AMANI ALAWWAD WRITES – After the recent summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Xi made a surprising move by calling a meeting of Central Asian countries March 22. Was this an audacious power play aimed at expanding its influence in the region?
The meeting, held in the Chinese city of Xian, was attended by leaders from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The main agenda was to discuss regional security and economic cooperation. China has been investing heavily in infrastructure projects in Central Asia, such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and is seeking to deepen its economic ties with these countries.
Since launching BRI in 2013, China has invested heavily in infrastructure projects across Central Asia. The BRI is a key component of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s vision for a new Silk Road Economic Belt that would connect China with Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
As China’s economic and political influence in the region has grown, so has its military presence. In September 2015, China announced the establishment of its first overseas military base in Djibouti, which is situated on the strategic shipping routes in the Horn of Africa.
Putin has been trying to strengthen Russia’s influence in Central Asia. Russia has historically been the dominant power in the region, of course, but China’s growing economic and political clout has challenged the status quo. By calling this meeting, was Xi is sending a message to Putin that China is a force to be reckoned with in Central Asia?
Since the end of the Cold War, Russia and China have been working to improve their relations. In recent years, the bond has grown stronger, with the two countries collaborating on issues such as energy and security. This growing partnership was displayed during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to Russia, when the two leaders held a summit focused on improving ties between their countries.
The countries of Central Asia have historically been wary of outside powers meddling in their affairs, and China’s growing influence could lead to resentment — perhaps, for all anyone knows, even in Moscow as well.