Archive for ‘Kyrgyzstan’

17/06/2019

Oil tanker attacks: did Iran’s ties with China just go up in smoke?

  • Washington has blamed Tehran for an attack on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, putting pressure on Iran’s allies like China
  • Beijing usually backs its trade partner – but experts say the trade war with the US and problems with Huawei may have changed the equation
A tanker burns in the Gulf of Oman after a mystery attack that the United States has blamed on Iran. Photo: AFP
A tanker burns in the Gulf of Oman after a mystery attack that the United States has blamed on Iran. Photo: AFP
When 
Shinzo Abe

headed to Tehran this week for the first visit by a sitting Japanese prime minister in four decades, some in the diplomatic world imagined he could be the man to bring

Iran

back to the negotiating table with the

United States

.

Those hopes were torpedoed on Thursday when, on the same day Abe was meeting Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, explosions ripped through two oil tankers, one Japanese and one Norwegian, near the Strait of Hormuz, a strategically significant shipping lane.
The attack immediately overshadowed an earlier success for Abe, who had met President Hassan Rowhani a day before and was assured Iran would stick to the terms of a 2015 agreement limiting its nuclear activities.
Washington accused Iran of being behind the attack on the tankers, releasing a video on Friday that it said showed Iran’s revolutionary guard removing an unexploded mine from one of the ships, and warning that it would “defend its interests”.
Iranian President Hassan Rowhani and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meet Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran. Photo: Reuters
Iranian President Hassan Rowhani and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meet Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran. Photo: Reuters

Tehran, for its part, claimed to have been set up, with its foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif saying “suspicious doesn’t begin to describe” the incident. So much, then, for hopes of mediation.

US President

Donald Trump

, who had encouraged the Japanese leader’s visit, admitted on Twitter soon afterwards that when it came to negotiating, “they are not ready, and neither are we!”

Still, the incident exposed more than just the naivety of those hoping for an Abe-led breakthrough. In raising the stakes in Washington’s confrontation with Tehran, it also threw the spotlight on Iran’s dwindling number of allies – and perhaps most significantly on its largest trading partner, China – which face mounting pressure to rethink the relationship.

Tanker attacks: world divided over Iran role as Saudi prince breaks silence
The day after the attack, China’s President

Xi Jinping

said Beijing would promote its ties with Iran “however the situation changes” – a comment made during a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rowhani on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Kyrgyzstan – but diplomatic observers question just how far China can go in accommodating its controversial trading partner.

BEST FRIENDS FOREVER?

Iran has long been able to count on support from China, which accounts for 30 per cent of the Islamic republic’s exports and imports, and its willingness to defy US pressure is a gamble at least partly based on an assumption it can continue to count on Beijing’s support.

As Iran’s largest economic partner – Chinese direct investment in Iran hit a record high of nearly US$4 billion last year, according to data analysis project ChinaMed – Beijing already plays a key role in relieving US pressure on Iran, said Mohsen Shariatinia, assistant professor of regional studies at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran.

But experts warn that reliance will come into question as China becomes increasingly hamstrung by its own problems.

China has enough problems of its own, starting with US pressure on Huawei. Photo: EPA
China has enough problems of its own, starting with US pressure on Huawei. Photo: EPA
Chief among Beijing’s headaches are its

trade war

with Washington and the related assault on its

5G

giant

Huawei

– which, as analysts point out, originally ignited over allegations it was defying US sanctions on Iran. Beijing will also be well aware of the need to keep

Saudi Arabia

, its second-biggest oil supplier and Tehran’s critic-in-chief, happy.

On the other hand, analysts say, China will be wary of being seen to abandon its old friend, as doing so would send a message to other nations at odds with Washington that they could no longer look to China as a diversification strategy.
“This could mean Chinese investment is vulnerable to US interference,” said Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, founder of Bourse Bazaar, a media company that supports business diplomacy between Europe and Iran.
Sanctions drive Iranian students away from US towards Asia
Doing so, Batmanghelidj said, would put a question mark over one of China’s most significant foreign policies of recent years – President Xi’s signature

Belt and Road Initiative

to fund infrastructure across Eurasia.

