Central Asia balances China and the West

Kazakhstan hosted Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin alongside leaders from across Central Asia at this week’s Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit. The summit comes at a time of balancing for many Central Asian states, who have seen both increasing Chinese investment and deepening trade ties with the West since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Despite a shared history as part of the Soviet Union and a continued reliance on Russia for political stability—Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev asked Putin to help squash violent protests in January—many Central Asian states have adhered to Western sanctions and neglected to oppose the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Kazakhstan, the region’s largest economy, has seen an 80% year over year increase in trade with Germany over the first half of 2022, while Uzbekistan’s German trade has increased 111% over the same period, Bloomberg reports.

Central Asian trade with China has also increased this year. At the summit, China and Uzbekistan announced agreements totaling $15 billion in trade, investment, financial and technical cooperation, Daily Sabah reports. On Wednesday, China, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan formalized a long-discussed agreement to build a railroad bridging China and Europe while bypassing sanction-addled Russia, Eurasianet reports.

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