On June 7, 2022, the third “Central Asia-China” Foreign Ministers Meeting was held in Nur-Sultan under the chairmanship of Kazakhstan. Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Kyrgyzstan Foreign Minister Jeenbek Kulubaev, Uzbekistan Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Norov, Turkmenistan Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov and Tajikistan Transport Minister Azim Ibrahim attended the meeting. The parties agreed to hold the next “Central Asia-China” Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in China.
These meetings, which were held for the first time in 2020 with the proposal of China, are developing as a part of the geopolitical struggle of Russia and the USA for the region. The main purpose of China is to make Central Asia a bridge between China and Europe and to set a barrier to the USA, which wants to prevent this.
At the meeting on June 8, 2022, the party countries confirmed some of the decisions taken in the meetings held in 2020 and 2021 and added new ones.
“Central Asia-China” Meeting in 2020
At the first “Central Asia-China” Foreign Ministers Meeting held in the form of a video conference on July 17, 2020, the parties declared the following after exchanging views on cooperation in the fight against the pandemic, economic recovery, protection of regional security and strengthening of international cooperation:
- The Parties will defend the development, stability and prosperity of China and the Central Asian states and their common interests. The parties appreciate the strategic partnership established between China and the five states of Central Asia and are determined to further develop it in the interests of preserving peace, stability and prosperity in the region.
- The Parties cooperate efficiently between China and Central Asian states in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
- The Parties propose to harmonize the ‘Belt and Road Project’ with the national development strategies of the Central Asian countries. It will create partnerships that will encourage this and deepen multifaceted cooperation. It will jointly ensure the successful implementation of major joint projects that will ensure investment efficiency and economic development.
- China is ready to build an “express corridor” and a “green corridor” for the smooth movement of business, technical personnel and their uninterrupted transportation with the Central Asian states.
- States will support the creation of a comprehensive and multifunctional transport system. It will promote the development of integrated and multifaceted communications, including road and rail lines. It will contribute to the strengthening of a strategic and economic transport and transit potential of Central Asia. It will aim to ensure the creation of the corridor between Europe and Asia.
- China is ready to support its Central Asian partners in increasing agricultural productivity and the added value of products. It welcomes and supports the expansion of the supply of high quality, environmentally friendly and organic agricultural products from Central Asian countries to the Chinese market.
- The Parties condemn all manifestations of terrorism, extremism and separatism. It once again states that there is a serious threat to security and stability in the region arising from “three evil forces”. It envisages deepening joint, comprehensive cooperation in the field of security.
- The Parties strongly support the peace process in Afghanistan and are ready to play a constructive role in promoting inter-Afghan dialogue, establishing peace and stability in this country, restoring the national economy and further incorporating Afghanistan into regional integration processes.
- The parties stress that China and the Central Asian states have overlapping or close positions on a number of current issues on the international and regional agenda.
- The parties decided to establish a meeting format between the Foreign Ministers of “Central Asia-China” to promote mutually beneficial cooperation in the new conditions and to jointly confront global challenges in defense of common interests.
“Central Asia-China” Meeting in 2021
The second meeting was held in Xi’an on May 12, 2021, on the initiative of China. Issues such as transport, trade, regional security and cooperation against common threats among the participating states were discussed.
It was agreed on issues such as strengthening “twin town” relations between the parties, increasing transportation and connections, revealing the full potential of Central Asian countries in transit transportation, creating a “green corridor” to facilitate the cross-border movement of goods, increasing the capacity of checkpoints, supporting international rail transportation and ensuring the stability of regional production and supply chains.
The documents signed at the end of the meeting are as follows:
- Memorandum on Establishing the Format of the “Central Asia-China” Foreign Ministers Meeting;
- Joint Statement on Cooperation in Combating Covid-19;
- Joint Statement on Afghanistan;
- Joint Statement on Deepening Interregional Cooperation.
2022 Meeting and Approaches of the Countries
At the meeting held in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan assumed the term chairmanship and hosted by Kazakhstan Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi.
Making a statement after the meeting, Yi explained that the most important result of the meeting was the decision to hold the meeting of heads of state in the format of the China-Central Asia Summit.
Explaining that “we have new agreements”, Wang Yi added that China plans to continue and expand cooperation with Central Asian countries within the framework of the Belt and Road Project, to evaluate the possibility of creating an appropriate financial mechanism, and to further expand the use of national currencies. The Chinese Minister noted that the countries aim to deepen cooperation, ensure the safe and stable functioning of the China-Europe route, promote the simplification of customs procedures, optimize green corridors for cargo transportation, accelerate the restoration of flights, and ensure the integrity and continuity of production chains.
According to the Chinese Minister, the parties will continue to joint forces in the fight against the epidemic, intensify cooperation in vaccine and drug development, establish the “China-Central Asian Health Industry Association” and open traditional medicine centers in Central Asia. The Chinese Foreign Minister also added that they will deepen cooperation in the fields of education, science, technology, art, sport and tourism, jointly respond to climate change, and share experiences and technologies for environmental protection.