THE BELT AND ROAD QUESTION
Tensions between Iran and the US have reached boiling point in recent weeks, after the Trump administration last month ended waivers on sanctions for nations importing Iranian oil – a move the US says is aimed at making the republic “radioactive to the international community” and which Rowhani has described as an “economic war against Iran”.
So far, China has largely stuck by the Islamic Republic, continuing to buy fuel from it despite the latest wave of US sanctions on Iranian oil that followed Trump’s decision last year to withdraw the US from the landmark 2015 agreement curbing Tehran’s nuclear development.
The deal had been widely lauded as a triumph of multilateralism and the dawning of a new economic era for Iran.
US releases video of ‘Iranian forces removing unexploded mine’ from ship
Part of its eagerness to support Iran has stemmed from the Islamic Republic’s key position in the Belt and Road plan. In 2017 alone, China signed deals for more than US$15 billion in Iranian infrastructure investment, according to the

Chinese Communist Party

mouthpiece China Daily.

Planned projects include high-speed rail lines, upgrades to the nation’s electrical grid, and natural gas pipelines. The two nations have also vowed to boost bilateral trade to US$600 billion in the next seven years.
“China sees Iran as its Western gateway, where not only is it a big market in itself, but it will also be the gateway to the rest of the 
Middle East

and ultimately to Europe for China,” said Anoush Ehteshami, professor of international relations at Durham University in Britain.

Nisha Mary Mathew, at the Middle East Institute in Singapore, said that China’s relationship with Iran was not just economic – but primarily strategic, with both nations envisioning an international order that was no longer dominated by the US and its Western allies.
DEFIANCE, FOR NOW
If the belt and road gives China good reason to stick with Iran, there are plenty of voices urging just that action. As Andrea Ghiselli at Shanghai’s Fudan University pointed out, US sanctions until now have only strengthened the hardline factions in Iran’s government.
The combination of the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal – which had the support of the international community – along with Europe’s tepid efforts to rescue it, may have emboldened those favouring resistance over negotiation.
Xi’s supportive comments in Kyrgyzstan were only the latest in a string of remarks from China that could encourage such factions.
If Trump kills off Huawei, do Asia’s 5G dreams die?
After China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Beijing last month, the ministry’s spokesman Lu Kang said China’s economic relationship with Iran was “reasonable and lawful”.
Two months prior to that, China’s Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan, while hosting his Iranian counterpart Farhad Dejpasand, had claimed China’s “determination to maintain and develop the China-Iran comprehensive strategic partnership is unshakeable”.
Chinese President Xi Jinping with Iranian President Hassan Rowhani. Photo: AFP
Chinese President Xi Jinping with Iranian President Hassan Rowhani. Photo: AFP

Even so, the pressure is getting to some. In February, Foreign Minister Zarif temporarily resigned, in what Andrea Ghiselli at Fudan University in Shanghai called a clear sign of the “changing and precarious power balance with Iran’s foreign policy establishment”.

And nowhere is the pressure felt more keenly than the economy and China’s ability to serve as a lifeline.

“The real anxiety in Iran right now is about market share,” said Bourse and Bazaar’s Batmanghelidj. “If you’re exporting zero oil and your customers are buying oil elsewhere, you lose market share.

“The government wants to know if it agreed to go back to the negotiating table and the US promised sanctions relief, that there are people who are going to buy in significant volume.”

TURNING POINT: HUAWEI

For many analysts, the event most likely to have changed the equation in Beijing’s eyes is the arrest by the Canadian authorities of 

Meng Wanzhou

, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei.

Meng’s arrest came at the request of the US government, which claimed her company had violated sanctions by selling equipment to Iran.
Many observers saw the action as Washington’s way of signalling to Chinese companies that they would face repercussions if they eased the pressure on Iran by continuing to trade.
Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou. Photo: Reuters
Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou. Photo: Reuters

“Going after Huawei was about going after Chinese enterprises – signalling that they can no longer trade with Iran with impunity,” Batmanghelidj said.

Since then, Chinese firms have shown increased skittishness towards trading with Iran. According to China’s General Customs Administration, Chinese exports to Iran declined by more than half between October 2018 and February 2019, from over US$1 billion to just under US$500 million.

