China's President Xi Jinping on Friday unveiled an ambitious plan to help elevate Central Asia to the next level of its development - from building infrastructure networks to boosting trade - while shunning "external interference" at the same time.
China stands ready to synergise development strategies with the five Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and make joint efforts to promote the modernisation of all six countries, said Xi in an address at the China-Central Asia Summit in northwest China.
"The world needs a Central Asia that is stable, prosperous, harmonious, and well-connected," Xi said.
At the same time, the six countries should oppose "external interference" in the internal affairs of regional countries and attempts to instigate "colour revolutions", and maintain a zero-tolerance stance against terrorism, separatism and extremism, Xi warned.
"China is ready to help Central Asian countries improve their law enforcement, security, and defence capability construction," Xi said.
The two-day summit in the historic Silk Road city of Xian has been portrayed by Chinese state media as a triumph of China's regional diplomacy, with the leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan earlier pledging support for Beijing and vowing deeper bilateral cooperation.
The display of solidarity from China's Central Asian neighbours is expected to contrast sharply with the "negative" image of Beijing to be presented at the summit of Group of Seven leaders in Hiroshima over the weekend.
The high-profile expression of trust by China's neighbours will serve to counter US accusations of Beijing's coercive diplomacy. Xi's gathering of five heads of state on Chinese soil without Russian President Vladimir Putin also ostensibly pulls Central Asia closer to the Chinese sphere of influence as Moscow's focus remains locked on the war in Ukraine.
China and Central Asian countries should deepen strategic mutual trust, and always offer "clear and strong support" for each other on issues of core interests such as those involving sovereignty, independence, national dignity and long-term development, Xi said, without mentioning war-torn Ukraine, which like the Central Asian nations, was a former Soviet state.
TRADE AND INVESTMENT
China will upgrade bilateral investment agreements with Central Asian countries, and raise cross-border freight volume with the region in an all-round way, Xi said.
Beijing will encourage Chinese-funded businesses in Central Asia to create more local jobs, build overseas warehouses in the region, and launch a special train service aimed at promoting cultural tourism with Central Asia, he added.
Two-way trade between China and Central Asia hit a record $70 billion last year, with Kazakhstan leading with $31 billion, as China seeks deeper economic links in its quest for greater food and energy security.
Xi said the building of Line D of the China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline should be accelerated.
He also called on China and Central Asia to increase oil and gas trade, develop energy cooperation across industrial chains, and boost cooperation in new energy and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
Further out, China supports the construction of a cross-Caspian Sea international transport corridor, and China will strengthen the construction of transportation hubs of China-Europe freight train services, Xi said.