The China-Central Asia Summit held in Xi'an marked a milestone in the history of China-Central Asia relations, creating a fresh blueprint for their partnership and thus opening a new chapter of multilateral cooperation.
The widely supported summit, emphasizing further high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) through joint efforts, delivered a mechanism of directions and the prospects of future development of China-Central Asia cooperation.
Central Asia, serves as a Eurasia transportation hub at the junction of Asia and Europe. A landlocked area, rich in resources, is in need of strengthened cooperation with neighboring countries for its economic development.
In 2013 new opportunities were brought to Central Asian countries by the BRI, which was launched in September when President Xi Jinping visited Kazakhstan and proposed the initiative of jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt.
Upholding the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, the BRI is an important public product China has contributed to the world and also a new path to respond to the challenges of global economic governance and to explore regional integration.
The initiative, closely related to the region, is welcomed by Central Asian countries as an international public product and an international cooperation platform.
The joint construction of the initiative has unleashed new development potential for ancient Silk Road countries in Central Asia.
Over 2,000 years ago Zhang Qian embarked on two missions to the West, opening up the known Silk Road and also the chapter of friendly exchanges between the people of China and of Central Asia.
The region, where the BRI was first initiated in line with the Silk Road tradition, is also a demonstration zone for high-quality joint construction of the BRI.
Judging from the fruits of 10 years of efforts, Central Asia is one of the most promising regions with comparatively better advancement of the BRI and more achievements to date.
Central Asian countries have responded to the proposal positively and signed a series of strategic cooperation documents with China to align their national development strategies with the BRI: the Bright Road plan proposed by Kazakhstan, the National Development Strategy of the Kyrgyz Republic for 2018-2040 and Turkmenistan’s initiative to revive the Great Silk Road.
Tajikistan, the first signer of a cooperation memorandum of understanding with China on the Silk Road Economic Belt, proposed deep coordination between the national development strategy and the BRI for the period up to 2030.
China and Tajikistan also took the lead in building a community of development. Uzbekistan, as an ancient country on the Silk Road, is revitalized by deepening the joint construction of the BRI with China in a new chapter of bilateral cooperation.
In the past 10 years, Central Asian countries have experienced a vivid and positive change by jointly building the BRI in which the fruits are reaped of infrastructure construction, energy and agriculture.
The cultural cooperation between the two sides has also been gradually strengthened, mutual understanding deepened and the social foundation consolidated for joint construction of the BRI.
Major political documents issued during the China-Central Asia Summit including President Xi's keynote speech, the Xi'an Declaration of the China-Central Asia Summit and a list of summit outcomes, all spoke highly of the significance of the joint construction of the BRI for leading international cooperation.
Countries engaged in it, led by the head of each state, will take its 10th anniversary as a new starting point to level up the standards of mutual help, better maintain the strategic partnership between China and Central Asian countries, and further coordinate strategic projects of both parties, thus deepening and broadening practical cooperation.
The cooperation, focusing on security, trade and culture, includes industrial investment, the digital economy and trade, infrastructure and project construction, agriculture, customs, animal and plant quarantine, entrepreneur cooperation and cultural cooperation.
Presidential meetings will be institutionalized, according to the summit, for a balanced and smooth development of bilateral relations, a timely response to external challenges and a higher level of coordination and participation in regional and global economic governance.
The two sides will better contribute to regional and global development on which a China-Central Asia community with a shared future can be built.
(The author is a research fellow at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; Translated by Ma Yue)