Fantine GardinierAll materialsChinese President Xi Jinping will visit Kazakhstan to meet with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev next week in what will be his first trip outside of China since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, according to the Kazakh Foreign Ministry.Ministry spokesman Aibek Smadiyarov told reporters on Monday that Xi and Tokayev would sign a number of bilateral documents during a September 14 visit.The trip will be Xi’s first outside China since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The outbreak began in late 2019 in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which remained under total lockdown for weeks after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak to be global in scope on March 11, 2020. However, China’s restrictive travel policies and extensive safety measures have uniquely spared the massive country from the mass sickness and death seen elsewhere over the last two years.The Chinese Foreign Ministry has not confirmed Smadiyarov’s statement, as it rarely comments publicly about Chinese leaders’ travel plans in advance.
President of Kazakhstan Kassym Tokayev / Go to the mediabankChina and Kazakhstan have developed close relations in recent years, with Beijing offering help to Nur-Sultan in January when violent protests broke out in several Kazakh cities, which the West rushed to embrace after Tokayev requested help from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a group that includes Russia.Xi’s visit will come immediately before he, Tokayev, and nearly a dozen other heads of state and ministers will descend on Samarkand, Uzbekistan, for a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed on Wednesday that he would meet with Xi and Mongolian Prime Minister Luvsannamsrein Oyuun-Erdene at the Samarkand summit.The SCO, or Shanghai Pact, is a political, economic and security bloc formed in 2001 that today has nine members: China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, Pakistan, and most recently, Iran. Together, they account for 40% of the world’s population and 28% of its gross domestic product (GDP). Observer states include Afghanistan, Belarus, and Mongolia.
Both summits will, in turn, come after the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF), an annual business event held in the Russian city of Vladivostok that is dedicated to building up Russia’s Far East region. Speaking at the EEF’s plenary session on Wednesday, Putin criticized the West’s attempts to isolate it with economic sanctions, saying Moscow would look to strengthen its relationships with its eastern neighbors in Asia instead of Europe.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s ministerial meeting, 28-29 July 2022 / Go to the mediabankTemur Umarov, an expert on China and Central Asia at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told the South China Morning Post that 2023 “will be the 10-year anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative [BRI] and I think right now, Central Asia is a territory that is a good representation of China’s place in the world.”In July, Beijing, Tashkent and Bishkek finally agreed to begin construction of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway next year, which will serve as a key link in the BRI, the globe-spanning infrastructure megaproject initiated by Beijing. The 325-mile track will zigzag through some of the world’s tallest mountains, stretching from the Chinese city of Kashgar in the east to Osh, Andizhan, and Tashkent.Xi is also expected to travel to Southeast Asia in November, where he will reportedly meet with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of either the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum or the G20 summit. However, neither country’s foreign ministries have confirmed the rumored plans.