Central Asia in Focus: The Xian Summit
By Bruce Pannier
23 May 2023
The Central Asian leaders are always glad to meet with Chinese officials.
China will bankroll projects in Central Asia that no other country or company would touch.
China funded and sent workers to build the $350-million thermal power plant (TPP) in the Tajik capital Dushanbe.
China helped repair the TTP in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, loaning Kyrgyzstan $386 million.
There are many other such projects that fail to elicit much investment interest from any other party.
That’s not surprising since Tajikistan could not pay for the TPP and signed over rights to a Tajik gold mine to China as payment and in Kyrgyzstan, some $100 million of the Chinese loan was stolen by officials.
In Xian, Xi talked about other Central Asian projects China has agreed to participate in – the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway and Line D of the natural gas pipeline network from Turkmenistan, for example.
Uzbek media reported “41 documents” were signed with China, and Kazakh media reported “47 documents totaling $22 billion” were signed between Kazakh and Chinese officials on the sidelines of the summit.
Such reports are in stark contrast to the visit of the five Central Asian leaders to Moscow on May 9 for the Victory Day parade.
No significant agreements were signed there and in fact, less than a week before Victory Day, the Kyrgyz president was the only one of the five scheduled to attend the event.
The Kremlin seems to have exerted some strong last-minute pressure on the other four presidents to get them to Moscow so Putin wouldn’t look so alone watching the parade on Red Square.
In Xian, China rolled out the red carpet and treated the Central Asian guests to a lavish feast.
In March, Xi started an unprecedented third term as Chinese leader.
Manipulating the constitution to stay on for more than two terms has been done in all five Central Asian countries.
It just happened, again, in Uzbekistan where the country’s second president, already elected twice, will benefit from a constitutional amendment that makes him eligible to run for two more terms.
Why It’s Important: China loans Central Asia sums of money that are huge by Central Asian standards, and sometimes go toward needed infrastructure projects in which no one else shows interest in participating.
And no criticism from Beijing about constitutional manipulation and rights violations in Central Asia.
In Xian, China showed those policies, which the Central Asian governments have greatly appreciated for some three decades, will continue.