Chinese President Xi Jinping is wrapping up a 10-day tour through Central Asia, having vacuumed up energy resources while digging into Beijing’s deep pockets to dispense largess and generate goodwill.
Xi’s visit to four Central Asian states (excluding Tajikistan) has reaffirmed Beijing’s rising clout in this energy-rich region, situated on China’s sensitive Western flank. Central Asian leaders -- Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbayev; Kyrgyzstan’s Almazbek Atambayev; Turkmenistan’s Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov; and Uzbekistan’s Islam Karimov -- welcomed Xi with open arms and barely a backward glance at Moscow, the region’s traditional colonial overlord. Russian leader Vladimir Putin has worked assiduously to try to prevent Central Asia’s tilt toward China, but Xi’s tour showed that Russia lacks the economic weapons to counter Beijing’s diplomacy in the region.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.