Mohammad Ali Shabani, a researcher at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, said other countries in the region were now watching to see if China would blink in the face of US pressure. “This could have dire consequences for China’s image as a reliable partner,” he said.

NOT JUST ABOUT AMERICA

There are reasons beyond US pressure that may factor into Beijing’s thinking. It has long stated its opposition to Iranian nuclear weapons development, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said that China is “ready” to take on “its due responsibilities and make a greater contribution to world peace and common development”.

Trade war: here are Beijing’s options – and none look any good

Zhao Hong, at the Research School of Southeast Asian Studies at Xiamen University, said that in stepping up as a responsible world power Beijing faced a dilemma over its approach to Iran.
“Chinese leaders have to painfully balance an impulse towards economic cooperation with Iran against other vital interests, including convincing Washington that China is a responsible stakeholder,” he wrote in the Journal of Contemporary China.
Saudi Aramco's Ras Tanura oil refinery. The country is China’s second-largest oil supplier after Russia. Photo: Reuters
Saudi Aramco’s Ras Tanura oil refinery. The country is China’s second-largest oil supplier after Russia. Photo: Reuters

Then there is China’s relationship with Iran’s chief adversary, Saudi Arabia, to consider. Riyadh is China’s second-largest oil supplier, behind Russia, and it plays a central role in Beijing’s energy strategy.

According to International Trade Centre data, more than 12 per cent of China’s imported oil came from Saudi Arabia last year, compared with just 6 per cent from Iran. Last year, Saudi Arabia shipped 56.73 million tonnes of oil to China, or 1.135 million barrels per day.

Why would Kim Jong-un trust Trump, now that he’s ripped up Iran’s nuclear deal?

This April, China imported 6.3 million tonnes of oil from Saudi Arabia, nearly twice the 3.24 million tonnes it imported from Iran, according to China’s General Administration of Customs.

Iran’s comparatively small share of China’s oil imports market and its heavy reliance on China as a trading partner add up to a deeply uneven relationship, experts say, and it is this imbalance that will encourage the US that China may be open to rethinking its ties.

As Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East programme at Washington DC think tank the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, pointed out, while China was Iran’s largest trading partner, Iran represented less than 1 per cent of China’s international trade.

“Iran needs China,” Alterman said. “But to China, Iran is expendable.”

Source: SCMP

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16/06/2019

Xi receives Crown Order from Tajik President Rahmon

TAJIKISTAN-DUSHANBE-XI JINPING-ORDER OF THE CROWN

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) receives the Order of the Crown, Tajikistan’s highest decoration, from Tajik President Emomali Rahmon during a ceremony in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, June 15, 2019. (Xinhua/Sadat)

DUSHANBE, June 15 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Xi Jinping received the Order of the Crown, Tajikistan’s highest decoration, from Tajik President Emomali Rahmon here on Saturday.

During the ceremony held at the presidential palace, Rahmon spoke highly of Xi’s positive contributions to the development of Tajikistan-China relations, saying he is ready to work together with Xi to guide bilateral relations toward greater achievements.

Noting that the Order of the Crown embodies the profound friendship the people of Tajikistan have kept with the people of China, Xi said he attaches great significance to the decoration.

“I am willing to join hands with President Rahmon in lifting China-Tajikistan comprehensive strategic partnership to higher levels and better serving the two peoples,” Xi said.

Xi arrived here Friday for the fifth summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia and a state visit to Tajikistan.

Tajikistan is the second leg of Xi’s two-country Central Asia trip, which also took him to Kyrgyzstan for a state visit and the 19th Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit.

Source: Xinhua

14/06/2019

China, Kyrgyzstan agree to enhance ties to new heights

KYRGYZSTAN-BISHKEK-CHINA-PRESIDENTS-TALKS

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Kyrgyz counterpart Sooronbay Jeenbekov hold talks in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, June 13, 2019. Xi and Jeenbekov held talks here Thursday, agreeing to take their countries’ comprehensive strategic partnership to new heights. (Xinhua/Li Xueren)

BISHKEK, June 13 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Kyrgyz counterpart, Sooronbay Jeenbekov, held talks here Thursday, agreeing to take their countries’ comprehensive strategic partnership to new heights.

