China Is Quietly Displacing Russia In Central Asia

Swarajya Staff

May 20, 2023, 10:05 AM | Updated 10:07 AM IST

Chinese President Xi Jinping (Feng Li/Getty Images)
Chinese President Xi Jinping (Feng Li/Getty Images)

Xi Jinping announced on Friday (19 May) new loans and grants worth $3.7 billion to five Central Asian neighbors, as China aims to replace Russia in the region's resource sector.

At the end of a two-day summit in the historic city of Xian, Xi announced a plan to increase cooperation with former Soviet states through trade, infrastructure, energy, and military involvement. The city served as the starting point of the ancient Silk Road trading route.

Amid backlash over claims of plunging some nations into debt, China aims to strengthen its controversial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

At the China-Central Asia Summit, Xi emphasized the importance of a stable Central Asia. He was accompanied by leaders from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, according to Xinhua News Agency.

CCTV showed Xi and guests watching traditional dance before Friday's summit at a grandiose gala dinner.

The Global Times, a nationalist tabloid, ridiculed the Group of Seven meeting as "geopolitical sewage" while comparing it to the apparent display of camaraderie witnessed elsewhere.

Xi urged better regional connectivity on Friday (19 May) and cited delays in constructing a railway from western China to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

Central Asia Barometer states that the CKU railway provides China with the opportunity to expand trade routes, decrease reliance on Russian routes, and ensure consistent rail trade with the European Union in the future.

Despite discussion since the 1990s, the project faces opposition from locals, worried about Chinese investment increasing national debt, preventing it from progressing.

Xi stated on Friday that fresh loans of 26 billion yuan will go towards Central Asian development projects.

Beijing has significantly raised emergency rescue lending to alleviate BRI indebtedness among struggling countries, a joint report with the World Bank confirmed in March.

As Moscow focuses on Ukraine, China has a window of opportunity to increase its presence in the region.

Xi suggested speeding up construction of a new line in the Central Asia-China gas pipeline to reduce reliance on Russian energy.

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