According to Wang Yi’s statement, four final documents were generally adopted at the meeting:
- Joint Statement of the China-Central Asian Foreign Ministers Summing up the Meeting and Reviewing Special Proposals;
- Roadmap for the Outcome of the China-Central Asian Heads of State Summit;
- Initiative to Deepen Interconnections between China and Central Asian States;
- Digital Data Security Collaboration Initiative and Creation of a Peaceful, Secure and Open Cyberspace.
The four decisions taken show that although they mostly contain technical items on how the cooperation process will work, they mostly cover geopolitical issues. This can be seen from the statements made by both the Chinese Minister and the Central Asian countries regarding the meeting. Not only China, but also the countries in the region see this meeting and its results as positive.
Making a statement about the meeting, Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi said that the said initiative was proposed by Beijing in 2020 and that this format is one of the most effective and promising methods. Tleuberdi said, “Today’s meeting was very productive and impressive. We are pleased with the exchange of views.” made his assessment.
Tleuberdi continued his words, “Kazakhstan reaffirmed its interest in strengthening comprehensive cooperation and the adoption of the Roadmap for the implementation of the initiatives expressed by the heads of state of the countries participating in the meeting was an important step forward. This document covers strategic areas such as security, transportation and logistics, energy, industrial modernization, combating climate change, green economy, IT industry, health, education, culture, tourism and other important areas. made a statement.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan also published a statement about the meeting on its website. The official statement is as follows:
“The parties discussed their current issues and extensively discussed ways of implementing the initiatives. The Ministers reiterated their willingness to continue mutually beneficial cooperation to further expand relations in the fields of political dialogue, sustainable development, trade and economy, investment, financial, scientific and technical, transport and communication, water and energy, information technology, environment… Central Asia and China The importance of using the potential of the states of the United States to create a security space in the region, it was pointed out that it is a mutually beneficial, sustainable and inclusive partnership… Participants of the meeting, President of Uzbekistan Shevket Mirziyoyev to develop a resolution of the UN General Assembly on the interdependence of Central and South Asia. and supported the initiative to accept it… Views were exchanged on promoting the peaceful reconstruction of Afghanistan, including cooperation with the international community. A common interest was expressed in overcoming the humanitarian crisis as soon as possible and restoring the participation of Afghanistan’s socio-economic infrastructure in world economic relations in order to promote civil peace and harmony in Afghan society… Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan, President of Uzbekistan He called on him to support the initiative of the Coordinating Council of Central Asian and Chinese Countries aimed at providing transport, such as the development of transport links and the development of interregional logistics networks, as well as the practical implementation of transport infrastructure projects.
Speaking to the participants about the meeting in Nur-Sultan, Turkmenistan Foreign Minister Meredov drew attention to the productive course of the political and diplomatic dialogue aimed at strengthening the strategic partnership between Central Asian countries and China, in line with the agreements reached between the heads of state. In this context, Meredov noted that Turkmenistan is ready to continuously increase its natural gas supply to China through the region, with special emphasis on the prospects for energy, transport and communication cooperation along the Central Asia-China line. In terms of cooperation in the field of transport, Meredov drew attention to the validity and real possibility of establishing multi-directional transport links from China to the west through the territory of Central Asia, noting that in this case it is considered the most reasonable way for Turkmenistan to use the possibilities of port infrastructure in the Caspian Sea.
In his speech, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan Kulubaev emphasized the necessity of deepening the interdependence of mutual interests and economies in a promising way to become an authoritative regional platform for the activities of the “Central Asia-China” format, for the benefit of strengthening and promoting political dialogue.
Stating that this multilateral format promotes the development of bilateral relations between the Central Asian states and China, Kulubaev emphasized that the Kyrgyz-Chinese strategic partnership relations are at a high level and stated that they will contribute to the sustainable development of existing priority areas of interaction and joint bilateral projects. In particular, based on the convenience of establishing transport and communication infrastructure in the region, the Kyrgyz side emphasized the need to actively promote the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway construction project. The Kyrgyz Minister also noted that it is appropriate to work towards increasing the efficiency of “green corridors” for transit cargo transportation, including socially important products.
Kulubaev pointed out that the creation of a favorable business environment for the protection of the interests of foreign investors is one of the priorities of the leadership of the Kyrgyz Republic. To this end, the Kyrgyz side stated that it is actively working to improve the investment environment and ensure the security of foreign investment in the country. In this regard, the Kyrgyz Minister called on investors from China and the countries of the region to participate in major projects and actively invest in the economy of Kyrgyzstan. The Kyrgyz side also proposed mutually beneficial investment cooperation in the hydroelectric complex.
As can be seen, while the countries in the region want to be a transportation/transit bridge between China and Europe, they both invite China to invest in their countries, express that they are strategic partners with China and want to raise their relations in this field to a higher level. They emphasize that it is one of the sources of stability.
On the sidelines of the meeting, Wang Yi met with his counterparts from Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. In his meeting with Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov, the Chinese Minister explained that energy is an important part of China’s strategic cooperation with Turkmenistan, and that China’s intention to expand energy cooperation between the two sides always continues regardless of the changes in the international environment.