Xi arrived in the Central Asian country Wednesday for a state visit and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit.

China-Kyrgyzstan relations have withstood the test of international vicissitudes and achieved leapfrog development over the past 27 years since the establishment of the diplomatic relationship. The two countries have set a fine example of a new type of state-to-state relations featuring mutual respect, equality and win-win cooperation, Xi said.

China will continue to support Kyrgyzstan’s own choice of development path and all policy measures taken by the Kyrgyz government to safeguard national independence, sovereignty and security, Xi said.

Xi also said China is ready to join hands with Kyrgyzstan to deepen their traditional friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation, so as to better benefit the two peoples.

The Chinese president stressed that jointly building the Belt and Road has become the focus of China-Kyrgyzstan cooperation, calling on the two countries to deepen the alignment of their development strategies, tap new potential of partnerships and explore new space of cooperation.

Cooperation in trade and investment should be expanded and major programs must be well implemented, Xi said, adding that China is willing to import more green and quality agro-products from Kyrgyzstan.

China will continue to support Kyrgyzstan’s economic and social development, including jointly building drinking water facilities, roads, hospitals and other projects to improve people’s livelihood.

Xi also called for closer people-to-people and sub-national exchanges.

Amid efforts to enhance security cooperation, the two countries should step up fight against the “three forces” of terrorism, separatism and extremism, transnational organized crime and drug trafficking, Xi said.

On the SCO, Xi said China applauds Kyrgyzstan’s efforts to promote cooperation in various fields since taking over the rotating presidency of the SCO.

China supports Kyrgyzstan in hosting the Bishkek summit, which will be held on Friday, and encourages the SCO member states to gather more consensus, tap potential of cooperation and build a community with a shared future that benefits all sides, Xi said.

For his part, Jeenbekov said he has met with the Chinese president for three times in more than a year, fully demonstrating the high level of the bilateral relations and the willingness of both sides to strengthen cooperation.

Kyrgyzstan will always be “a good neighbor, good friend and good partner” of China, he said.

Jeenbekov conveyed congratulations on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China and on the remarkable achievements made by the Chinese people under the leadership of Xi and the Communist Party of China.

Xi’s vision and experience on state governance are of great significance to Kyrgyzstan, Jeenbekov said.

The president thanked China for its long-term and huge assistance and support to Kyrgyzstan in its national development and the improvement of the people’s livelihood.

Kyrgyzstan firmly adheres to the one-China policy, Jeenbekov said, adding that the affairs of ethnic minorities in China are its internal affairs and that his country supports policies and measures taken by the Chinese government in this regard.

Kyrgyzstan stays committed to the fight against the “three forces,” he said.

Noting that Kyrgyzstan’s national development strategy corresponds to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Jeenbekov said his country is ready to set up institutionalized arrangements to promote their alignment, deepen cooperation with China in areas such as trade, investment, energy, agriculture, transport and on local levels, as well as increase cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

Kyrgyzstan and China hold similar stances on international and regional issues, laying a sound foundation for the two countries to strengthen multilateral coordination, he said.

The Kyrgyz side appreciates China’s valuable support to Kyrgyzstan during its SCO presidency and in hosting the Bishkek summit, he said.

After the talks, the two presidents signed a joint statement on further deepening the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries, and witnessed the exchanges of bilateral cooperation documents.

The two sides will continue the visits and meetings between leaders of the two countries to regularly exchange views on bilateral relations and international and regional issues of common concern, according to the joint statement.

Both sides will continue to support each other on issues related to their core interests, such as national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity, said the statement.

Noting that there is great potential for cooperation to synergize the BRI with Kyrgyzstan’s national development strategy 2018-2040, the statement said the two sides will look for more common grounds of interests and realize common development based on the principle of win-win cooperation.

The two sides also pledged to support the central role of the United Nations in international affairs and the building of an open world economy, voicing resolute opposition to unilateralism and protectionism.

