The Presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan joined Chinese President Xi Jinping in the northwestern Chinese city of Xi’an, starting point of the historic Silk Road, for the first in-person summit between China and Central Asia on May 18-19. Around the summit, the leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan also paid state visits to China. The President of Turkmenistan already paid a state visit to China in the first week of January.
Among the numerous agreements reached at both the summit and associated bilateral events, when the six heads of state jointly met the press, having concluded their deliberations, they officially inaugurated the China-Central Asia Summit Mechanism. They have agreed to meet biennially, with the venue to be rotated among the participating countries. The next summit will be hosted by Kazakhstan in 2025. And a Permanent Secretariat for the Mechanism is to be established in China.
President Xi Jinping delivered a keynote speech to the summit on May 19. The Chinese leader cited Xi’an as the starting point of the ancient Silk Road and recalled the ‘journey to the west’ by Han dynasty envoy Zhang Qian more than 2,100 years ago.
Outlining some practical achievements since he first proposed the joint building of a Silk Road Economic Belt in 2013, during his first visit to Central Asia as President, Xi went on to note four global necessities related to Central Asia at the present time:
- The world needs a stable Central Asia. The sovereignty, security, independence and territorial integrity of Central Asian countries must be upheld.
- The world needs a prosperous Central Asia. A dynamic and prospering Central Asia will help people in the region achieve their aspiration for a better life.
- The world needs a harmonious Central Asia. Ethnic conflicts, religious strife, and cultural estrangement are not the defining feature of the region. No one has the right to sow discord or stoke confrontation in the region, let alone seek selfish political interests.
- The world needs an interconnected Central Asia. With its unique geographical advantages, the region has the right foundation, condition and capability to become an important connectivity hub of Eurasia.
In building a China-Central Asia community with a shared future, Xi stressed the need to stay committed to four principles:
- Mutual Assistance: Always give each other unequivocal and strong support on issues concerning our core interests such as sovereignty, independence, national dignity, and long-term development.
- Common Development: To forge new drivers of growth in finance, agriculture, poverty reduction, green and low-carbon development, medical service, health, and digital innovation.
- Universal Security: Stand firm against external attempts to interfere in domestic affairs of regional countries or instigate color revolutions.
- Everlasting Friendship: Carry forward our traditional friendship, and enhance people-to-people exchanges.
Identifying eight key tasks, Xi stressed the need to:
- Strengthen institutional building.
- Expand economic and trade ties.
- Deepen connectivity.
- Expand energy cooperation.
- Promote green innovation.
- Enhance capabilities for development, including through poverty reduction, utilizing science and technology, vocational education and local job creation.
- Strengthen dialogue between civilizations.
- Safeguard peace in the region.
We reprint below the full text of President Xi Jinping’s speech. It was originally carried by the Xinhua News Agency.
Working Together for a China-Central Asia Community with a Shared Future Featuring Mutual Assistance, Common Development, Universal Security, and Everlasting Friendship
Keynote Speech by H.E. Xi Jinping
President of the People’s Republic of China
At the China-Central Asia Summit
19 May 2023
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I’d like to welcome you all to Xi’an for the China-Central Asia Summit to explore together ways for closer cooperation between China and the five Central Asian countries.
Xi’an, known as Chang’an in ancient times, is an important cradle of the Chinese civilization and nation. It is also the starting point of the ancient Silk Road on the east end. Over 2,100 years ago, Zhang Qian, a Han Dynasty envoy, made his journey to the West from Chang’an, opening the door to the friendship and exchanges between China and Central Asia. With their joint endeavor of hundreds of years, Chinese and Central Asian peoples made the Silk Road expand and prosper, a historic contribution to the interaction, integration, enrichment and development of world civilizations. The Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai once wrote, “In Chang’an we meet again, worthy of more than a thousand pieces of gold.” Our gathering in Xi’an today to renew our millennia-old friendship and open up new vistas for the future is of very important significance.
