Gulf – Central Asia Summit and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative

A popular proverb in the Chinese Shaanxi Province says: “He who sows diligently reaps gold”, as the Central Asian saying goes, “He who sows will reap, he who sows will reap. Let us strive shoulder to shoulder and actively push for common development”.  This is the focus of the importance of the Gulf rapprochement with the countries of Central Asia for China after the Gulf summit with the countries of Central Asia. The Gulf Summit with the Group of Central Asian Countries comes after the first joint ministerial meeting of the strategic dialogue between the Cooperation Council and the Central Asian countries, which was held in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, in September 2022, with the participation of foreign ministers from both sides.  Here comes the first Gulf summit with the group of Central Asian countries in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in conjunction with the (18th consultative meeting) of the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which is a new shift in relations between the Arab Gulf and Central Asia.  The summit will be attended by the leaders of the GCC countries and the leaders of Central Asian countries, namely: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.  This summit aims to strengthen the relations of the GCC countries with the countries of Asia, based on the principles and objectives of the Cooperation Council stipulated in the Statute of 1981, and to create a kind of partnership and develop mechanisms to ensure the sustainability of consultation and dialogue among all its parties.

  The Gulf summit will discuss with the Central Asian countries, known as the “Five Stan” files, issues of cooperation in trade, investment, energy, education, scientific research, industry, agriculture, tourism and culture, in addition to regional and international issues, including support for stability,  Strengthening the foundations of security in the Gulf and Central Asia, the Palestinian cause, Islamic solidarity, and confronting extremism, terrorism, and Islamophobia.  It is expected that the Jeddah Gulf Asian Summit will endorse the joint action plan 2023-2027, which includes political and security dialogue, economic and investment cooperation between its parties, as well as strengthening communication between peoples, and establishing effective partnerships between the business sector in the GCC countries and Central Asian countries, at both bilateral and multilateral levels.

  The strategic importance of the Central Asian countries for the Gulf and for China as well, because it has become a place of competition between the major powers, in particular Russia, China and the United States of America.  Russia is the most prominent player in the region by virtue of its neighborhood and historical and cultural relations within the framework of the former Soviet Union. Three Central Asian countries of (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan) are members of the Collective Security Organization, which is a “Mini-NATO” led by Russia. Moscow also has military bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.  China is also among the five largest trading partners for each of these countries, which is an indication of its geopolitical ambitions in that region to enhance its influence within the framework of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. As for the history of relations between the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Central Asia and China, diplomatic relations between them were established after the independence of those countries from the Soviet Union in the early nineties, and the historical and cultural relations between them go back several centuries, as that region was the focus of attention of Arabs, Muslims and Chinese as well. With the existence of links between Arab, Islamic and Chinese culture, as well as the cultures of Central Asian countries and their penetration into a number of ethnic groups in China, which were known in Islamic history as the country beyond the river, and had a great influence on the Islamic and Chinese cultures.

  Here we find that the Gulf Summit with the Central Asian countries supports China’s projects in the Belt and Road Initiative, as it mainly helps in ensuring food security in the Central Asian countries, and provides jobs for its citizens.  countries with access to sea lanes through China.  By implementing the initiative and the relations of Central Asian countries with the Gulf, China can deliver goods through the lands of Central Asian countries to the Middle East and southern Europe, while Central Asian countries can supply products to Southeast Asian countries, the Middle East and the Arabian Gulf through Chinese ports.

  The importance of the Central Asian countries in relation to the Gulf and China together comes in view of their possession of huge reserves of minerals, oil, natural gas, coal, and even water.  Gas reserves in the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus amount to 35% of the global total and the largest discoveries were in the countries of Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. The state of Tajikistan also has the largest water sources, as it reaches 60% of the water sources in Central Asia, which benefits the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council and China with them in the framework of their economic relations with them, if we link them to the (global development initiative) put forward by China.  Where China takes into account the opinions, desires and characteristics of all countries of the world in the framework of its development initiatives around the world, including the Arab Gulf countries and Central Asia.  

  Here, the relations between the Gulf and Central Asia provide an important opportunity for China to connect them all through a large and wide network of roads and lines, such as: the highway crossing the Tianshan Mountains that connects China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, and the highway that connects China and Tajikistan through the Pamir Plateau and the crude oil pipeline between  China, Kazakhstan, and the existing China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline that cuts through the vast desert, which is considered the contemporary “Silk Road”. Here comes the importance of Central Asia for China and the Gulf, given its distinct geographical advantages, in addition to the foundations, conditions and potential to become an important hub for communication and interdependence between the Eurasia region and the world, ending with its contributions to the exchange of goods, civilizational communication and the development of science and technology in the whole world, which supports its relations with China and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries together in order to bring about a development boom through China’s Belt and Road initiative to link all these countries together.

Dr.Nadia Helmy
Dr.Nadia Helmy
Associate Professor of Political Science, Faculty of Politics and Economics / Beni Suef University- Egypt. An Expert in Chinese Politics, Sino-Israeli relationships, and Asian affairs- Visiting Senior Researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES)/ Lund University, Sweden- Director of the South and East Asia Studies Unit