Source: Xinhua

13/06/2019

Chinese, Kyrgyz presidents pledge to promote bilateral ties

KYRGYZSTAN-BISHKEK-CHINA-PRESIDENTS-MEETING

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Kyrgyz counterpart Sooronbay Jeenbekov have a meeting at the presidential residence right after the Chinese president arrives in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, June 12, 2019. (Xinhua/Yao Dawei)

BISHKEK, June 12 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Kyrgyz counterpart, Sooronbay Jeenbekov, met here Wednesday evening, pledging joint efforts to promote bilateral ties.

Xi and Jeenbekov had a meeting at the presidential residence in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek right after the Chinese president arrived in the Central Asian country for a state visit and the 19th Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit.

Reflecting on the traditional friendship between the countries, the two heads of state discussed the future of bilateral relations with an in-depth exchange of views on issues of common concern.

Noting that it is his second visit to Kyrgyzstan in six years, Xi expressed the delight of visiting an old friend.

Substantial advances in bilateral ties have been made over the past 27 years since the establishment of the China-Kyrgyzstan diplomatic relationship, Xi said, highlighting the two sides’ strong political mutual trust, mutually beneficial economic cooperation, mutual reliance in security and close coordination in international affairs.

Xi expressed appreciation for Jeenbekov’s public remarks on safeguarding the China-Kyrgyzstan friendship on many occasions.

The Chinese side applauds Kyrgyzstan’s achievements in reform and development, and expects more progress of the country in safeguarding national stability and promoting economic development, Xi said.

China is ready to share experience in state governance with Kyrgyzstan to achieve common development and prosperity, Xi said, hailing the solid outcomes in the joint construction of the Belt and Road.

Xi called for concerted efforts to strive for more fruits in the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership to benefit the people of both countries.

The two sides, he said, should step up coordination within multilateral frameworks including the SCO and the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, stick to multilateralism, and oppose protectionism and unilateralism, so as to contribute to the building of a community with a shared future for humanity.

Jeenbekov said he appreciates the great importance Xi attaches to bilateral relations. He expressed warm congratulations on the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China and wished China greater achievements.

Recalling his attendance last week at a release ceremony for the Kyrgyz edition of the first volume of “Xi Jinping: The Governance of China,” Jeenbekov said the book is of great significance for Kyrgyzstan to learn from China’s experience and promote its own reform and development.

Jeenbekov stressed that Kyrgyzstan firmly supports the measures taken by the Chinese government in safeguarding peace and stability in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and cracking down on extremism. He also thanked China for its strong support and assistance to Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyzstan, he said, values China’s influence in international affairs and is willing to deepen cooperation with China in various sectors within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, get on board the express train of China’s economic development, and push for leapfrog development of bilateral relations.

Source: Xinhua

12/06/2019

Chinese president leaves for Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan

BEIJING, June 12 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Xi Jinping left Beijing on Wednesday afternoon for Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

At the invitation of Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov, Xi will pay a state visit to Kyrgyzstan and attend the 19th meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan.

At the invitation of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, Xi will attend the fifth summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan, and pay a state visit to the country.

Xi’s entourage includes Ding Xuexiang, member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, and director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee; Yang Jiechi, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee; State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi; and He Lifeng, vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and head of the National Development and Reform Commission.

Source: Xinhua

29/05/2019

China looks to Russia, Central Asia for support amid tensions with US

  • President Xi Jinping will meet Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin next month and address economic summit in St Petersburg
  • Diplomatic flurry will also include regional security forums in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
Xi Jinping has met Vladimir Putin more times than any other foreign leader since he took power in 2013. Photo: AFP
Xi Jinping has met Vladimir Putin more times than any other foreign leader since he took power in 2013. Photo: AFP
Beijing is stepping up efforts to seek support from regional and global players such as Russia and Central Asian nations as its geostrategic rivalry with Washington heats up.

President Xi Jinping is expected to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin next month, when he will also address the St Petersburg International Economic Summit,

Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov told state-run TASS news agency earlier.

