Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev arrives in Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, on May 17, 2023. (Xinhua/Li Yibo)
China on May 17 staged hearty welcome ceremonies for Central Asian leaders attending a milestone summit that is expected to draw up new blueprints for China-Central Asia cooperation.
All is ready in the northwestern city of Xi'an, the historical starting point of the ancient Silk Road, for the China-Central Asia Summit, which is scheduled for Thursday and Friday.
The summit, the first in-person gathering among heads of state of China and five Central Asian countries, namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, will be chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Xi is expected to expound on China's position on how to build a China-Central Asia community with a shared future in the new era and put forward a series of proposals for the long-term development of cooperation among the six countries.
Xi will also announce a string of pragmatic measures and comprehensively chart the course for China-Central Asia cooperation.
The first Central Asian leader to arrive in Xi'an was Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov also arrived on Wednesday.
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon arrives in Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, on May 17, 2023. (Xinhua/Li Yibo)
Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Turkmen President Serdar Berdimuhamedov will arrive on Thursday. A welcome banquet will be held for the five leaders.
The leaders who have arrived were greeted with performances of traditional Shaanxi folk dances at the airport.
The 190-member performing team included 50 performers of waist drum dance and 48 of Yangge folk dance. Both are popular forms of folk art in Shaanxi.
"We feel honored and excited to have the opportunity to show our hometown's folk art to the distinguished guests from Central Asia," said Hou Shikai, a 53-year-old Yangge performer. "May the friendship between China and the five Central Asian countries last forever."
In his talks with Tokayev on Wednesday, Xi wished him a happy birthday as he turned 70 on this very day.
"Your state visit to China on this special occasion speaks volumes about the strength of the bilateral ties and once again attests to your unique bond with China," Xi told the Kazakh president.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was one of the key topics during their talks.
Speaking to Tokayev, Xi said China and Kazakhstan have successfully carried out dozens of important cooperation projects since he proposed the BRI 10 years ago.
For his part, Tokayev lauded the BRI as a great initiative and said his country will continue taking an active part in it.
Tokayev also said that Kazakhstan will actively support the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative, all proposed by Xi.
He vowed to work with China to jointly promote regional security, stability and development by leveraging the China-Central Asia mechanism.
Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov arrives in Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, on May 17, 2023. (Xinhua/Li Yibo)
In their talks, Xi hailed the upcoming China-Central Asia Summit as a summit of "milestone significance," which will usher in a new era of China-Central Asia cooperation.
Xi said China will work with Central Asian countries to build the China-Central Asia mechanism into an important platform for promoting in-depth cooperation.
The summit is seen as the latest landmark in the vibrant high-level interactions, economic cooperation and people-to-people exchanges between China and Central Asian countries.
Leaders of the six countries are expected to sign an important political document and witness the signing of multiple cooperation documents covering areas including economy, trade, investment and connectivity, according to a press conference held before the summit.