cooperation. Central Asia, on the other hand, is one of the geographies to which the Beijing administration attaches importance, both due to its place in the said initiative and its location in the close vicinity of China. Because of this importance, the Beijing administration has developed the China-Central Asia Summit (C+C5) format.
Six meetings were held at the level of Foreign Ministers within the framework of this format, and finally, the first leaders’ summit in the C+C5 format was held in Xian, Shaanxi Province, China, on 18-19 May 2023. The announcement that the next leaders’ summit will be hosted by Kazakhstan in 2025 shows that the Beijing administration is determined to move its relations with Central Asian capitals to a much more institutional basis.
As can be expected, in order to make predictions about the future of China’s relations with the Central Asian states, it is necessary to examine the decisions taken in the meetings between the leaders on 18-19 May 2023 and the messages given at the summit. Because at the meetings in the city of Xian, there have been many developments that will shape the relations of the Beijing administration with the regional capitals.
Bilateral Contacts and Decisions Taken
First of all, if we need to talk about Kazakhstan, it is possible to state that the relations between the parties tend to expand and deepen. Because Kazakhstan and China agreed to build a modern gas-chemistry complex in the Atyrau Region. Following the implementation of the said agreement, the facility in question is Asia’s largest; it will be the fourth largest facility in the world. It has also been announced that the parties will cooperate in copper processing facilities. This means that China will continue to contribute to the economic development of Kazakhstan. In addition, the parties; decided to expand cooperation in fields such as trade, economy, oil and gas, petrochemicals, energy, finance, transportation and transit, science and education.
On the other hand, the relations between the two countries are not only in the economic sense; develops culturally. As a matter of fact, Kazakhstan and China have also signed a memorandum containing a declaration of intent to establish joint cultural centers.
Of course, it can be said that Kyrgyzstan will also improve its relations with China. Because there is a strong will on both sides. For this reason, the two countries signed the Treaty of Good Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation, which completely ended the border disputes. Thus, the border of approximately 1,000 km became clear on the line.
On the other hand, within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, China is also making efforts to include Kyrgyzstan, which is the missing link of the Middle Corridor, into the initiative. For this reason, there is a Beijing administration that has focused on the construction of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Railway Line since September 2022. Undoubtedly, with the completion of this railway, China’s access to Europe will be facilitated. However, the construction of the railway line will increase the geoeconomic and geostrategic importance of Kyrgyzstan. In this context, on the occasion of the C+C5 Summit, a tripartite document planning the next steps of this project was signed.
As expected, the aforementioned project is also in the interests of Uzbekistan. Because strengthening regional connections will serve to increase the influence of the Tashkent administration in regional and global politics and will increase its economic gains. However, the contacts on the Beijing-Tashkent line are not limited to this. Moreover, through the summit, Uzbekistan signed contracts with three Chinese companies to invest 4 billion dollars to develop solar power plants. This development reveals that energy has an important place in the relations between the two countries.
In Tajikistan, the parties decided to expand mutually beneficial cooperation within the framework of the “Common Future Community Initiative” and on the basis of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, inviolability of borders and non-interference in internal affairs. In addition, 25 documents aimed at expanding bilateral cooperation were signed and it was decided to organize joint exercises on the fight against terrorism.
On the other hand, China has focused on improving its relations with Turkmenistan. As a matter of fact, many memorandums of understanding were signed, envisaging to develop bilateral cooperation, on the occasion of the contacts that took place. Thus, leaders; committed to expanding partnerships in trade, economy, energy, transport, investment and other fields.
As can be understood from the agreements signed on the occasion of the meetings between the leaders, China’s relations with Central Asian countries are developing in a multidimensional way from the Belt and Road Initiative to solar energy. The point that draws attention here is the message that the security factor will come to the fore in cooperation on the Beijing-Dushanbe line and the announcement that the parties will organize joint exercises. This is not only in terms of economic, political and cultural relations of China; at the same time, it points out that it will follow a more active policy in Central Asia in terms of security policies.
Messages Given at the Summit
In addition to the contacts at the level of leaders, the messages given at the summit reveal that the ties between China and Central Asia will be strengthened. In this context, during the opening speech of the summit, Xi revealed the Beijing administration’s expectations regarding the region with the following words:
“Ethnic conflicts, religious struggles and cultural divisions are not the main agenda of Central Asia. The peoples of Central Asia seek unity, tolerance and harmony. No one has the right to cause disagreements and conflicts and to derive political benefits from it.”
As can be seen from the above statements, China cares about the stability of the region. For this reason, Xi said, “We will strongly object to foreign powers’ intervention in the internal affairs of the countries of the region and to stage colorful revolutions.” found in the statement. And this is Beijing’s role in Central Asia, not just commercially; means that it will also exist with security-based cooperation. However, China does not ignore the economic dimension of cooperation. In this sense, China, which cares about the development of the region, announced that it will give 3.8 billion dollars financial support to the development projects in the region. Because the development of Central Asia will also strengthen the Belt and Road Initiative.
