First Central Asia – China summit : A new format of cooperation for the stabilization of Eurasia and the multipolar global system
The first meeting in the Central Asia-China format took place in the city of Xi’an in China on the 19th of may 2023. It is a very symbolic place because of its historical importance and its great geopolitical meaning in today’s Eurasian geopolitics.
The new cooperation plans of the new Central Asia-China platform ranges from building infrastructure to boosting trade, upgrade bilateral investment agreements and increase cross-border freight volume with the region.
The President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev participated to the Central Asia-China Summit, marking the great interest of Uzbekistan to this new platform of interaction on the Eastern flank of Central Asia. It marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (in the past, President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev had visited China in 2019 to take part in the One Belt, One Road international forum).
On May 18 2023, President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping also held talks in Xi’an with President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan following which the Head of States signed a Joint Statement and adopted a Program of Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Development in a New Era for 2023-2027 At bilateral level it, the objective of Uzbekistan is to double the trade turnover of the countries of the region with China by 2030, primarily through:
– balanced growth of mutual supply of industrial goods and agricultural products;
– formation of an efficient trade and logistics infrastructure, modern wholesale and distribution networks;
– introduction of the system of « green » and express corridors, creation of common e-commerce platforms.
The Central Asia-China cooperation and the New Silk Road project
Xi’an, administrative center of the Shaanxi province located in the North-Western regionof China was the starting point of the Great Silk Road, a trade and caravan route that has become a big factor in the connectivity but also civilizational developement throughout the Eurasian continent.
Today, The Xi’an and its surrounding region is not only of great importance for China, but also for Central Asian states in economic terms as this area is one of the different trade routes of the Belt and Road Initiative. It is also important to develop prosperity in this region for security reasons.
Central Asia, and especially Uzbekistan as a double land-lock country also face a very important strategic task, which is to ensure deep integration of the region into global economic, transport and transit corridors for economic gain but also to stabilize the region. The development of Xi’an region located in western China, therefore at the periphery of China is important in order to transform this region a s a hub with the New Silk Road project.
Uzbekistan’s objective is to make Central Asian States more influential and prosperous, as well as to take better advantage of the New Silk Road initiative launched by China.
It is part of a multicentered vision of the world, where China is at the center of a new system of economic and political cooperation to achieve more balance with Western-centered globalization. The development of the Xi’an region, the Achilles heel of the country’s security, helps China to stabilize the area from the western flank, eventually subject to waves of radical Islam from Southeast Asia, and against the external support for regional separatism.
In the end, the project of the New Silk Road Initiative has not only a geostrategic and economic dimension, but also a civilisational dimension. The exchanges between cultures on the Eurasian continent may potentially make
the Old World an important geopolitical axis of the world again. The project therefore also implies a new approach of globalization. Central Asian states , China and European nation should share the geopolitical goal of a multicentered world based on geopolitical balances and the respect for sovereignty, but also the balance between civilizations.
Transport corridors at the center of the Central Asia-China cooperation
Transport corridors are vital to achieve the objective of common prosperity
Uzbekistan’s objective is to make Central Asian States more influential and prosperous, as well as to take better advantage of the New Silk Road initiative launched by China. The future East-West transport, economic and energy corridors and infrastructures for the import /export of energy also offer a new horizon for Europe on its eastern flank.
The objective is to build the China-Central Asia economic corridor and with the future implementation of the construction of the Trans-Afghan Corridor, it will allow to connect China with the countries of South Asia by alternative ways within the Belt and Road Initiative. It will be developed in complementarity with the China-Central-Asia-Iran-Turkey corridor and China-Kazakhstan-Russia corridor and finally the Eurasian links between China and Europe.
The development of safe and shortest transport corridors connecting China with Central Asia, with the access to Europe, Middle East and South Asia is of great strategic importance. The priority project for the revival of the « Great Silk Road » is the Trans-Eurasian Highway as a key components of which will be the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan automobile and railroad. The interest of Central Asian countries, Uzbekistan in particular, is to develop transport infrastructures and economic corridors towards all directions and position Central Asia as a hub for New Silk Road project (see map : Central Asia as a hub for transport corridors and stabilizing factor for Eurasia).
Central Asia-China cooperation, a new circle as part of the new Eurasian security architecture
The idea expressed during this First Central Asia- China summit was to held meetings regularly in order to strengthen the partnership between the states of Central Asia and China.
The role of Uzbekistan, as well as that of its Central Asian partners, is therefore very important to the promotion of this new Central-Asia China circle of cooperation, as it can complete and deepen the emergence of a new successful security architecture in Eurasia.
Uzbekistan supports China’s global initiative based on the principles of indivisibility of security and peaceful development in accordance with the UN Charter. The dialogue platforms of the Contact Group within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Afghanistan’s neighbor-states are also negotiating a position to stabilize this country.
