Xi travels to Kazakhstan as part of his first foreign trip in the entire pandemic

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After two years and eight months in his home country, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Kazakhstan on Wednesday as part of his first state visit abroad during the pandemic. His three-day tour will also take him to neighboring Uzbekistan, where he will meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

Xi landed at the airport in Nusrultan, the capital of Kazakhstan, in the afternoon (local time). He was greeted there by the country’s president, Kassim-Yomart Tokayev, accompanied by a guard of honor, all wearing masks.

After the reception, both delegations proceeded to the Acorda Palace to discuss challenges facing the energy market and the global economy.

Earlier in the day, local newspaper Kazakhstanskaya Pravda published an article by Xi, in which he announced his intention to offer his counterpart “a new paradigm for the development of bilateral relations.”

The choice of Kazakhstan to overcome the drought of face-to-face Chinese diplomacy is no accident. Given its geographic location, this is where Xi unveiled to the world in 2013 his ambitious New Silk Road, a multibillion-dollar investment, infrastructure and telecommunications program through which he intends to improve his land and sea trade network with the rest of the world. world world

With a population of 19.4 million, the vast Central Asian state shares a 1,700 kilometer border with China’s Xinjiang province, where there are reports of frequent rights violations against Uyghurs and other minorities.


In 2013, Xi introduced his new Silk Road project in Kazakhstan.

In addition, Nusrultan is a major supplier of oil and gas to the neighboring country through pipelines owned by China’s largest state-owned oil companies.

A number of trade agreements have been signed between the two leaders since today’s meeting. The documents complement fifty projects already being implemented in Kazakhstan, funded by Beijing, worth more than $20 billion. The trip allows Xi to increase his influence in Central Asia, a region traditionally owned by Moscow where many are suspicious of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

Despite its importance, Kazakhstan is only an appetizer for the main course, which will be served Thursday in the Uzbek city of Samarkand. There, Xi will attend a meeting of leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which also includes key regional players such as Russia, India and Pakistan.

On the sidelines of the summit, a face-to-face meeting with Vladimir Putin is assumed. Like-minded in person, with nearly 40 face-to-face meetings in recent years and partners of national convenience, their meeting could strengthen the two autocrats’ common front against the United States and its allies.


Xi and Putin have met in person nearly 40 times

Russia will look to its Chinese counterpart for firm support against the West, especially after the latest military setbacks by its forces in Ukraine.

In return, they are expected to show Beijing’s support for issues such as Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan, around which China deployed troops this summer after a controversial visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

However, the true extent of China’s support remains to be seen. Since the beginning of the conflict, Beijing has criticized NATO expansion near Russia or Western sanctions and has rapidly increased purchases of Russian fuel, which it buys at bargain prices.

However, the Asian giant has not gone ahead and refrained from providing military aid to its neighbor or violating Western sanctions because it wants to avoid punishment.

Xi’s visit comes just weeks before the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, in which the president is expected to consolidate his power and figure by extending his term for an unprecedented third term.

For analysts, the fact that he is only going abroad now is a sign that he is coming to meet all concerned and is not afraid of last-minute domestic moves that threaten his dominance.

In the absence of new announcements, his next departure will be in November, when he will attend the G2O summit in Bali, Indonesia. Apart from Putin, it is possible that he will later meet US President Joe Biden, who has already announced his presence at the meeting.

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