The Chinese president will also visit the Kyrgyzstan capital Bishkek for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in June, as well as another regional security forum in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

Meanwhile, Vice-President Wang Qishan is visiting Pakistan before he heads to the Netherlands and Germany, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan meets Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan in Islamabad on Sunday. Photo: AFP
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan meets Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan in Islamabad on Sunday. Photo: AFP
The latest flurry of diplomatic activity comes as competition between China and the US intensifies on several fronts including trade and technology, the South China Sea and the Arctic, where Beijing’s partnership with Moscow –

funding and building ports, berths and icebreakers off Russia’s shores

– has drawn criticism from Washington.

It will be Xi’s second time at the St Petersburg forum, and observers expect the Chinese leader will reaffirm Beijing’s commitment to multilateralism and promote the nation as a champion of openness and cooperation.
China-Russia ties unrivalled, Beijing warns before Pompeo meets Putin
It will also be his second meeting with Putin in two months, after talks on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in late April, when the Russian president

offered his support

for the controversial China-led infrastructure and investment initiative.

With China and Russia edging closer, the latest meeting is likely to see efforts to coordinate their strategies on a range of issues – including Venezuela, North Korea, nuclear weapons and arms control, according to observers. Xi has met Putin more times than any other foreign leader since he took power in 2013.

“This time it is very likely that the latest anti-China moves by the US, such as new tariffs and the Huawei ban, will feature prominently in their conversations,” said Artyom Lukin, an associate professor at Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok.

Lukin said Russia’s stagnating economy and sanctions imposed by the West limited its role as a substitute for the foreign markets and technologies China could lose access to because of the US crusade. But he said Putin would “provide political and moral support to Xi”.

“That is also significant as Russia has been withstanding intense US-led sanctions pressure for more than five years already,” Lukin said, referring to sanctions imposed after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Xi and Putin are also expected to talk about Venezuela, where US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido is attempting to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro, who has the support of China and Russia.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has the backing of China and Russia. Photo: AP
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has the backing of China and Russia. Photo: AP

“Moscow and Beijing are not able to seriously hurt Washington by raising tariffs or denying access to high technology. However, there are plenty of areas where coordinated Sino-Russian policies can damage US interests in the short term or in the long run,” Lukin said. “For example, Moscow and Beijing could intensify their joint support for the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro, frustrating Washington’s efforts to dislodge him.”

China and Russia would also be seeking to boost economic ties. Bilateral trade, dominated by Chinese imports of gas and oil, reached US$108 billion last year – falling far short of the target set in 2011 by Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, of US$200 billion by 2020.

China and Russia to forge stronger Eurasian economic ties

Li Lifan, an associate research professor at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said bilateral trade was a sticking point. “This is one of the potential hindrances in China-Russia relations and Beijing is hoping to [address this] … in the face of a possible global economic slowdown,” Li said.

Given the escalating trade war with Washington, he said China would seek to diversify its investments and markets to other parts of the world, particularly Russia and Europe.

“China will step up its investment cooperation with Europe and Russia and focus more on multilateral investment,” Li said.

But Beijing was not expected to do anything to worsen tensions with Washington.

“China is currently taking a very cautious approach towards the US, trying to avoid heating up the confrontation and further aggravation of the situation,” said Danil Bochkov, a contributing author with the Russian International Affairs Council. “For China it is important to demonstrate that it has a reliable friend – Russia – but that should not be done in an openly provocative manner.”

Stephen Blank, a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, said Beijing and Moscow would also seek to contain US influence “as far as possible” from Central Asia, where China has increased its engagement through infrastructure building under the “Belt and Road Initiative”.

Leaders from the region will gather in Bishkek next month for the SCO summit, a security bloc set up in 2001 that now comprises China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan. Those members account for about 23 per cent of the world’s land mass, 45 per cent of its population, and 25 per cent of global GDP.

Newly re-elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could meet the Chinese president for talks in Bishkek next month. Photo: EPA-EFE
Newly re-elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could meet the Chinese president for talks in Bishkek next month. Photo: EPA-EFE

There is growing speculation that Xi will meet newly re-elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of that summit.

Independent analyst and author Namrata Goswami said India would be seeking a commitment to a WTO-led and rules-based multilateral trading system during the SCO talks.