At this point, it should be emphasized that the states of the region are also satisfied with the relations with China. For example, the President of Kazakhstan, Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, emphasized the stability of Central Asia in terms of security while expressing Kazakhstan’s expectations for China, and said, “The trade volume between Kazakhstan and China has reached 31 billion dollars and we agreed to increase it to 40 billion dollars.” Found in the statement.
President of Kyrgyzstan, Sadyr Japarov, pointed out that more than 10 mechanisms and platforms will be created to expand cooperation, “I am confident that these documents meet the interests of our countries and the common interests of long-term development.” he said.
President of Uzbekistan, Mr. Shavkat Mirziyoyev, implying that the states of the region act in accordance with the reality of the multipolar world, said:
“In the face of increasing conflict and unpredictability in international relations, we provide mutual support for each other and build a prosperous future together for our peoples.”
Similarly, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon expressed his belief that the China-Central Asia Summit will strongly take both bilateral relations on the Beijing-Dushanbe line and regional cooperation to a new level.
President of Turkmenistan, Serdar Berdimuhamedov, stated that the Ashgabat administration attaches importance to the summit and said, “We will closely follow the implementation of the initiatives and proposals put forward by the heads of state at the Central Asia-China summits.” he said.
As a result, the C+C5 format takes China’s relations with Central Asian states to a new level. These relations are based on mutual interests; it points to a comprehensive cooperation from economy to security. For this reason, it can be stated that the relations carried out at both bilateral and regional level tend to expand, deepen and institutionalize.
 “Kazakhstan to host next China-Central Asia Summit in 2025”, AKI Press, https://akipress.com/news:709621:Kazakhstan_to_host_next_China-Central_Asia_Summit_in_2025/, (Date of Accession: 20.05.2023).
 “Казахстан И Китай Подписали Внушительный Пакет Инвестиций”, 24.kz, https://24.kz/ru/news/policy/item/600776-kazakhstan-i-kitaj-podpisali-vnushitelnyj-paket-investitsij, (Date of Accession: 20.05.2023).
 “Казахстан и Китай создадут совместные культурные центры”, Central Asia News, https://centralasia.news/21566-kazahstan-i-kitaj-sozdadut-sovmestnye-kulturnye-centry.html, (Date of Accession: 20.05.2023).
 Aktilek Musaeva, “Forging a Shared Future: Kyrgyzstan-China Relations in Focus”, CGTN, https://news.cgtn.com/news/2023-05-19/Forging-a-shared-future-Kyrgyzstan-China-relations-in-focus-1jUDguH0bqo/index.html, (Date of Accession: 20.05.2023).
 Emrah Kaya, “The Missing Ring of the Middle Line and the Belt-Road is Kyrgyzstan”, ANKASAM, https://www.ankasam.org/the-missing-ring-of-the-middle-line-and-the-belt-road-is-kyrgyzstan/?lang=en, (Date of Accession: 20.05.2023).
 “Подписан трехсторонний документ, определяющий следующие шаги по проекту строительства железной дороги «Китай-Кыргызстан-Узбекистан»”, Uz Daily, https://www.uzdaily.uz/ru/post/77408, (Date of Accession: 20.05.2023).
 “Chinese Companies Invest in Uzbekistan Solar Farms”, Investment Monitor, https://www.investmentmonitor.ai/news/chinese-companies-invest-in-uzbekistan-solar-farms/, (Date of Accession: 20.05.2023).
 “China, Tajikistan to Push Mutual Beneficial Cooperation: Joint Statement”, CGTN, https://news.cgtn.com/news/2023-05-18/China-Tajikistan-to-push-mutual-beneficial-cooperation-joint-statement-1jUDn9LCqfm/index.html, (Date of Accession: 20.05.2023).
 “Таджикистан и Китай проведут совместные учения против терроризма”, Central Asia News, https://centralasia.news/21552-tadzhikistan-i-kitaj-provedut-sovmestnye-uchenija-protiv-terrorizma.html, (Date of Accession: 20.05.2023).
 “По итогам туркмено-китайских переговоров в верхах подписаны двусторонние документы”, Orient, https://orient.tm/ru/post/53360/po-itogam-turkmeno-kitajskih-peregovorov-v-verhah-podpisany-dvustoronnie-dokumenty, (Date of Accession: 20.05.2023).
 “Çin-Orta Asya Zirvesi’nin Sonuç Bildirgesi İmzalandı”, Aydınlık, https://www.aydinlik.com.tr/haber/cin-orta-asya-zirvesinin-sonuc-bildirgesi-imzalandi-389535, (Date of Accession: 20.05.2023).
 “China Ready to Make Pie of Cooperation Bigger with Tajikistan: Premier”, China Daily, https://global.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202305/18/WS64657cf5a310b6054fad39e8.html, (Date of Accession: 20.05.2023).
 “Serdar Berdimuhamedov Proposed A New Format for Consultations Between Central Asian Countries and China”, Orient, https://orient.tm/en/old/post/53502/serdar-berdimuhamedov-proposed-new-format-consultations-between-central-asian-countries-and-china, (Date of Accession: 20.05.2023).