Xi hosts Central Asian leaders as China looks to expand reach eastward

China's trade with Central Asian countries reached €64 billion in 2022 and rose by 22 per cent in the first quarter of this year.

Chinese President Xi Jinping met with attendees as he hosted the start of the two-day China-Central Asia summit, as Beijing looks to expand its influence in a region that has long come under Russia’s sphere of influence.

The leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan gathered on Thursday in the central Chinese city of Xi’an, a city historically linked to the Silk Road network of global trade routes.

Coinciding with the G7 leaders meeting in Japan, experts say this summit reflects Beijing's desire to strengthen regional influence and fill the vacuum that Russia's war in Ukraine has created in the former Soviet states.

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Kazakhstan's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev meets Chinese President Xi Jinping ahead of China-Central Asia Summit, 17 May 2023

The first of its kind in 31 years, China is expected to propose greater economic cooperation, such as investment in pipelines, transport and other key infrastructure.

Beijing's trade with Central Asian countries reached 64 billion euros in 2022 and in the first quarter of this year rose by 22 per cent.

Security is also likely to be high on the agenda, as Xi looks to address Beijing's concerns over unrest in the autonomous northwestern region of Xinjiang which shares borders which many Central Asian countries.