Back in 2013, I put forward the initiative of jointly building a Silk Road Economic Belt during my first visit to Central Asia as Chinese president. Over the past decade, China and Central Asian countries have worked closely together to fully revive the Silk Road and actively deepen future-oriented cooperation, steering our relations into a new era.
The China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan highway that runs across the Tianshan Mountain, the China-Tajikistan expressway that defies the Pamir Plateau, and the China-Kazakhstan crude oil pipeline and the China-Central Asia Gas Pipeline that traverse the vast desert — they are the present-day Silk Road. The China-Europe Railway Express operating around the clock, the endless streams of freight trucks, and crisscrossing flights — they are the present-day camel caravans. Entrepreneurs seeking business opportunities, health workers fighting the COVID-19, cultural workers delivering message of friendship, and international students pursuing further education — they are the present-day goodwill ambassadors.
The China-Central Asia relationship is steeped in history, driven by broad actual needs, and built on solid popular support. Our relations are brimming with vigor and vitality in the new era.
Transformations of the world unseen in a century are unfolding at a faster pace. Changes of the world, of our times, and of the historical trajectory are taking place in ways like never before. Central Asia, the center of the Eurasian continent, is at a crossroads connecting the East and West, the South and North.
The world needs a stable Central Asia. The sovereignty, security, independence and territorial integrity of Central Asian countries must be upheld; their people’s choice of development paths must be respected; and their efforts for peace, harmony and tranquility must be supported.
The world needs a prosperous Central Asia. A dynamic and prospering Central Asia will help people in the region achieve their aspiration for a better life. It will also lend strong impetus to global economic recovery.
The world needs a harmonious Central Asia. As a Central Asian saying goes, “Brotherhood is more precious than any treasure.” Ethnic conflicts, religious strife, and cultural estrangement are not the defining feature of the region. Instead, solidarity, inclusiveness, and harmony are the pursuits of the Central Asian people. No one has the right to sow discord or stoke confrontation in the region, let alone seek selfish political interests.
The world needs an interconnected Central Asia. Blessed with unique geographical advantages, Central Asia has the right foundation, condition and capability to become an important connectivity hub of Eurasia and make unique contribution to the trading of goods, the interplay of civilizations and the development of science and technology in the world.
At the virtual summit commemorating the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Central Asian countries held last year, we jointly announced our vision of a China-Central Asia community with a shared future. It was a historic choice made for the fundamental interests and bright future of our peoples in the new era. In building this community, we need to stay committed to four principles.
First, mutual assistance. It is important that we deepen strategic mutual trust, and always give each other unequivocal and strong support on issues concerning our core interests such as sovereignty, independence, national dignity, and long-term development. We should work together to ensure that our community features mutual assistance, solidarity, and mutual trust.
Second, common development. It is important that we continue to set the pace for Belt and Road cooperation and deliver on the Global Development Initiative. We should fully unlock our potentials in traditional areas of cooperation such as economy, trade, industrial capacity, energy and transportation. And we should forge new drivers of growth in finance, agriculture, poverty reduction, green and low-carbon development, medical service, health, and digital innovation. We should work together to ensure that our community features win-win cooperation and common progress.
Third, universal security. It is important that we act on the Global Security Initiative, and stand firm against external attempts to interfere in domestic affairs of regional countries or instigate color revolutions. We should remain zero-tolerant to the three forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism, and strive to resolve security conundrums in the region. We should work together to ensure that our community features no-conflict and enduring peace.
Fourth, everlasting friendship. It is important that we implement the Global Civilization Initiative, carry forward our traditional friendship, and enhance people-to-people exchanges. We should do more to share our experience in governance, deepen cultural mutual learning, increase mutual understanding, and cement the foundation of the everlasting friendship between the Chinese and Central Asian peoples. We should work together to ensure that our community features close affinity and shared conviction.
Our Summit has created a new platform and opened up new prospects for China-Central Asia cooperation. China will take this as an opportunity to step up coordination with all parties for good planning, development and progress of China-Central Asia cooperation.