“This is interesting and significant given the current US tendencies under President Donald Trump focused on ‘America first’ and the US-China trade war,” Goswami said.

Counterterrorism will again be a top priority at the SCO summit, amid concerns among member states about the rising number of Islamic State fighters returning from Syria and Iraq. Chinese scholars estimated last year that around 30,000 jihadists who had fought in Syria had gone back to their home countries, including China.

Alexander Bortnikov, chief of the main Russian intelligence agency FSB, said earlier that 5,000 fighters from a group affiliated with Isis had gathered in areas bordering former Soviet states in Central Asia, saying most of them had fought alongside Isis in Syria.

War-torn Afghanistan, which shares a border with four SCO member states – China, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – is also likely to be high on the agenda at the Bishkek summit.

“With the Trump administration drafting plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, the SCO will assess the security situation there and decide whether to provide training for Afghan troops,” Li said.

Eva Seiwert, a doctoral candidate at the Free University of Berlin, expected the security bloc would also discuss Iran after the US withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and ordered new sanctions against the country.

Iran, which has observer status with the SCO, was blocked from becoming a full member in 2008 because it was subject to UN sanctions at the time. But its membership application could again be up for discussion.

Iran presses China and Russia to save nuclear deal

“The Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 made it easy for China and Russia to present themselves as the proponents of peaceful settlement of conflicts,” Seiwert said. “Discussing the possibility of admitting Iran as a full member state would help the SCO members demonstrate their support of multilateral and peaceful cooperation.

“This would be a strong signal to the US and enhance the SCO’s standing in the international community,” she said.

Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov (right) meets Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Bishkek on Tuesday last week. Photo: Xinhua
Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov (right) meets Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Bishkek on Tuesday last week. Photo: Xinhua

As well as security, Xi’s visit to Central Asia is also likely to focus on economic ties. Meeting Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov in Bishkek last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing would continue to “provide support and help national development and construction in Kyrgyzstan”.

Li said China may increase investment in the Central Asian region, especially in greenfield projects.

“China will continue to buy agriculture products from Central Asia, such as cherries from Uzbekistan, and build hydropower projects to meet local energy demand,” Li said. “Investment in solar and wind energy projects is also expected to increase too.”

Source: SCMP

22/05/2019

Chinese, Kyrgyz officials vow to enhance bilateral cooperation

 KYRGYZSTAN-BISHKEK-CHYNGYZ AIDARBEKOV-CHINA-WANG YI-MEETING

Visiting Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (L) and Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Chyngyz Aidarbekov attend a signing ceremony of the Cooperation Program from 2020 to 2021 between Chinese Foreign Ministry and Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on May 21, 2019. (Xinhua/Li Yong)

BISHKEK, May 21 (Xinhua) — Visiting Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday held talks with Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Chyngyz Aidarbekov in Bishkek, vowing to enhance cooperation in various fields between the two countries.

Wang noted that China and Kyrgyzstan are friendly neighbors and comprehensive strategic partners linked by mountains and rivers. The two heads of states reached a wide range of consensuses on further developing bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership on the sidelines of the second Belt and Road Forum of International Cooperation in Beijing in April.

Taking the opportunity of jointly building the Belt and Road, China is ready to pursue coordination of the development strategies between China and Kyrgyzstan and effectively implement the key projects for the benefit of the two peoples, the Chinese state councilor said during the meeting.

To this end, the two sides should work to build closer people-to-people ties, promote local-level cooperation, further strengthen security cooperation ties and expand cooperation in fighting the “three forces” of terrorism, separatism and extremism, transnational crime and drug trafficking, said Wang, adding that China fully supports Kyrgyzstan in hosting the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in June to promote further cooperation among the member states.

Wang stressed that the sustained, steady and sound development of bilateral relations serves the fundamental interests of the two peoples. China appreciates Kyrgyzstan’s firm support on some major issues concerning Taiwan and Xinjiang, and will resolutely support Kyrgyzstan’s independent choice of development path as well as its internal and external policies to maintain national independence, sovereignty and security.

For his part, Aidarbekov extended warm congratulations on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China and expressed sincere admiration for China’s great achievements during the 40 years of reform and opening up.

