NUR-SULTAN: Chinese President Xi Jinping began his first overseas trip since the outbreak of the pandemic on Wednesday with a stopover in Kazakhstan ahead of a summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and other leaders of a security group in ‘Central Asia.
Xi’s trip underscores the importance Beijing places on ties with Russia and Central Asia as the ruling Communist Party promotes its strategic ambitions amid tensions with Washington, Japan and India.
Xi, wearing a blue suit and face mask, was met on the airport tarmac, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and an honor guard, all of whom were wearing masks.
Tokayev’s government said the two leaders would discuss energy markets and global economic turmoil. Kazakhstan, a sparsely populated country of 19.4 million people and vast grasslands, is a major oil and gas producer. China is a top customer.
On Thursday, Xi is due to travel to Samarkand in neighboring Uzbekistan for a summit of the eight-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization led by China and Russia.
Beijing and Moscow see the SCO as a counterweight to US alliances in East Asia.
Other SCO governments include India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Tajikistan. Observers include Iran and Afghanistan.
The Chinese leader is promoting a “Global Security Initiative” announced in April following the formation of the Quad by Washington, Japan, Australia and India in response to Beijing’s more assertive foreign policy. Xi gave few details, but US officials complain that this echoes Russian arguments for Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.
Xi and Cheese fries plan to hold a one-on-one meeting and discuss Ukraine, according to the Russian President’s foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov.



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