Uzbekistan and Central a Asia as a laboratory for a new Eurasian multipolar stability
Uzbekistan, which is geographically located in the centre of Eurasia (whereas it is usually referred to as Central Asia), has an interest in promoting cooperation with different cooperation format as part of its multivectorial foreign policy. The objective is to achieve stability of the whole of Eurasia through multi-faceted cooperation. Uzbekistan is also avoiding the logic of blocs by fostering cooperation between states in Eurasia, as some external state actors seek to divide in a global context increasingly marked by global geopolitical rivalries.
In order to achieve geopolitical stability on the Eurasian continent, synergy is needed between the various actors. On a longer term basis, a new Eurasian geopolitical architecture based on a new doctrine of overlapping circles of international organizations would be a major factor for developing and improving Eurasian security in the context of an emerging global multipolarity (map and Diagram: Overlapping Circles of World stability).
This netting of institutions resembles the « Olympic circles ». The described configuration would be adapted to the emerging multipolar world, in order to maintain a balance between the different states, alliances and political and security institutions. This architecture is aimed at promoting synergies between interleaved organisations like NATO, EU, OSCE, SCO, CIS, OTSC, OTS as well as the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and now the new Central Asia circle of cooperation should lead to greater levels of stability. In-between spaces between these structures would be subject to common stabilization policies or « non-aggression agreements », under UN coordination or bilateral and multilateral coordination. The idea of participation to the different organizations and avoiding at the same time to be entangled in a bloc policy, can be seen as a new geopolitical laboratory to strengthen synergies between international organizations. The idea is to stabilize the overlapping security spaces from « St Petersburg to Peking » (OCS), « Minsk-Dushanbe » (CSTO), Central Eurasia around this new Central Asia – China format, in complement with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Central Asian cooperation space around Ashgabat, Bishkek, Dushanbe, Nursultan, and Tashkent (new Central Asia platform) and hopefully in the longer term, « Vancouver to Vladivostok » (USA-NATO-OSCE-EU-Russia), « Lisbon to Vladivostok » (UE-Russia) in post-Ukraine conflict era.
This new doctrine of « overlapping circles » supposes that international actors accept a new spatial and geopolitical order, that is the emergence of multipolarity and a variety of international organizations whose objectives are contributing to Eurasian and world stability,
The participation of Uzbekistan to the new Central Asia – China format, its observer status of Uzbekistan in the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) but also the new process of cooperation in Central Asia (new Central Asia platform) are milestones that contribute to this new Eurasian architecture. Uzbekistan is willing to prove it is contributing to stability and to the reduction of rivalry between the great powers.
Uzbekistan is already member of SCO, a partner of the NATO Partnership for Peace, a major actor of the EU-Central Asia strategy, a member of OSCE, CIS and OIC, and now has an observer status in EAEU. Shavkat Mirziyoev attended the Eurasian Economic Union meeting on the 25 May 2023.
Uzbekistan, as well as its Central Asian partners, have therefore a strong interest in promoting cooperation and synergies between these organizations and avoid frontal competition between the geopolitical projects of great Powers
The Central Asia-China new format confirms both the regionalization and multipolarization process at work in the Eurasian continent. This initiative should be seen as a constructive development and a new geopolitical laboratory to strengthen synergies between international organizations, in order to achieve stability under the principle of «indivisibility of security», on the Eurasian continent with a better balance of interests.
Central Asian states have to position themselves between competing global geopolitical projects. In the context of a greater competition between the United States, Russia and China, better cooperation at Eurasian level between Central Asian states and other Eurasian powers as part of a « non-alignment » doctrine are contributing to more stability. This would avoid a new dividing line in Eurasia between the two major emerging alliances around the United States, Russia and China, as Central Asia would risk becoming more fragmented.
The European states and the European Union (EU) would also be wise to take advantage of the new multipolar process at global and Eurasian level. EU could engage both in a reinforced cooperation process with Central Asian states and China.
The connection to the Silk Road Initiative should push European nations towards engaging more deeply in a dialogue on the finality of the European project. Hopefully, a better coordination between European states would
benefit Europe as a whole. This means that a reformed EU should establish relations with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (OCS) but also in the future, the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). The geopolitical complementarities between Europe and Central Asia, can be strengthened to stabilize this strategic zone for the benefit of the entire Eurasian continent
The Eastern part of the Eurasian continent is increasing organizing itself and building a new Eurasian globalization process. The New Central Asia-China format is a big step in this direction. It is in the interest of the whole Eurasian states to achieve stability both in the Eastern but also in the Western part of the Eurasian continent. Western Europe, Russia, Central Asia, China should in future be better connected for the benefit of the whole continent. It is therefore important for European states to address the missing link in the security architecture of the European space that need to be fixed in order to avoid a further fragmentation of the European continent between Euro-Atlantic and Euro-Asian alliances. The new geopolitical architecture emerging on the Eastern part of Eurasia, should be completed by a new European security architecture with Russia in order to avoid conflicts dividing the whole continent.