Chinese president Xi Jinping and Turkmen president Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov inspect the PLA’s mixed sex honour guards.
The president of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has begun a three-day state visit to China starting on May 12. Arriving to a grand welcoming ceremony, the Turkmen president had the opportunity to be the first head of state to inspect China’s recently revealed female honour guards. Following a tradition in the Sino-Turkmen relationship, Berdymukhamedov presented the Chinese president Xi Jinping with an Akhal-Teke horse, a rare breed native to Turkmenistan renowned for its tough endurance and aesthetic allure. A national treasure of Turkmenistan, the Akhal-Teke too occupies a special place in Chinese history. The breed was a favorite of the Emperor Wu of Han (the Martial Emperor of Han), an accomplished leader remembered for his military ventures and political reforms. So in other words, the Akhal-Teke was, and still is the horse made for the premier decision maker of China.
Of course there are other ways to interpret the meaning of the present. The gifting of an Akhal-Teke horse, known for its velocity, embodies the Turkmen president’s well wishes for a galloping Sino-Turkmen friendship that is certainly receiving a boost with his visit. Several important deals were concluded on May 13, pledging cooperation on energy, infrastructure, agriculture and banking. Most importantly, a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation was signed by Xi and Berdymukhamedov, further cementing the strategic partnership between the world’s second largest economy and the country with the fourth largest reserve of the world’s natural gas.
China, an active participant in international geopolitics is demonstrating increasing astuteness in conducting foreign policy. As the US, EU and Russia lock horns in Ukraine, China is quietly pursuing its main foreign policy objectives through a new round of tactful and effective pivot to Central Asia.
China’s goals in building stronger bilateral, as well as multilateral relations with Central Asian states are tri-fold. Over the years, China surpassed Russia in becoming the largest trading partner of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, two of the region’s most vibrant economies and China’s key oil and gas suppliers. China is also the second largest trading partner of Uzbekistan (a country refered to by Zbigniew Brzezinski as the “deposit of Central Asian cultural heritage”), Kyrgyzstan, and the third largest for Tajikistan. Besides increasing trade turnovers, Central Asian countries have become the main recipients of generous Chinese loans and investments, in return, a energy-hungry China benefits enormously from Central Asia’s abundant energy resources.
Central Asia gas pipelines.
Copyright: US Energy Information Administration.
The other aspect of China’s foreign policy objectives regarding Central Asia is security. From the Chinese point of view, the recent wave of terrorist attacks in various Chinese urban centers is most definitely ordered by extremist organizations operating from abroad. This seemingly brash assertion is not purely predicated upon inflamed passion in the aftermath of multiple terrorist attacks. During the 1990s, there were individuals from China’s Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region who received military training in camps ran by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Today, the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), a terrorist organization well connected to al-Qaeda still maintains cells in Pakistan’s western tribal areas. Afghanistan, and to a greater extend Pakistan still poses a significant challenge for all parties involved, especially its immediate neighbors. China, as one of the leading members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), had organized and participated in several joint SCO military exercises designed to counter terrorist attacks. As mentioned previously, China has vested interests in Central Asia’s oil and gas resources transported by expansive, interconnected network of pipelines, which are particularly vulnerable to terrorist organizations seeking to disrupt Chinese economy. Hence, not only does the Chinese government plan to adjust the asymmetrical socio-economic conditions in Xinjiang with reformist policies, it also seeks to work closely with Central Asian partners in maintaining regional security and stability.
Boys at a Pakistan-based training camp fire AK-47’s in this undated video released by the al-Qaeda affiliated Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) terror group. [Video frame grab/Liveleak.com]
From: Central Asia Online
Aside from the goals of economic development and enhancing regional security cooperation, China’s prioritization of Central Asia on its foreign policy agenda is also part of its greater strategic vision to pave the foundational stones for the rejuvenation of the fabled Silk Road. The concept of a Silk Road Economic Zone, first proposed jointly by Kazakh president Nursaltan Nazarbayev and Chinese president Xi Jinping in 2013 seeks to revitalize the ancient trade route of prosperity utilizing the collective efforts of all nations in the Central Asian region. However, there is evidence that China’s economic ambitions are much greater than simply reinvigorating a limited section of the treasured Silk Road. As a matter of fact, there were discussions among Chinese experts for years regarding a possible high-speed railway line connecting Beijing and London (the recent talks were quickly abandoned).
The ancient Silk Road.
It would be interesting to keep a close watch on China’s upcoming foreign policy overture towards Central Asian republics in the long run. The Silk Road Economic Zone has impressive promises for global economic integration. And it would be intriguing to analyze its economic, likewise geopolitical implications upon a post-2014 Afghanistan as well as the Eurasian Union proposed by none other than Russia’s Putin. In the short run, China will be welcoming a multitude of influential Eurasian leaders starting the middle of May. From May 20 to May 21, China will be hosting the upcoming 4th Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Shanghai. A multinational forum designed to increase peace and cooperation between states along the traditional Silk Road; it will be very interesting to note the results of the conference and its effects upon China’s new economic paradigm for Central Asia and beyond.
(Copyright 2014 Zi Yang)
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