Meredov, on the other hand, described the two countries as “close strategic partners” and explained that they aim to strengthen and raise cooperation in various fields, and said that they agreed to increase joint investments for the Belt-Road Project and to create a platform to provide connections in transportation lines. It was promised to deepen cooperation in non-hydrocarbon fields to help Turkmenistan’s economic development.
After the meeting between the Foreign Ministers of Uzbekistan and China, the parties announced that they agreed on the interconnection of the networks between the transportation and transportation lines to be made over the land and railways. Wang noted that he welcomes the entry of Uzbek goods into the Chinese market and encourages more Chinese companies to operate in the Central Asian country. The Chinese Minister also emphasized that the two sides should strengthen traditional energy cooperation and jointly ensure the safe and stable operation of the China-Central Asia gas pipeline, as well as expand new energy cooperation in areas such as civil nuclear, solar and wind. Norov stated that Uzbekistan attaches great importance to its friendship with China and will continue to adhere to the “One China” principle. They also called for strengthening the joint construction of the “Belt and Road Project” and promoting mutually beneficial and win-win cooperation in areas such as trade investment, power generation capacity, green agriculture. Norov said that China values constructive cooperation in the region and that the development and revival of Central Asia is closely related to China.
At the meeting, Tajikistan was represented by the Minister of Transport of the country, Azim İbrohim. Azim Ibrohim, who met with his Chinese counterpart, described China as Tajikistan’s “great, friendly neighbor”. He also drew attention to the mutual trust and comprehensive strategic partnership between the two presidents, and said that in this context, China has become the most important partner for Tajikistan’s trade and investment. Tajikistan stated that it is ready to actively participate in the “Belt and Road Project” initiative and to deepen its multi-faceted cooperation with China, and promised that its country will facilitate Chinese companies doing business in Tajikistan. The parties promised to deepen their cooperation in law enforcement in the fight against security and terrorism. Azim Ibrohim said that Tajikistan will act together with China in the fight against “three evils (terrorism, extremism and separatism)”.
Wang Yi, in his meeting with Kyrgyz Minister Kulubaev, noted that China will further develop bilateral relations with Kyrgyzstan, that the two countries complement each other economically and that Kyrgyzstan is the most reliable long-term strategic partners. Kulubaev stated that maintaining friendly relations between Kyrgyzstan and China is a priority of Kyrgyzstan’s foreign policy, he hopes to see more bilateral cooperation in areas such as infrastructure, port transport, health, and Kyrgyzstan is against “Taiwan independence” and China’s Xinjiang Uyghur He stated that he firmly supports his legitimate stance on issues related to the Autonomous Region and Hong Kong.
Wang Yi was also received by the President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. During the meeting, cooperation within the framework of international and regional organizations for the development of the Kazakh-Chinese long-term comprehensive strategic partnership was discussed. Giving a high value to the level of strategic partnership achieved for more than 30 years, Tokayev emphasized that the interest in deepening the comprehensive cooperation between Kazakhstan and China continues. Expressing that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Kazakhstan, which is planned to be held in the autumn of 2022, will add a new and powerful momentum to bilateral relations, Tokayev stated that the talks to be held at the highest level will open a new bright page in the history of strategic partnership. In addition, expressing his gratitude to China for the invitation to participate in the “BRICS Plus”, Tokayev emphasized that Kazakhstan supports Xi Jinping’s initiatives in the field of global security and development, and that these steps will contribute to the elimination of the lack of security needed by global security.
In the bilateral meetings, the Central Asian countries seemed very willing to cooperate with China. The countries of the region are looking for ways to cooperate with China in more investment, transportation and trade issues and expressed that they believe these relations will serve the stability of the region. Each country described China as a strategic partner and expressed that this partnership should be taken to a higher level.
As it can be seen from the statements of the countries of the region and in the multilateral meetings as well as the bilateral talks, they have identical interests in China and in China’s Belt and Road Project.
“Geopolitical Competition” Warning From China
After meeting with Tokayev during his visit to Kazakhstan, Wang Yi published a review about his geopolitical forecast for the region. In the statement in question, Wang Yi said, “Beware of interference by foreign powers in the internal affairs of the countries of the region and their attempts to coerce them… China hopes Central Asian countries will steadfastly resist foreign intervention, strengthen coordination, maintain good faith cooperation, and maintain regional peace and stability… Beijing has never pursued geopolitical interests in Central Asia and has never allowed outside powers to create unrest in the region.” has declared. These words show that China has recently been concerned about the increasing interest of the USA in Central Asia.
The fact that the USA brought up its geopolitical goals towards Central Asia in the 2000s seems to disturb China. The USA wants to show a serious military presence in the countries of the region. On the other hand, China accepts Russia’s military presence in Central Asia and in this sense does not want to enter its military sphere of influence. In terms of trade, investment and transportation, there is a “compromised competition” with Russia. But the USA, on the other hand, is challenging both Russia and China in trade, economy and transportation as well as military and military-technical issues and is looking for ways to get ahead of them.
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