First, we need to strengthen institutional building. We have set up meeting mechanisms on foreign affairs, economy, trade and customs, as well as a business council. China has also proposed establishment of meeting and dialogue mechanisms on industry and investment, agriculture, transportation, emergency response, education, and political parties, which will be platforms for all-round mutually beneficial cooperation between our countries.
Second, we need to expand economic and trade ties. China will take more trade facilitation measures, upgrade bilateral investment treaties, and open “green lanes” for streamlined customs clearance of agricultural and sideline products at all border ports between China and Central Asian countries. China will also hold a live-streaming sales event to further promote Central Asian products, and build a commodities trading center. All this is part of an effort to push two-way trade to new heights.
Third, we need to deepen connectivity. China will strive to increase the volume of cross-border cargo transportation, support the development of the trans-Caspian international transport corridor, enhance the traffic capacity of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan highway and the China-Tajikistan-Uzbekistan highway, and move forward consultations on the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway. China will seek to modernize the existing border ports at a faster pace, open a new border port at Biedieli, promote the opening of the air transportation market, and build a regional logistics network. China will also step up the development of China-Europe Railway Express assembly centers, encourage capable enterprises to build overseas warehouses in Central Asian countries, and build a comprehensive digital service platform.
Fourth, we need to expand energy cooperation. China would like to propose that we establish a China-Central Asia energy development partnership. We should expedite the construction of Line D of the China-Central Asia Gas Pipeline, expand trade in oil and gas, pursue cooperation throughout the energy industrial chains, and strengthen cooperation on new energy and peaceful use of nuclear energy.
Fifth, we need to promote green innovation. China will work with Central Asian countries to conduct cooperation in such areas as improvement and utilization of saline-alkali land and water-saving irrigation, build together a joint laboratory on agriculture in arid lands, and tackle the ecological crisis of the Aral Sea. China supports establishing high-tech firms and IT industrial parks in Central Asia. China also welcomes Central Asian countries to participate in special cooperation programs under the Belt and Road Initiative, including programs on sustainable development technologies, innovation and start-up, and spatial information science and technology.
Sixth, we need to enhance capabilities for development. China will formulate a China-Central Asia special cooperation program for poverty reduction through science and technology, implement the “China-Central Asia technology and skills improvement scheme”, set up more Luban Workshops in Central Asian countries, and encourage Chinese companies in Central Asia to create more local jobs. To bolster our cooperation and Central Asian development, China will provide Central Asian countries with a total of 26 billion RMB yuan of financing support and grant.
Seventh, we need to strengthen dialogue between civilizations. China invites Central Asian countries to take part in the “Cultural Silk Road” program, and will set up more traditional medicine centers in Central Asia. We will speed up establishment of cultural centers in each other’s countries. China will continue to provide government scholarships for Central Asian countries, and support their universities in joining the University Alliance of the Silk Road. We will ensure the success of the Year of Culture and Arts for the Peoples of China and Central Asian Countries as well as the China-Central Asia high-level media dialogue. We will launch the “China-Central Asia Cultural and Tourism Capital” program, and open special train services for cultural tourism in Central Asia.
Eighth, we need to safeguard peace in the region. China is ready to help Central Asian countries strengthen capacity building on law enforcement, security and defense, support their independent efforts to safeguard regional security and fight terrorism, and work with them to promote cyber-security. We will continue to leverage the role of the coordination mechanism among Afghanistan’s neighbors, and jointly promote peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan.
Last October, the Communist Party of China successfully held its 20th National Congress, which laid out the central task of realizing the Second Centenary Goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects and advancing rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts through a Chinese path to modernization. It is a grand blueprint for China’s future development. We will strengthen theoretical and practical exchanges with Central Asian countries on modernization, synergize our development strategies, create more opportunities for cooperation, and jointly advance the modernization process of our six countries.
There is a proverb popular among farmers in Shaanxi Province, “If you work hard enough, gold will grow out of the land.” In the same vein, a Central Asian saying goes, “You get rewarded if you give, and you harvest if you sow.” Let us work closely together to pursue common development, common affluence, and common prosperity, and embrace a brighter future for our six countries!