He noted that Kyrgyzstan attaches great importance to the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries, fully supports the Belt and Road Initiative, and is ready to further promote bilateral cooperation in the fields of trade, investment, energy, transportation, agriculture and disaster relief.

The Kyrgyz foreign minister stressed that his country firmly upholds the one-China policy, fully supports China’s stance on its internal affairs including Taiwan and Xinjiang issues and hopes the mutual political trust between the two countries can be further strengthened.

Following their talks, the two officials signed the Cooperation Program from 2020 to 2021 between Chinese Foreign Ministry and Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry and jointly met with the press.

Source: Xinhua

20/04/2019

Xi to address Belt and Road forum next week: FM

CHINA-BEIJING-BRF-PRESS BRIEFING (CN)

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (C) speaks during a press briefing for the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) in Beijing, capital of China, April 19, 2019. The second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be held from April 25 to 27 in Beijing, Wang Yi announced Friday. (Xinhua/Zhai Jianlan)

BEIJING, April 19 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Xi Jinping will deliver a keynote speech at the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) to be held from April 25 to 27 in Beijing, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced Friday.

Leaders including heads of state and government from 37 countries will attend the forum’s roundtable summit, Wang told a press briefing.

Wang said 12 thematic forums and a CEO conference would be held on April 25, the opening ceremony and a high-level meeting on April 26, and the leaders’ roundtable on April 27.

Xi will attend the opening ceremony and deliver a keynote speech. He will also chair the leaders’ roundtable and brief media from home and abroad about the outcomes after the roundtable, Wang said, adding that Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan will also hold a welcoming banquet for the leaders and representatives.

According to Wang, the 37 countries are Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Brunei, Cambodia, Chile, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

The secretary-general of the United Nations and the managing director of the International Monetary Fund will attend the forum, Wang said, adding that senior representatives of France, Germany, Britain, Spain, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the European Union will also participate.

Noting that the BRF is the top-level platform for international cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, Wang said the conference next week would be of landmark significance.

The theme of the second BRF is “Belt and Road Cooperation, Shaping a Brighter Shared Future.” Wang said the main purpose is to promote the high-quality development of Belt and Road cooperation, which is the common aspiration of countries participating in the initiative.

Speaking highly of the fruitful results yielded since the initiative was launched in 2013, Wang said the second BRF was greatly welcomed worldwide with some 5,000 participants from more than 150 countries and 90 international organizations having confirmed their attendance, covering areas from five continents and different walks of life such as government, civil society, business and academia.

According to Wang, this year’s forum will have 12 thematic forums, twice of that during the first forum in 2017, and the CEO conference will be held for the first time. A joint communique will be released after the leaders’ roundtable and other consensus reached during the forum will be issued in a report.

The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by Xi in 2013, aims at enhancing all-around connectivity through infrastructure construction, exploring new driving force for the world economic growth, and building a new platform for world economic cooperation, according to Wang.

Stressing that Xi and leaders from other countries blueprinted the initiative in 2017, Wang said the progress in the past two years shows that the initiative conforms to the trend of the times featuring peace, development, cooperation and win-win and accords with the common aspiration of openness and joint development of all countries.

“As the host country, we will maintain close communication and coordination with all parties to prepare for the forum with openness, inclusiveness and transparency, upholding the principle of consultation and cooperation for shared benefits,” Wang said.

He said the forum would voice the firm support for multilateralism and an open world economy, enrich the principles of cooperation of the Belt and Road Initiative, build a network of partnership, and establish more mechanisms for high-quality development.

Bilateral, trilateral and multilateral cooperation has been reinforcing each other under the initiative, laying a solid foundation for a closer and more wide-ranging partnership, he said.

Wang said China will showcase the outcomes and introduce the measures of its reform and opening-up to the world, adding that this will allow China to share the dividends of its economic growth, promote the Belt and Road Initiative, and bring more opportunities to the development of all countries as well as the building of the Belt and Road.

“I believe that the forum will inject stronger impetus into the world economy, open even broader horizon for the development of the countries, and contribute to the building of a community with a shared future for humanity, ” said Wang.

Source: Xinhua